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Coach's Corner


Fitting Equipment for Kids

Coaching - what's it all about?

Wrist Shots

Bearing Removal

Coaches Equipment

Goalie Tips

Foot Passes

Lateral Lunging

Coaching FAQ's & Videos

Instructional DVD's and Tapes

Fitting Equipment for Kids

It is really frustrating for me when I go into ice arenas today and see little kids wearing equipment that just does not fit them. Now I know that the prices for all equipment today are outrageous and for a young kid it is understandable to be wearing hand-me-down gear to save money. But, in reality, what I am seeing are the kids with brand new NIKE skates that are too big for their feet, or the brand new graphite stick that is over their head. In that case, below I have a Hockey Checklist for kids and their parents:

  • Do not put a lot of tape on the stick, especially at the top. Make sure that you can put your hand around the top easily and comfortably.

  • All young kids should use light junior sticks with small curves.

  • Cut the sticks short; under the nose without skates are good.

  • Make sure skates fit tightly; the worst thing for someone learning to skate is to have skates too big for their feet.

  • Make sure skates fit comfortably!

  • All of the rest of the equipment should fit tightly and comfortably. Make sure that shoulder pads, elbow pads, shin pads, pants, helmets, and gloves are not too bulky to wear. Kids should feel light and loose in their equipment.

    Sticks:
    Sticks that are too long do long term damage to young players. As coaches and instructors, we are constantly telling the kids to keep their hands in front of them. If the sick is too long, then they can't control the puck because only the heel of the blade is on the ice, or the puck is so far out in front of them that they are uncomfortable. A little trick I learned from Barry Smith of the Red Wings:
    Check the tape on the blade of the stick. If the tape is worn all the way from the heel to the toe, then the blade is on the ice with maximum contact. If only the back is worn, then the toe is too far off the ice, and the player is only using a fraction of the available blade, limiting their stick handling ability and control.

    Skates:
    As a coach, you have to be very cognizant of skate fit. Too big, and the kids won't feel comfortable. Too small, and they are in pain. There are several ways to check the fit. I loosen up the laces, or completely remove them to do all of them. One of these methods will be enough. I checked all of my skaters for fit at the beginning of the season, again just before Christmas break, and again at the end of the season. I also did it for my spring league kids.

    Back Check:
    Have the skater lie on his/her stomach, and push their toes to the front of the skate. If you can fit more than your index finger behind the heel,the skates are too big.

    Front Check:
    With the player on a bench or seat, have them bang the heel of the skate on the floor, driving the heel all the back into the skate, Pull the tongue of the boot forward, and stick your index finger in front of the big toe, If you feel more room than a finger tip width, the skate is too big. Can't get your finger in? too small.

    Insole Check:
    (My favorite) New skates: Bring the insole from your old skate with you, and remove the insole of the new skates. Check the width and length of the foot impression of the old insole versus the new ones to make sure that they look like they'll fit. This works especially well if the skater has wide feet, or the skater can't be with you when you buy the skates, or you buy them on-line. Old skates, look at the insole, if the toe impressions are at the end, guess what...too small.

    As kids get older they can make their own decisions as to how they like their sticks and equipment. Remember with everything that comfort is the most important thing. If something is not comfortable, do not get it. It is the key to feeling loose and cool on the ice so you can perform your very best. So if you are going to buy new hockey equipment make certain that you buy it right.

    ~~~~~

    Coaching - what's it all about?
    One coaches views on what makes youth hockey worthwhile.

    Practices week in and week out. Glorious victories. Agonizing defeats. Kids with attitudes. Parents with attitudes. Referees giving you that questionable call. At times it is enough to ask yourself that dreaded question: What's it all about?

    I have been coaching kids in hockey for over 4 1/2 years. My teams have been at the top and we've been at the bottom. We've had undefeated seasons and seasons where we ruled the cellar. Through all that, my take on what it's all about came in a second round elimination playoff game this past fall.

    This game was what you dream of as a coach. A tight game throughout ending in a pressure packed tie. The kids on both teams had given everything their 11 year old bodies could give to achieve victory. The game would now be decided on a shootout. The shootout goes for 9 rounds before the game is decided. It is the classic battle between goal tenders and scorers. Every round brings added pressure to the shoulders of both goalies as well as the shooters.

    Before your know it, the puck is in the back of the net. Gloves, sticks and helmets scatter across half the rink as 12 players pile on each other in joy and 12 players quietly line up to wait for the handshake that they dread. The handshake that will be their last act as a team for the season.

    After the handshake, both teams head for the exit gate and it happens. The moment in time that for me, as a coach and parent crystallizes what it's all about. The winning goalie, still flush from the excitement of the win, and the opposing teams best scorer, still stinging from the loss, pass near each other. The scorer says not a word, but simply lays a hand on the goalies shoulder and gives him a congratulatory bump of the helmet. No words are necessary.

    To see kids compete with skill, assurance and vigor. To see kids completely lose themselves in the struggle of competitive sport. Then to see them have the dignity and self control to look past their own disappointment and congratulate the warrior that has just defeated them. To look past their own glory and respect the opponent they have defeated and congratulate him on a magnificent battle. That, at least for me, is what it's all about.

    ~~~~~

     

    Wrist Shots

    The wrist shot is deadly because it's quick, accurate and can be taken in any situation—often to the surprise of the opposing goalie.

    But if you're totally focused on the goalie, chances are you'll just be sending the puck straight at them or wide of the goal instead of into the net. Always notice the goalie but focus your intent on the net. The white twine is what goals are about, find it.

    Use your Whole Body
    To launch a great wrist shot, move the puck and your weight to your back foot and spread your hands wide to maximize power. Cup the puck and keep it on the middle of your blade. Bring both the puck and your weight in a forward sweep toward the target. Put everything you have into this sweep. Whatever you weigh, put every last ounce into it. As you release the puck, SNAP your wrists with force and point your stick where you want it to go.

    Wrist it Over or Wrist it Under?
    Lots of skill manuals will tell you to roll your wrists over with a shot. Others say under. Everybody's an expert. But we here at EPuck recommend you pay close attention to how you shoot and experiment both ways. Perhaps you'll realize that to roof a shot in close you'll need to to snap your wrists under. Maybe from the blue line you'll need to roll your wrists over to keep it low instead of shooting at a flock of geese flying by.

    Follow your shot!
    Many players, even at the NHL level, get into the habit of turning away from their shot and taking themselves out of the play. But if there's a rebound, do you want to be looking at it from the corner over your shoulder or at your feet in front? If you need to, stop gather the rebound and roof a wrister over the sprawling netminder into the sweet white twine of goal heaven.

    ~~~~~

     

    Bearing Removal
    Removing your bearings can be quick and easy if you know a few tips and tricks. Right out the gates, you need to determine whether you have a standard bearing spacer or a “floating” bearing spacer. The easiest way to determine this is to look closely at the hole the axle goes through and see if there is a seam between the bearing and the spacer or if there is smooth metal all the way through. If you have a seam, you are the proud owner of Floating bearing spacers. If you have smooth metal all the way through (with no seams) then your skates are equipped with Standard bearing spacers. Now that you've determined the type of spacer you have, go to the section below that applies to you.

    Removing bearings with a Standard Spacer
    Popping a bearing out of a wheel with a standard spacer ranges from very easy (with the use of a bearing tool) to a little tough (without the use of a bearing tool). If you have a bearing tool such as the Pro Tool or Speed Tool, your job is easy. Simply put the tool into the end of the bearing and push. If you don't have one of these handy little gems, it gets tougher, but is not impossible.

    1) Take small flat screwdriver and then carefully place it right on the edge of the bearing spacer (then innermost ring when you are looking at the side of the wheel. The trick is to catch that without catching the bearing.
    2) When the screwdriver is in place, push on it until the bearing pops out of the other side. Be careful that you do not stab yourself if the screwdriver slips.

    Removing bearings that have Floating Spacers
    If you have a Floating spacer, since there is no shoulder to push on, the easiest way to remove the bearing is to “twist” the bearing out of the wheel hub.
    1) The trick is to use a small flat screwdriver or allen wrench,
    2) Insert the screwdriver into the end of the bearing and place the end of the tool right on the seam between the bearing and the spacer.
    3) Pry up enough to move the bearing a little, then rotate the screwdriver or wrench a bit to the side, and pry again.
    4) Repeat until you can easily pry the bearing out of the wheel.

    Shield Removal
    Cleaning a bearing properly requires that the side shields be removed. Removing the shields takes some patience but if you follow these suggestions, you should have minimal problems.

    For bearings with metal shields:
    The trick to removing metal shields lies in getting the “C” clip out of the bearing. To remove the C clip, use a push pin. The C clip is located on the outer perimeter of the shield, tucked up under the edge of the bearing. Once the C clip is out, the side shield will come out easily.

    1) Look closely at the side of the bearing and locate the c clip. Look for the opening on the c clip and you will notice that one end of the c clip is tapered in and one end is tapered out.
    2) Insert your push pin behind the end of the c clip that is tapered in and pull back against it to get it out from under the edge of the bearing casing.
    3) This takes patience, and good eyes - but it is doable. After the C clip is removed, the side shield will pretty much fall right out. Keep after it, because the first one is pretty tough. After you get the hang of it the process goes a lot easier.

    For bearings with nylon shields:
    Consider yourself lucky – these are very easy to remove. Simply use a push pin to pry the nylon shield out of the bearing. If one spot is tough, try another until the shield pops off.

     

    Proper bearing cleaning
    Cleaning your bearings properly is a labor of love. It takes time and some persistence, but can pay of in smooth spinning, quiet bearings. The key is to follow the procedure carefully. Here are a few easy steps that will make things a bit easier:

    1) Remove the side shields from both sides of all bearings. See the Side shield section if you are not familiar with how to remove the shields.
    2) Clean the bearings. The best product we have seen for cleaning bearings is the Turbo Wash. This thing makes cleaning your bearings not only easier, but you can do a much better job of it. Be sure to clean the bearings, filter the cleaner through a paper towel, and then clean them again. Once you can re-clean the bearings without making the Citrus cleaning liquid dirty again, you are ready for the next step.
    3) Dry the bearings completely. There are two ways to do this. Either leave the bearings out to dry overnight, or use a blow dryer to dry all solvent from the bearings. This is very important. If any solvent is left in the bearing during the re-lube phase, the new lubricant will break down much sooner than anticipated.
    4) Relube the bearings with the oil of your choice. For clean dry surfaces, a lighter oil will work fine and spin great. Keep in mind that lighter oils do not last very long and must be relubricated regularly. If you don't like to clean and lube your bearings often, go with a Gel style lubricant. These gels won't hurt the spin of your bearings noticeably and will last much longer.

    When should you clean and relube?
    We recommend cleaning your bearings only when you start to get bearing noise and develop a scratchy sound. The less you fool with them, the better they will last. Depending on how clean your surface is, you may be cleaning your bearings often or hardly at all. It is not unusual to go as long as a couple of years without cleaning and relubing your bearings.

    Proper Bolt Adjustment
    When reinstalling your wheels, adjusting the bolts properly is important to a good spinning wheel. The way to determine the correct tightness of the bolt is this:
    1) Tighten the bolt just a little then grab the wheel and twist it in the chassis laterally. Notice the play in the wheel? You will feel a definite bumping as you twist the wheel.
    2) Keep tightening the wheel until you just barely eliminate the play in the wheel. This is the correct tightness.
    If you have trouble with your bolts staying put at this tightness level, go to an auto parts store and get a product called Loctite. Get the "Blue" version. This will hold the bolts steady and you can still get them out later when you need to.

    A quick note on wheel spin:
    One important thing to know is that a wheel spinning in mid air really well does not necessarily outperform a wheel that does not spin as well in midair. With your weight on it, the bearings themselves will produce the spin. When holding the skate and spinning the wheels with the bolts loose, the bearings are not producing all the spin, but rather the whole unit is somewhat spinning around the loose axle. None of that loose spin (slop spin) helps you when you are actually skating. So, don't be afraid to remove the play from the wheels – even if it take some of the mid-air spin away. The “clicking” you hear while skating will go away and a more solid feeling skate will result in proper bolt adjustment.

    ~~~~~

     

    Goalie Tips
    Wayne Anderson of Huron Roller Hockey Schools gives two key concepts that can really help your goalies results.

    2 Quick Goaltending Tips

    If you are like most amateur coaches, working with your goalie is one thing we don't pay enough attention to. Huron Roller Hockey School is here to help with 2 quick tips for you:

    Tip #1 - KEEP YOUR STICK ON THE SURFACE!!

    Most goals are scored low and to the stick side of the netminder. Most of those goals are no more than six to eight inches off the surface. If you keep your stick on the surface you will greatly increase your save percentage. The most common mistake a goalie will make is to lift their stick before they do anything like move across the net, drop down into a butterfly or half butterfly, or drop to cover the puck/ball. Most goaltenders, until corrected of the problem, lift up their upper body before dropping down. Once the shoulders come up, the arms follow and because you are holding the stick tightly (wrong), the stick comes off the surface.

    Correction: Practice in front of a full length mirror. Try making some imaginary saves in front of a full length mirror first with your skates off then when you get comfortable, lace them up and do it all over again. Good luck!!

    Tip #2 - STAY OUT OF THE NET AS LONG AS YOU CAN!!

    Most goaltenders get beat because they show the shooter too much net. The further back in the net and the further away from the net the shooter is, the more net you show or allow them to shoot at. Try it! Ask a player from your team to just stand in a basic stance in the middle of the net with their back close to the cross bar. Take a walk with your goalie out about fifty feet in front of the net. Take a look at what you see. Point out to your goal tender the large amount of net open to both sides of the netminder. Now ask the netminder to move out of the net slowly. As he/she moves closer to you, the open areas of the net start to disappear. Now put your goalie back in net and use a video camera to film him/her as they move in and out from the net. Try this with different areas and angles so your goalie can watch and becom convinced at how important this concept is.

    The skill used in this drill is called telescoping - moving out and back into the net. Encourage your goalie to try and stay out of the crease while the puck is above an imaginary line drawn across the lower face off circles. If you are lucky enough to have a semi circle crease have your goalie stay above it and use it to track the puck as you move across the net.

    Hopefully these tips will help you and lower your goals against. Remember, for your goalie to improve, they must practice and be confident!!!!!

    Wayne Anderson
    Director
    HURON ROLLER HOCKEY SCHOOL

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    Foot Pass

    Your stick isn't the only blade on the ice you can use for puck control. If you take the time to use them your feet can give you three puck control options. Here's a simple drill to get your feet in the game.

    With the ball (or puck) in front of you drag it into your feet with the toe of your stick blade. Catch the ball with your foot on the instep and pop it back up to your stick. Or try catching it with one foot, passing across to the other and then back to the stick. Work as many variations of this as you can.

    ~~~~~

     

    Lateral Lunges

    This Self Propelled drill is for those of you who want explosive power in their strides.
    When you walk, run or bike your legs move from front to back, pushing you forward. But with skating the same movement only keeps you sliding in one place and looking like Wiley E. Coyote trying to get back to the cliffside.

    A skating stride pushes directly out from the side of your body and if you were to duplicate it on dry land in your shoes you'd be leaping back and forth from side to side without ever advancing an inch.
    This is the Lateral Lunge.

    It's really that simple, but there are some things to keep in mind and ways to tweak this very simple maneuver to achieve maximum benefit.

    You're gonna need some room for this one so practice in an open flat area. Move any objects out of the way and watch out you don't land on the cat.

    Bend deeply into a squatting position. In Power Skating classes they tell you to imagine you're on a horse with your butt low and back straight or just slightly bent forward. This is because the deeper the bend, the more power is stored and released when you uncoil your leg. However, if you start feeling too much strain on your knee's or hips start with a little less bend and concentrate more on a shallow leg contraction with an explosive thrust by the foot. As your legs become stronger make the starting bend deeper.

    Push off with a powerful thrust to the side, directly out from your hip. To get maximum power extend your leg completely. If your leg is not extending fully at the end of the stride you are not using all the energy stored in it and you will not achieve your top speed while skating. It'll just be potential still waiting for you to focus and tap into it.

    Always use your foot explosively at the end of your thrust. Just like when you skate you should try and extend your foot fully with your leg and there should be an explosive snap to end the stride, all the way to your toes. Experiment with and without this ingredient in the lunge and feel how much difference there is in power and distance.

    When you land on your opposite foot coil deeply into a knee bend and spring back the other way. Repeat this pattern until fatigued and technique starts to falter.

    Don't overdo it. Take a short break by walking, running or performing another exercise and then try another set. If your technique is getting sloppy it's time to quit and give your body at least 24 to 48 hours to process and integrate its new skill and strength.

    Although you want a vigorous workout don't sacrifice speed and contracted movement for long supple strides. You will find that the muscles that are not used to doing this will rebel and ask your body to rely on other muscle groups to cover for them. Don't let this happen. You will only be teaching your body the wrong way to move as you jump raggedly from one strong muscle group to the next. You want to motor smoothly through all the small fibers to get thoroughly strong for the long run.

    So take it lightly at first, maybe even just a few at a time. This will give your body time to adjust and adapt. Face it, this is a pretty alien move for your body and if you force too much too soon it is possible to injure the muscles you were trying to build and you wanna get ahead of the game, not behind. So focus on performing these movements correctly and smoothly. Persistence with good technique will pay off very quickly and soon you can push yourself deeper and longer while still maintaining and training good form. This is the type of focus and determination that will transform into a long powerfully explosive stride when you hit the rink.

    ~~~~~ ~~~~~

     

     

    Coaching FAQ's

    Do you have a coaching question that isn't listed below? Ask The Coach!

    1) How do I teach positions to new in-line hockey players? Do you have any drills or techniques that you can suggest? The players are between 5 and 6 years old.

    2) I'm a 33 year old male and I'm just beginning to play ice hockey. I've skated all my life but never had the opportunity (or equipment) to play pick up or league hockey. I tend to enjoy defense more than other positions. I was wondering if you could give me a few pointers on defense. Maybe some positional playing, etc...?

    3) I am in an adult league for beginners. Our instructors failed to give us clear definitions of the responsibilities of each position, and attributes of a player that would best fit each position. I cannot find this in any hockey books either. Could someone lay this out for me? It would be helpful on my team to decide who will play what position, and let them know what they are accountable for.

    4) I play roller hockey right now, but am just starting to enter into an ice hockey league. Everything seems very similar except for the method of stopping. Every time I try I just seem to cut the ice or turn. I was wondering if you could give me a few tips on how to stop on ice. Thank You.

    5) I am new to the sport of roller hockey, and I am having trouble executing a hockey stop. I was wondering if you could help me.

    6) My son is 6 and plays on my roller hockey team. He's been playing for about 1 year now (maybe a little bit longer). About 2 months ago he started to get a little more aggressive, going after the puck more, not letting players check him into the boards, etc. Suddenly that stopped and I asked him why. He told me that he heard he'd end up in the penalty box for 2 minutes if he played aggressively. Now he cruises around unless someone passes the puck to him or he happens to get near a crowd. His game has declined as a result. How do I get him to understand that he shouldn't worry so much about penalties and get back to playing more aggressively?

    7) What is the best way to run a breakout in roller hockey?

    8) I wanted to know how to take a slapshot correctly. I want to get my slap shot so that it is about waist high to top shelf height. If you could send me a couple of pointers on the right form for this type of shot, I would appreciate it.

    9) In 2 on 1 break ins, 1 being the defenseman, who should the defenseman take as his check and when should his final decision be made to stick with his man if he should stick with him?

    10) As a beginning hockey player and a defenseman, what are the correct positioning on face offs, in our zone, and in center ice and in the other zone for face offs?

    11) Where would one find an effective system to be used for a 14/15 yr old Bantam team - or is it ridiculous to even think of such a thing?

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    1) How do I teach positions to new in-line hockey players? Do you have any drills or techniques that you can suggest? The players are between 5 and 6 years old.
    Teaching position to younger kids is quite a challenge. The problem is that they get so excited and they are having so much fun, that they tend to mostly chase the puck around at this age. I have coached as young as 7-8 year olds and these are the things that have seemed to work:

    A) Keep it simple. Use a 2 - 2 system with two wingers or offensive players and two defensemen. Try to show them on a strategy board and on the floor the areas that are their responsibility. You will find at this age some can get it and some can't. Use the ones that do "get it" to play the point or defensive position. These players are the key to your whole game. They will "quarterback" the offense by coming up between the face off circle and the center line when your team has the puck in the opponents zone. They will be in position to head off the enemy attacks and can set up the offense for you.

    B) To hammer this idea home use video review of each game (at a time before or after their regular practice). Kids are used to learning things from tv and this can really help. We have a good article on video review on the site in the coaches area.

    C) At practice use a "whistle stop scrimmage". This means that when players get out of position, you blow the whistle and they freeze. It is important that the kids STOP the second they hear the whistle. They then can look around and you can show the ones that are out of position where they should be. Compliment the ones that do it right.

    D) To give the offense an advantage at practice, run your offense 4 on 3 (half court) and have the defense hold their sticks upside down. This will give the offense a big advantage and allow them to think about what they are doing and look for the next pass. This re