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Hockey's Forbidden Words & Phrases

By Jessi Pierce, Special to Minnesota Hockey, 01/18/22, 1:00PM CST


Ever notice how some hockey words and phrases seems to result in more eye-rolls or buzzkills than buy-in? We certainly have.

So we’re taking a different approach. A tongue-in-cheek attempt to grab your attention while still not backing down from what we know is important when it comes to athlete development and creating the best possible youth hockey environment.

Here are seven of the top words and phrases we love to use that you might love to hate.

7) Play Different Positions

The rebuttal: Sarah shouldn’t be playing defense — she’s a natural center and that’s where she’s at her best.”

Why it works: Ryan Hartman is a natural winger but has been playing center since November (between two pretty steady wingmen in Mats Zuccarelllo and Kirill Kaprizov who each have moved around a bit in their careers).

Minnesotans Dustin Byfuglien, Gigi Marvin, K’Andre Miller, Nate Schmidt and many more have changed positions completely at a late age or played multiple positions at the highest levels of the game.

The ability to be a versatile player is a very favorable quality by coaches. Playing different positions give kids the chance to develop hockey sense, learn more skills, and gain experience in new and different situations.

6) American Development Model

The rebuttal: “The ADM is great for 8-year-olds and learn to play kids, but Jenny is 12U now. She needs to learn the game.”

Why it works: The ADM has been around for more than a decade now and continues to prove time and time again why it works by the on-ice successes of the young players it’s helped produced, along with the growth of the game. Today’s rising NHL stars and NCAA Division I players grew up in the ADM system as part of the norm. It’s no fluke or coincidence that hockey is seeing some of its best and most skilled American players as of late. Small-area games, station-based practices, age-appropriate programming, skill development, off-ice/dryland training — the ADM is so much more than cross-ice hockey at 8U. These concepts are critical from 8U through high school, and many of them are implemented all the way up to the NHL or PHF/PWHPA.

Read More: A Revolutionary Approach to Squirt Hockey

5) Equal Playing Time

The rebuttal: “Hey Coach Derek, why isn’t Tommy’s line playing more? You want to win this game, don’t ya?”

Why it works: We want the kids to be competitive — 100 percent. Winning is fun! But never should that be at the expense of long-term athlete and player development. Every youth hockey player regardless of skill should be getting ice time. Shortening the bench will lead to youngsters leaving the sport. Why sign up if they aren’t going to play?

Read More: Playing Time Resolutions for Youth Coaches

4) Safety

The rebuttal: “Hit somebody! Finish your check!”

Why it’s important: Safety is our No. 1 priority behind having fun. From locker room monitors to Heads Up, Don’t Duck to ensuring every player know how to give and receive a check properly, there are numerous measures that should be taken seriously by everyone to ensure the safest environment for your child, his/her teammates and opponents.

Every player, parents, coach and official plays an important role in keeping our game safe from on-ice injuries and abuse like racism, sexual assault, hazing, etc. 

Read More: Can We Still Hit?

3) Avoid Early Specialization

The rebuttal: “We signed Johnny for another team this summer. It’s going to be hard to play baseball this summer, but it’s what he wants!”

Why it works: A break from hockey is critical to a young player’s development. Baseball, soccer, lacrosse, tennis, swimming — playing multiple sports and getting involved in other extracurricular activities in the offseason is healthy and encouraged by physicians, high level coaches and elite players. Early specialization can lead to burnout and injuries. 

As Wild forward Matt Boldy recently told our friends at Massachusetts Hockey: “I think my parents did a really good job of making sure that I was having fun and that hockey wasn’t my everything. They definitely had a lot of other values over playing hockey when I was just a little kid. I wasn’t hockey 24/7. I wouldn’t touch my bag from the day our season ended until the day it started the next year. Taking my time with my development was from not focusing my whole life on hockey.”

Read More: But My Kid Loves Hockey…

2) Parent Conduct

The rebuttal: “What is that kid doing out there?! Hey ref, how could you miss that call?!”

Why it’s important: No one want to be told how to parent or that they’re going overboard, but passion for our kids and the game can get the best of all of us so reminders are necessary, even if we don’t always want to hear them.

Coaches are volunteers. Many of the parents are volunteers. The officials are human — they make mistakes just like everyone else. The kids notice how parents act and react in the stands. It’s neither helpful nor enjoyable when they are yelling instructions, harping on the officials, throwing their hands up in disgust, etc.

Read More: 4 Tips for In-Game Communication

1) Have Fun!

The rebuttal: “You missed the net there on that one chance in the second period. And I didn’t see much hustle out of you at puck drop. Were you even ready to go?”

Why it’s important: We’ll never stop saying it. Hockey is about having fun with friends in the community. What’s the point in playing if they don’t have fun? As kids get older, it will be up to them whether they want to really commit themselves to development.

The best long-term outcomes of hockey, whether it’s staying involved in adult leagues, as a coach or board member, encouraging their own kids to play or pursuing higher levels of the game, all start with kids having fun and falling in love with the game.

Hockey is the greatest sport around. Let them play! Let them have fun!

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