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Daily Dish: Leaders of Men - Junior Hockey News

Published: Monday, 17 Aug 2020  
By: Stephen Heisler,

Once in a while it’s important that the leadership of junior hockey (owners, managers, coaches, parents) get a reminder of what the primary responsibility really is.

In reality, very few of the young men under our direction will get the opportunity to play for a Stanley Cup; the numbers certainly deliver a harsh dose of reality. So what is the real purpose for the level of play? Is it simply about on-ice development for the next level of play or is there more?

There is a tremendous amount of similarities between being a father and a good hockey coach. In this day of political correctness, I find myself not allowing traditional influences to negatively impact the character of my children. Discussions that were considered taboo just ten years ago is now little more than a common school yard activity.

I made a choice to take my children down a different path and encourage coaches to take a similar approach to the management of their own teams.

Junior players are significantly more informed today than what they were just fifteen years ago. Just as the game itself has morphed into a sport that requires a year-round commitment, coaches need to find a way to connect to this generation of players.

The days of filling a roster simply by stapling a poster to the local rinks’ bulletin board are far behind us. With few exceptions, it takes a year-round recruiting effort to build a solid team year-after-year.

There is a high value placed on each player and that’s exactly why teams and coaches need to make sure that every selection is a good fit for the organization.

Coaches have to gauge more than just a player’s on ice ability, it’s even more important to get guys that will help maintain the balance in the locker room.

Once those players are assembled and dialed into a solid team, it’s also important that the coach knows how to manage the character of the group. Like individuals, the reaction from the players may differ from year-to-year.

What worked for one team may be completely ineffective for another. Coaches have to have the flexibility to understand and acknowledge the individual pieces that make up the group.

The coach’s use of intimidation is a tool of the past and completely ineffective.

A tier III team made a mid-season coaching change a few years back. The players were laughing at new head coach’s attempt to establish his dominance with a barrage of intimidation and threats of trades to Tier 3.

Hey coach, wake up and smell 2030. There is nothing like a new coach being clueless when it comes to the junior hockey landscape. Free to play hockey in New England sure beats the snot out of paying to play in Montana or Wisconsin. Io other words, your threat of a trade does not hold water. Players have plenty of options.

The opportunity to step up and be a leader of men was quickly lost within 15 minutes of the new coach’s introduction to the team. While the players looked for some type of positive reinforcement after months of bitterness, that new coach displayed a complete lack of respect for the guys on the ice.

The coach could have taken a much different approach. A guy like Bliss Littler could take the exact team that he beat a week before and beat his own team a month later. How is that? Because Littler gets it, he knows how to get to the heart of the player, and he gets to know what makes each player tick.

Yes coaches, we only get one chance to make a great first impression. Sometimes all it takes is one good leader to help shape the individual characters of team of young men.

Let's turn this season into one where the the best coaching efforts have a lasting impact on the rest of each player's life.  

Author: Stephen Heisler from
Stephen Heisler has spent a lifetime in the game of hockey. Stephen is also working with individual teams, coaches, and players as a director with Victorious Hockey Company. Stephen, his wife Deysi, and four children reside in Orlando, Florida.

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