By Michael Moore
I wanted to start this message by congratulating Quinnipiac on their recent win of the NCAA Championship. It was an impressive feat and shows the talent and hard work that is present in college hockey.
As we approach the end of the season, I wanted to remind players that the Junior league drafts are starting to take place. While being drafted can be an exciting opportunity, it’s important to remember that going undrafted is not the end of the world. In fact, it may even be beneficial as being drafted removes all other options within the league that you are drafted into. The only option then becomes the team that drafted you. Similarly, signing a tender can also limit one’s opportunity, as a player is locked into that one team. Unlike being drafted, a player can choose to turn down a tender for that team. If an officially tendered or drafted player does not wish to play with that team, then they will have to pursue opportunities in a different league entirely.
It’s important to keep these things in mind as you navigate your options and opportunities in the league. One thing that is always important is to keep working hard and striving for success. All tenders and draftees must still earn their spot on the roster. Nothing is guaranteed.
This week, Coach Littler asked that I share an article that he found insightful. The article, by Ben Kuzma, discusses Rick Tocchet’s approach to the importance of physicality and grit in hockey among the Vancouver Canucks. It’s an essential read for any player looking to improve their game and be an asset to their team.
As the season comes to a close, let’s continue to support each other and remember that there are many paths to success in hockey. With hard work, determination, and a willingness to learn, we can all achieve great things.
CANUCKS: RICK TOCCHET HAS AN ISSUE WITH PLAYERS BEING ‘A LITTLE LIGHT IN BATTLE SITUATIONS’
‘You’ve got to have the depth guys win battles and keep pucks alive, be sticky and cause some havoc. We’ve got to address that, whether that’s personnel or whatever.’
— Rick Tocchet.
Ben Kuzma, theprovince.com, Apr 03, 2023
Credit before criticism.
It’s a common business-world practice because a little sugar before the salt is supposed to re-energize employees and produce higher output levels.
That sounds warms and fuzzy, but it doesn’t apply to professional sports. As much as Vancouver Canucks coach Rick Tocchet has found the good amid the bad — and will ensure it’s part of the daily conversation —
ignoring indifferent play isn’t going make his day
or strengthen the roster the right way.
A current three-game winless skid saw a decline in everything that’s non-negotiable in Tocchet’s world.
If you’re not going to be a disruptive force on the forecheck, win battles along the walls and be hard to play against by taking an inside position to the net
— especially the bottom-six mix — there’s going to be a problem.
The Canucks are an encouraging 16-10-4 under Tocchet’s direction — especially with a banged-up back end testing the organization’s depth — and they’re getting monster seasons from Elias Pettersson, Quinn Hughes and a resurgent J.T. Miller. But there needs to be more.
“Obviously, the big guys have been producing and we’ve got to get more from the bottom two (lines) and more forechecking from those guys,” said Tocchet. “I don’t think we’re getting it enough right now to kind of wear the other team down.
“You’ve got to have the depth guys win battles and keep pucks alive and we haven’t done that the last three games. We can’t just rely on Millsy (Miller) and (Phil) Di Giuseppe and Dakota (Joshua) sometimes. We need guys to get on somebody as F1 (first forward) and be sticky.
“They’ve got to get in there and cause some havoc.”
That would suggest, as Miller stressed post-game Sunday following a 4-1 loss to the Los Angeles Kings, that the Canucks are
“a little too soft right now
and doesn’t feel like
we’re hard to play against.”
Tocchet agreed and that’s when he really cut to the chase.
“We’ve got to address that,” he stressed.
“Whether that’s personnel or whatever, we’re a little light in battle situations. That to me is body position and technique. In practice we teach it and do it, but when the pressure hits in games we lose our technique.
“Whether it’s your back against a guy with your stick, and somehow we have our backs against the boards, you can’t play that way in this league.
It’s why we have to develop some of those guys and find out who can do that for us.”
Or, find other guys.
It’s why Tocchet has repeatedly preached how critical the coming off-season is for those who need to add muscle, conditioning, speed and stiffness to their games. Whether it’s Jack Studnicka, Vitali Kravstov, Vasily Podkolzin, the improved Joshua, and newcomers like college products Aidan McDonough and Akito Hirose, the message is blunt.
Studnicka knows how important it is to be patient, having been a healthy scratch often this season, including 10 times in an 11-game span in March. Using that time to improve his practice habits and game awareness was vital.
At 24, and with a year left on his contract, this should be a summer like no other for the 2017 second-round pick of the Boston Bruins. He needs to improve on just seven points (4-3) in 41 games to earn more than 10:31 of average ice time and become a bottom-six roster mainstay.
Right now, Tocchet said that Studnicka is “behind other guys” but he likes the commitment to improve.
“Everybody wants things to happen fast,” Studnicka told Postmedia. “For some guys it does, and that’s why they’re the best players in the league. Early on, I probably gave myself expectations that were not unrealistic, but certainly high.
“Now, I’m more comfortable in trusting the process.”
Strength is at the core of improvement and Tocchet must see it at training camp. Four months is ample time to either meet the criteria or be a roster afterthought.
“Core strength, strength on pucks, hockey I.Q. and everything,”
added the coach of his wish list.
“It’s also anticipating when the puck is coming and being ready for it.
Sometimes, we’re not scanning the ice enough and we’re surprised by it.
“That’s experience and some guys haven’t played a lot and are trying to make the NHL. It’s part of the process.”
It’s also part of the challenge after missing the playoffs yet again.
“It sucks — I feel bad for the guys,” said Tocchet.
“Four months off sucks, but use it to your advantage.
There’s no excuse to not come into camp in shape. If you don’t, there will be a problem.
“There’s a hunger and I want to be part of the solution
with the coaching staff. I’m looking forward to these four months.”
In the interim, six remaining games are still significant. Tocchet has an early read on how big winger McDonough could contribute as a physical presence and finisher. And in his NHL debut on Sunday, there were parts of Hirose’s game that stood out.
“It is what it is — we have guys trying to make our team,” said Tocchet. “Once you give it (instruction) to them, then they can adapt. Aidan has to get quicker off the start and Hirose has to get stronger and they know that to get to this level.
“But both guys have kind of impressed me. There’s some stuff there to develop.”
POST-SEASON CHECKLIST FOR HOCKEY PARENTS
Timturkhockey.com, April 12, 2023,
Take a deep breath parents: the hockey season is coming to an end. We know that many of you enjoy the grind of the youth hockey season, but there has to be some excitement about a break from early morning practices and weekend tournaments. For many kids, the end of the hockey season triggers a change in gear to other sports like baseball for the summer. Instead of wearing a jacket and holding a coffee inside a cold rink, you can sport a t-shirt and shorts on a nice summer evening.
But sooner than you know it, preparing for the next hockey season will be upon you. The warm weather will fade and the summer nights will get shorter and shorter. Every year, as September rolls around, parents scramble to grab new gear and register their kids for the next season. How can you avoid this next year? Check out our post-season checklist for hockey parents that will make next year’s registration a breeze!
Air Out That Gear!
In all seriousness, at the end of the season, take advantage of the summer weather and air out that gear. We all know about the smell of hockey gear after a long season. Trust us, we can tell when someone’s hockey bag hasn’t been opened since last year. Not only is this easier on your nose, but it is also hygienic. Hockey gear can have all types of bacterial growth on it because often during the season, it never truly dries out. It does not take much to invest in a hockey gear rack where you can hang all of the paddings to properly air it out.
If you really want to get it clean, we recommend taking it to get professionally done. There are plenty of rinks that have professional cleaners now that can power steam clean your gear or use proper chemicals. If you want to try it yourself you can toss everything in a bathtub of vinegar or another non-toxic cleaner, and try to scrub the smell out. Either way, airing it out is the least you can do to avoid bacteria or even mould growth during the off-season.
Know Which Gear Needs to be Replaced
While we are on the subject of hockey gear, every off-season you should be looking at which gear your child has outgrown. As hockey parents, we know how often you need to buy new equipment because our kids keep having growth spurts. Buying the gear too big can be uncomfortable and even dangerous on the ice. Unfortunately, there isn’t really a way around it at these ages.
So while you are taking our advice and airing out or cleaning that gear, take a second to take stock of which items need to be replaced next season. You can also take stock of which pieces of equipment are on the cusp of being outgrown. If there is another unexpected growth spurt this summer, you will already know what might have to be added to the shopping list.
Look for Off-Season Skill Development
Your kids might want a break from hockey and that is totally fine. The summer is a great way to get different types of exercise like bike riding or swimming. But for those who want to continue to play hockey and improve their skills, there are a number of ways you can help them as a parent. The first is to look for summer leagues or even roller hockey as a way to stay in the game during the off-season. Summer leagues might be few and far between depending on where you live, but in many cities, there is usually at least one ice rink that will stay frozen year-round.
Other things you can consider are additional skating lessons like power skating, working on their shot, or even dry land training. These can help continue to strengthen the right muscle regions for hockey, without breaking the bank for summer registration. You can also ask your child’s coach for some off-season drills they can do at home to improve their skills. Other resources include sites like YouTube which provide valuable videos of hockey training that can be done away from the rink.
Check Sticks and Skates
As you can tell, we are very high on equipment management. While we already told you to clean and check the sizing of your child’s gear, it is also imperative to look at their sticks and skates. These are two of the most important pieces of equipment alongside the helmet. Skates can take a beating during the season, and it is worth taking them to a skate shop in the offseason to get repaired.
Likewise with hockey sticks. We all know how much a season of hockey can take a toll on the blades of our sticks. And let’s be honest: these sticks aren’t cheap anymore. At the end of the year, take all of the tape off and make sure the stick is still usable next season. This is a good time to check to make sure the stick is still the right size as well. If the blade is beaten up and the stick is on the short side, it might be time to check out some new sticks for next year.
Finally, Relax and Enjoy the Summer
Most importantly, enjoy sleeping in on the weekends and taking in the warm weather. The hockey season can be just as tiring for parents as it is for kids. Give yourself a nice pat on the back for all of your work this year driving the kids around and cleaning their jerseys and gear. Without parents, youth hockey would never run as smoothly as it does. Thank you for all your hard effort and devotion to your kids! While we recommend making your off-season checklist, don’t be afraid to take a couple of weeks off first to recharge your batteries and get the smell of hockey gear out of your mind!
HOW TO POKE-CHECK BETTER WITH JARED SPURGEON, NICKLAS LIDSTROM & CALE MAKAR
When should a hockey player use a poke-check?
Greg Revak, February 12, 2023
When we last spoke about 1v1s, we discussed the two elements that should exist for the attacker. One of those was the ability to beat the defender’s stick.
Well, if we are the defender, we should probably make it very difficult to defeat our defensive stick. Let’s dive in.
Hiding Your Reach
Defenseman Jared Spurgeon is the captain of the Minnesota Wild. He’s not a prototypical NHL defenseman, listed at just 5’9” (the average NHL defenseman is about 6’2”).
One of the ways he’s been able to play at an elite level in the best league in the world is by being one of the best at using his stick to poke-check the puck to create turnovers.
His secret? Hiding his reach.
“With my stick, I like to keep it hidden. If you have it out there, they can tell how far you can reach, but if you keep it hidden on the inside you can poke and get stick-on-puck a lot.”
Hide Then Attack Like A Cobra
Rather than going in all guns blazing, defenders should be purposeful as to when they expose their reach and go for the poke-check. If done too early or without care, this can happen:
Hall-of-Famer Nicklas Lidstrom was an expert at using his stick smartly. He would hold his stick in tight by his hip until he was ready to strike then he’d poke-check with violence like a cobra.
Below, watch how reigning Norris Trophy-winning defenseman Cale Makar waits until Connor McDavid commits and takes his stick off of the puck. Makar throws a small fake poke-check where he remains tight and compact. McDavid then commits to driving deep into the zone and allows Makar to pivot into an attacking position. Once McDavid spots the puck, Makar swiftly poke-checks it away.
To poke-check well, a defender has four items to key on:
1. Hide your stick and reach
2. Don’t overreach/overextend
3. Wait for the correct moment
4. Attack swiftly and purposefully
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