AHU Coach’s Corner: Let’s discuss a lost skill in today’s game – passing
However, most teams struggle with it because no one really works on passing any more. No matter what age group you are in, you should always work on passing.
You look at players in juniors or in college and the NHL and the best players can pass and receive pucks at full speed. This isn’t because of the level they play at. It’s because they work at it and that is how they got to that level.
Every coach or even player should watch a college or NHL practice. The flow of the drills look so much faster because every player can handle and give a crisp pass. They rarely miss one that is on the tape. Encourage your players to catch every pass that they can and hold them accountable.
Passing is not only a skill, but it is a habit.
Make good passes and handling passes a habit for every practice because it translates into a game. For young guys, do stationary passing until they can handle and catch every single one. Then move to simple passes while moving. There are so many progressions that kids can learn, and it will become a habit for them.
Allow players to become comfortable skating with the puck and passing in stride. For all the skill drills you do during the season, add in a pass or two and challenge the players. Just like in a game, you might have to make a move and then pass the puck to a linemate and then receive the puck right back again.
All at full speed.
After the coaches teach the fundamentals of passing, then you can teach game scenarios – which lane to skate in, puck support and when to give an area pass. Every team that can pass has good puck support and they generally control the game. In a game, if a player misses a pass, it’s a turnover and you have to go back on defense and you no longer have the puck. Playing with the puck is more fun, so encourage your players to think that way.
I encourage kids to start watching habits of older players. When you watch someone that is better than you, you can pick up on their tendencies and realize how good they are and that is how you can also learn. There is a reason that player is better, so catch up to him or her.
Coaches, I encourage you to either watch other coaches or add more passing into your practices. It is becoming a lost skill and they best teams do not lose skill, they increase it.
Enjoy your off season and hopefully, the players and coaches that read this column will work to improve the skill and habits of passing.
Colten St. Clair is the former head coach and general manager of the Phoenix Knights Tier II junior team in the Western States Hockey League and the skills coach for the Arizona Hockey Union.
(June 27, 2018)