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In A Devilish Mood: Bottom line – if you can’t skate, you can’t play hockey

 

mccaugheyAs I sat down to write this article, I found myself contemplating the many times in the past few years where I have been asked the question, “What do you recommend that my son or daughter focus on to become a better player?”

My answers always varied as every player has different strengths and weaknesses, but there was always one part of my answer that never changed – SKATING, SKATING, SKATING.

I believe those three words are the equivalent of LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION in the real estate world. Being a good skater is an absolute must if you want to be an above average hockey player. The problem is that this is the one area of the game that kids like to work on the least.

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Kids associate power skating with punishment, and for good reason as some of the time, due to inexperienced coaches bag skating the kids and telling everyone he is a power skating specialist. However, there have been plenty of times that I have personally witnessed where a very experienced power skating instructor is on the ice running some excellent drills and 80 percent of the skaters out there are just going through the motions, waiting for the pucks to come out. This is the attitude that we, as coaches, need to change in this Valley.

The problem is that we cannot do it without the help of you parents out there. We can do our part to educate ourselves to make sure we know what we are talking about when we teach proper skating techniques, or to get someone else to do it. We can also break it up a little and add some fun to the lesson so that the kids will start to associate fun with power skating. But this is also where you, as the parent, need to hammer home with your child that no matter how good of a skater he or she thinks they are, they can ALWAYS get better. They not only owe it to themselves to do so, but they owe it to their teammates.

Hockey is a team sport and good teams are comprised of individual players who have bought into the team philosophy that what is good for the team is all that matters. Good teammates have an obligation to work hard and always strive to get better.

I grew up playing hockey in Ann Arbor, Mich., where I was pretty much the best player in my age group all the way up through high school. I dreamed of playing for the Wolverines. When the Michigan coach asked me to be a walk-on for the team, and guaranteed me that I would at least make the team and that I would get SOME ice time my freshman year, I was in heaven. That summer, that coach got fired and Red Berenson was hired.

This eventually turned out to be a great thing for me, but at that moment, all I knew was that my guarantees were gone. Coach Berenson recognized that I had a great head for the game and a natural ability to put the puck in the net. What he also noticed was that I was a horrible skater. I was a straight-legged skater who did not generate any power. I ended up getting plenty of ice time and had a pretty good college career, largely due to the fact Coach Berenson made me do power skating all four years I was there.

Here’s the lesson. They say that there are certain things about hockey that you can’t teach, like hockey sense. Like shooting and passing, skating is very much an improvable skill. I would even consider it a requirement to continually work on becoming a better skater for anyone who is serious about becoming a better hockey player.

Brad McCaughey is the new director of hockey for the Desert Youth Hockey Association.