On August 19-22, Duluth, MN will host the USA Hockey Level 5 Coaches Symposium will be held at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center. As the pinnacle of the USA Hockey Coaching Education Program, the Level 5 Symposium provides youth hockey coaches across the country with a unique opportunity to learn from college, NHL and international speakers.
To hear more about the event and the opportunity it will provide coaches from Minnesota and across the country, we caught up with Minnesota District Coach-in-Chief Christian Koelling.
Minnesota Hockey: What makes the Level 5 Coaches Symposium special and unique for USA Hockey?
Christian Koelling: It’s a special event because it’s a national event, and it only occurs every two years, three this time around with COVID-19 delaying it for a year. That’s one thing I’m really excited about is we haven’t had a big event for two years. It’s going to be really good just to get everyone together again.
It also brings in a group of coaches that are eager to learn from throughout the country and even internationally. I think that makes it very special is that there’s such a wide variety of attendees, and they all share a strong passion for the game itself and a desire to learn more about the game.
MH: Who is able to attend?
Koelling: Typically, to be eligible, you would need to have gone through the USA Hockey Coaching Education Program (CEP) and received a Level 4 as the National Coaches Symposium is also the Level 5 Clinic.
MH: Why is it important to host this event in Minnesota?
Koelling: The last time we had one was 12 years ago when we held the Level 5 down in St. Paul. It’s bounced around to some other great sites around the country, but with our culture and our hockey heritage, I think hosting a national USA Hockey event is important. I also think a lot of coaches from other parts of the country are really excited to come here and see what hockey in Minnesota is all about. There is a level of curiosity that comes from hockey coaches in other parts of the country because they hear a little about what we have here and they know how good it is. Bringing the Level 5 to Minnesota and Duluth will really display all of those things.
Duluth is a great hockey city, and it’s a great tourism area. There’s a lot to offer even for families of coaches.
MH: What should attendees expect in terms of the types of sessions and format?
Koelling: We host a welcoming reception on Thursday. Then, the presentations take place on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. We have general sessions with our keynote speakers, and in addition to that, we do breakout sessions in order to provide some age specific education (12 & Under or 13 & Over). We also have a goalie clinic going on at the same time. We’re really focusing on not only general education but specific age and positional education.
MH: With big names like Jon Cooper and Mike Sullivan presenting in the past, the speakers are always a big draw. What can you tell us about this year’s list of speakers?
Koelling: The level of the speakers and education provided is going to be off the charts. We typically have a really good international presence as well as an NHL presence, and with the importance of college hockey to Minnesota, we expect to have a collegiate presence as well with our speakers and presenters.
We have announced two NHL headliners. Jeff Blashill (Detroit) and Don Granato (Buffalo) will be speaking. The rest of the list hasn’t been released yet.
Editor's note: John Hynes (Nashville) and Mike Sullivan (Pittsburgh) have been confirmed as speakers since this interview occurred.
MH: With hundreds of coaches all in the same place, this event is unlike any other CEP event most youth hockey coaches will attend. How would you describe the experience to them?
Koelling: It’s certainly a lot of people who love coaching and love hockey. There are a lot of people who attend these events every two years. It’s not something they have to do to fulfill any sort of requirement. It’s something they want to do, and they enjoy doing. Having that as part of the atmosphere makes it really great because there’s a lot of hockey discussion and a lot of learning from each other in the social times.
MH: Are there any benefits of the Level 5 coaches may not expect or realize until they attend themselves?
Koelling: We see coaches who leave here and keep in touch with other coaches from across the country. We have gotten a taste of that this past year with our virtual clinics where coaches from all parts of the country have been on the same clinic, and they’ve been able to hear some different ideas and perspectives. Coaches don’t usually get that by attending a local CEP clinic. There are some really contrasting perspectives in different parts of the country in how they run their programs and how things are done. I think it’s a huge benefit to have that diversity of coaches. It’s certainly one of the additional benefits of the clinic.
MH: What would you tell a coach who is considering attending but hasn’t made a final decision?
Koelling: It’s going to be an absolute top-notch event. Duluth is a beautiful city in August. Come up here and bring your coaching staff or your family with you. They will have a great time. The city is eager to have the event as well. Duluth is going to roll out the red carpet for hockey coaches, and it’s going to be a great experience.
For more information on the USA Hockey Level 5 Coaches Symposium including the schedule and registration, click here. The registration price is set to increase on August 3rd, and the final deadline to register is August 10th.