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Thoughts From the Bench

07/03/2012, 11:14am CDT
By Hal Tearse, Coach in Chief, Minnesota Hockey

Coach in Chief Hal Tearse offers his thoughts in the latest newsletter

From the June/July 2012 Minnesota Youth Hockey Coaches Association e-newsletter:

Minnesota Hockey has extended the Pilot Penalty Program for one more season. Enacted in late January of this year the rule requiring 5 minute majors and 10 minute misconducts for boarding and checks from behind will remain in place as the board felt that not enough time had passed to evaluate the success of the program. Regardless of what many will say, the changes are here to stay, and maybe rightly so. Over the years the game is changed to one that is increasingly played outside of the rule book. The idea of “let the players decide the game not the refs” has created a game of rule breakers and limit testers. The idea that the rules should be more lenient during the high school tournament or youth tournaments is also a mistake. The rules need to be enforced every game- every period all the time.

This coming fall officials will enforce the rule book and coaches will be expected to support the decisions of the officials. Complaining coaches who yell and otherwise offer advice to the officials will receive a bench minor under rule 601 “abuse of Officials.” The penalties will be reported to the appropriate District Director for corrective action.

Coaches need to coach and let officials officiate. This is a long standing position that I have held and discussed in this newsletter and in numerous articles and because we have not had enough progress in this area the rules regarding dangerous plays have been stiffened and they plus all other rules will be enforced according to the rule book. The youth game in Minnesota is now about skill and creativity not “big hits’ or “dump and chase” with body play winning the battles. Skills now matters more than ever.

The NHL is a business and as such they choose to suspend many of the rules for the play offs which has resulted in lower skilled teams who play a tough physical game winning. The final game of the Stanley Cup saw a player check another from behind and the play was so obvious that it had to be called. LA scored three goals in 5 minutes; series over the cup goes to LA. Although the play was called this time they let numerous illegal hits occur in almost every play off game and many of the highly creative and skilled players were neutralized. Scanning the 2012 draft picks of many NHL teams including Minnesota and Washington the first picks were characterized as big hard hitting players who can terrorize the opponents. Owners realize that to win in the play offs under the current way the rules are enforced they need more muscle, brawn, size and strength and the smaller skilled players will have a harder time performing at the top of their game. Goal scoring will continue to drop as teams’ man up with big guys who play defense and hit hard. Hopefully youth and high school hockey will not follow suit.

In this issue “safety” and “crazy” are a theme. Click the titles to go to the articles.

From the safety side there are two articles; “Calgary Survey on Body Checking” is very interesting. The theme of safety is prevalent in the responses of their survey. The second one is “Give the Game Back”. This article appeared in the Globe and Mail and has been altered a bit for emphasis but not changed in content of words.

And for Crazy: “Sound Bites on Youth Athletics” is a listing of headlines from across North America of things that happen in youth athletics. The final headline also has a link to a great story about a championship U-14 baseball team coached by two coaches age 14 and 15. Sometimes adult behaviors around youth sports get a bit out of hand.

Buyer Beware:

I recently heard from a parent who has a son playing on what he describes a “very select AAA” off season team. His observations are that with the checking in that age group during the off season (while it is now illegal during the winter season) there are lots of injuries as a result of mismatched sizes of players and intimidation tactics utilized by coaches to win games. He was pleading for Minnesota Hockey to take some action. Unfortunately (and perhaps fortunately in the eyes of some) Minnesota Hockey has no jurisdiction or oversight with the off season parent run teams. The unregulated off season teams should be viewed in a “buyer beware” frame of mind. Understand that there is no medical insurance provided like there is during the winter with USA Hockey. The leagues can operate with any rules and penalties they wish to enforce or not and the officials are not operating under the USA Hockey jurisdiction.

My blog: Read recent posts and feel free to post your ideas or thoughts.

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In the next issue I will discuss ideas about how players can improve and what the primary determinants are to achieve elite level skills.

Good wishes to our friends in the Duluth, Moose Lake region as they recover from the floods and damage caused by the rains in June. Lets all hope for a bit dryer July and August.

Enjoy summer, winter comes soon enough!

Hal Tearse
Coach in Chief, Minnesota Hockey
Safety Director, Minnesota Hockey

June/July 2012

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