Round One to the Bad Guys

In the first of several games the Devil’s Sharks will have with previously mentioned rivals we’d all really like to beat, our girls were able to dominate play for all but the last five minutes of the second period. Unfortunately, that was also all the bad guys needed to score a couple of goals in support of an eventual 2-1 victory. Their second goal with under a minute left in the second frame was a killer. It was a close game as games against this team will all most likely be.

Our Sharks have inexplicably had a few second period let downs this season, which have ultimately resulted in their demise in those games; something we certainly need to address moving forward.  One of our assistant coaches quipped “We had a fart that smelled just a little too long”.  Indeed, our girls dealt and smelt it, but it took the full 300 seconds to clear the air.  We’ve talked on several pre and post-game occasions about having to play three full periods of hockey. I’m fairly certain momentary lapses are something nearly every team in every sport struggles with  Winning teams are those who are able to limit their let downs; mitigate their mistakes. These messages will continue to be delivered and hopefully sink in as the team progresses against this opponent and all others.

One odd occurrence from yesterday’s match was sporadic whistling by a coach on the other bench. Whistling which closely mimicked the a referee’s own whistle and subsequently had our players stopping in their tracks on more than one occasion.  A couple of our players, including the Devil, came to the bench after their shifts complaining about being confused and distracted by the opposing coach.  I’m not sure what would possess a coach/adult to employ an obviously questionable tactic like this, but it will definitely be brought to the attention of referees in all of our games against this team moving forward.  I did make mention of the incidents to an official between the second and third periods in yesterday’s contest, yet reports came in that the distraction continued. If all else fails, I may find myself approaching the opposing staff directly to call their sportsmanship into question. I hope this does not need to be the case.

And so, we look forward to the next meeting with these particular foes, which comes in just one week at a tournament a couple of hours to the North.  We will go into that game knowing our charges can play at, if not above, the level of these rivals.  They just need to be committed to doing it from the first drop of the puck to the final tick of the clock.  Drop the puck on Round Two.


Nurturing Leadership with Letters

The Devil’s/my team has a big game coming up later today. Truth be told they are all big in what is a relatively short regular season.  But this one has some special meaning, at least for yours truly, because we are up against a squad with a couple of players who, for whatever reason, decided to accept and then 24 hours later reject spots on my team during tryouts back in May.  At the time they claimed they had a better opportunity, albeit an hour away, to play for a higher calibre team. However, the team did not turn out to be as advanced as they expected it would be.  Coincidentally, they find themselves on lower level team in the same division as us. In fact, we will have several opportunities to face them this season, including at a tournament we are attending next weekend.  It will be an odd situation as many of my players consider these young ladies their friends whom they have played with in previous years.  I have purposely not shared all of the details of their questionable departure with my players, but some, like the Devil are well aware of the circumstances that left me scrambling to un-cut some players to fill the holes they had left behind.  Nothing like a little added incentive to win even if it’s primarily mine.  In my pre-game talk I intend to treat this as any other game, but being honest with myself it’s one I really, reeeeally want to win.  I will do my best to not let that cloud my judgment or demeanor behind the bench this afternoon.

With the gravity of this game in mind, I thought it might be an appropriate juncture to name my team captain and assistant captains as a means to injecting a sense of leadership and importance to the competitive proceedings from this point forward.  Selecting and naming who should receive these symbolic letters is easier said than done. As I told the players during the mock coronation ceremony after what was one of our best practices two nights ago, every player has attributes and accomplishments worthy placing a leadership-based badge on their jersey. And I do truly believe this.  I am fortunate to have selected a great group of players who have all contributed in their own way so far this season. But there are only four such badges and only one C, which does carry a certain cachet with it. There is a responsibility associated with each of these letters.  I wanted to be sure I chose players who could fill the roles of “team leaders” whether in their words or their actions on and off the ice.  I do place some significance on the C in particular because I know the players do likewise.  These were not decisions to be taken lightly.  I conferred with my staff who were generally in agreement with the choices I made.  These badges would be handed to four players who would presumably be elated and subsequently not handed to 13 others each of whom may have felt they were worthy or entitled.  I did not want anyone to feel they had been slighted or overlooked.  But being human, there is always some level of politics and certainly emotion that comes into play.

All of that being said the three A’s and the C were distributed with an explanation given for each assignment. Each recipient received an enthusiastic cheer from her mates and the mood felt very positive. Later today my staff and I will hope the good mood, solid last practice and renewed focus will translate into on-ice success to buoy our charges moving forward through the season which has only just begun.  Against this team in particular it will be nice to set a tone and reaaaaly nice to come away victorious.  If I’ve made good decisions, those who have been newly anointed will play an important role in leading us there.


More on the Benefits of Coaching Kids’ Hockey

Great article from Deborah Francisco on about the rewards that come with coaching youth hockey. I couldn’t agree more as coaching has provided me with a wealth of memories, friendships and a pride in hopefully enriching the lives of the players I’ve been given the opportunity to interact with.  However, my life has also been enriched.  My favourite part of this article is about getting to know your players and taking the time to learn from them.  Coaches need to be good students along with being good teachers; equally-invested teammates as well as leaders.  Everyone has an opportunity to grow.

Coaching youth hockey life-altering experience 

Follow Deborah Francisco on Twitter @nhlgirl


Save an Old Barn from Extinction

A campaign is under way to save the Belleville Memorial Arena which is a classic old rink and one of my favourites from days gone by. I wish the same type of group had been organized to save our own local rink, which has since been replaced by a shiny new fire station.

Check out the The Belleville Memorial Arena Preservation Society and I urge those with a nostalgic nature…and who doesn’t have that when it comes to our grand game…to check out and support the campaign to preserve a bit o’ hockey history.


Praying to the Hockey Gods

The Devil (who had a day off hockey for a change) took this classic pre-game pic of the Boy and his mates preparing for the final game of this weekend’s tournament.  The Colts were able to prevail as tourney champs with a tight 3-1 win over the host squad that was really only secured in the last couple of minutes of the game.  As an added bonus, the host team was a close rival who they will go head to head against plenty of times this season.  Feels like the team is starting to find its identity.



Followed by the victory pic, of course. (Warning: Do not get caught in the hypnotic gaze of the suspicious bulldog..and please don’t question where his right hand is at.)


2011-12 Midget A Colts - Bradford Tourney Champs


The Obligatory Crazy Team Pic

Here’s another reason why coaching girls hockey or any other team sport is so worth it.  Just look at those smiling and in some cases awkwardly twisted and disturbing faces.  This team is just having too much fun given the opportunity to do one “crazy” pose. I don’t recall what the “smile” prompt was that the photographer used, but I’ll guarantee it wasn’t the standard “cheese” that elicited this response.  If only all of the obviously overly-respectable coaches coulda played along.

Sharks team picture

2011-12 Bantam A Sharks Finest Moment

Superstitions Abound

The Boy’s grandparents have been to three straight games and he is quite coincidentally on a three game scoring streak.  I’ve been known to shout “don’t pass it to him” down from the stands on the occasions when his scoring touch has been less than deft – usually drawing chuckles from the dads and the ire of disapproving moms.  In any case, the first thing he said when he came out of the dressing room after a 3-2 victory last night was “Great.  Nana and papa have come to three games in a row and I’ve scored three games in a row. But now they’re leaving for Florida for six months and I’m screwed.”  He’ll probably get a couple more games with the elders in tow, but after that he’s on his own.  May have to tuck a photo of nana and papa in his bag or back pocket though in at least a symbolic attempt to placate the hockey gods. That or go searching for for that old rabbit’s foot. Failing that, playing hard, smart hockey is always a good fall back plan.


New Team, New Season, Early Highlights

Couple of weeks in with a new cast of characters on the Boy’s Midget A team.  The only stuff of note thus far has been a few skirmishes which have ended with ejections and a game-tying goal potted with only 4.7 seconds left on the clock.  Overall the boys are playing well with a 1-2-2 record as they work towards familiarizing themselves with each other.  Camaraderie thus far does not appear to be an issue.  The Boy reports the room is a good room; everyone gets along; which is key for any team with hopes of a successful campaign.  The team boasts mainly first-year midgets, while a couple of opponents have iced a larger contingent of second year players.  Any differences are not really noticeable in game play.  Every contest has been relatively close, including a one-goal loss to an undefeated team at the top of the early-season standings – a game they quite easily could have won if not for a phantom goal at the beginning of the third period coupled with an equally questionable hit-from-behind penalty at the end of the same frame. Yup, there’s always room to complain about refs.

The full-on fisticuffs are something relatively new albeit commonplace at this age as the ice surface is quite literally drenched in testosterone.  We’ve seen gloves come off and punches exchanged in the last three matches in a row.  You can tell some of the moms of first-year players are taken aback, if only for a moment, at the “young” boys’ behaviour.

Trash-talking or “chirping” is no doubt incessant at faceoffs, at whistles and even on opposing bench skate-bys.  I believe, for better or worse, this is part of every game. Even the Devil tells of nasty language being hurled occasionally at her Bantam games; though I’m sure their never uttered from her mouth – she’s our innocent little girl after all.

Said chirping had a part to play in one incident immediately following the dramatic game-tying goal mentioned earlier. I failed to note that we were the visiting team, which only added to the already charged atmosphere.  The Boy and a teammate may have hurled a few choice words at the other team’s bench after the equaling marker, which elicited a fairly immediate and physical response from one of the chirpees.  The opponent’s advance was met by a right cross delivered across benches which was witnessed by an assistant coach from the home squad who had a similarly immediate and overly aggressive response of his own. The engagement was quickly joined by the Boy’s head coach at which point the reason for the plexiglass separating the two combatant teams became readily obvious. However, order was quickly restored, the puck was dropped one last time, but even then one of the host players felt it necessary to throw in a quick cheap shot in defiance of the suddenly 1-1 score.  The Boy had to grab one of his buddies who was the recipient of the cheap shot and was bent on revenge. I’m guessing this game, and particularly the end, will be remembered when these two teams meet again.

One other brief highlight for me came last night when the Boy failed to deliver on a partial promise he made earlier in the day.  In honour of the Winnipeg Jets return to the NHL on the same day, I suggested that if he scored he should perform a goal celebration made famous by then Jets rookie Teemu Selanne.  For those who are unfamiliar, this particular celebration involves removing one’s hockey glove, tossing it high in the air and mock shotgunning it down with one’s hockey stick ala Davey Crockett. The Boy did, as chance would have it, score a goal in his second consecutive game.  It was a nice, quick wrap-around tally from behind the net.  He did not, however, fulfill my request for the tribute, which naturally led me to exhort “WHAT ABOUT THE SELANNE?” Hell, I was missing half of the historic first game for the reborn Jets.  It was the least he could do. The Boy spun, acknowledged the plea and flashed a grin through his shiny new cage to mom and me. I get one of those grins a few times each year.  They leave lasting impressions. After the game, he claimed it wasn’t a goal worthy of such a celebration.  So, I’m still hopeful to see a “SELANNE” before the season is out; perhaps after a particularly awe-inspiring or momentous goal. Depending on the timing and proximity, it may evoke a less than warm reception from the other side, but it will most certainly be worth it for this biased fan.


Historic Day in the Homeland

Winnipeg Jets



Wish I had me a ticket on an airplane and another for a seat in the MTS Centre for today’s triumphant return of the Winnipeg Jets to the NHL.  Regardless the outcome of the game itself against the fabled Montreal Canadiens, this will be a game few who attend or watch from afar like me will ever forget.  I will be plopped square in front of the TV at 5pm ET to watch as much of the game as I can before going to go watch the Boy in his own game.  Yup, Boy still trumps Jets.


Can a rink be a good rink without fries?

Love this story about a revolt in Quebec to bring back hotdogs and poutine.  Many of the lasting memories of rinks we have visited over the years are based on the quality of their fries, hotdogs or popcorn.  If you’ve gotta kill an hour before a game, what better way to do it than with a large fries smothered in ketchup and vinegar.  Some of the newer “sports complexes” have full on bars and restaurants overlooking the ice pads which are admittedly awesome, but give me an old-fashioned arena with a one of those mysterious brown hot chocolate makers, a perpetual hot dog roller/heater and a deep fryer with oil that’s probably as old as the person tending the concession stand any day.  This to me is as much a part of the Canadian hockey experience as the game itself.  Take away my right to choose junk food and I’ll likely revolt too.