Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Proper Forward Crossover Technique

A big emphasis on this year's current high school team is basic skills and proper skating technique.  With 15 of our 20 player rosters underclassmen (freshmen & sophmores) and most with very limited playing/ skating experience, it is more important than ever to develop proper technique so that they have the necessary foundation with which to build upon.

The most common mistakes I see are any variety of steps rather than strides, improper weight distribution, lack of full extension... and sometimes even usage of wrong edges.

Here are 2 key teaching points to consider-
1. 2 Strides within the crossover push – the “stride push” and the “X-push.”
The “stride push” is the outside leg and mirrors the motion of a forward stride with leg locked at full extension and a powerful toe-flick at the end of the stride.
The “X-push” is performed with the inside leg. It also requires full extension and a toe-flick, but feels very un-natural and can take quite some time to learn, particularly if the placement of the skaters legs are improperly aligned and if the player isn't effectively bending their knees.
2. Carve the edges into the ice rather than simply gliding on them.  Hold each push – both the “stride push” then the “X-push” for 3 seconds each as a drill to improve technique.
Coaches and players should listen to the ice for the sound of their skates carving hard into the ice. Often players will be strong on the inside-edge of their glide (outer) leg but soft (weak) on the outside-edge of their inside leg (“X-push”).
The lack of effective carving will be easily apparent for skaters who are crossover "steppers" and lack good body balance.  If the skater is too upright, they will not be able to provide the necessary leverage to effectively carve.

"If you can't skate you can't rate."- No other skills matter any where near as much as skating, and it never hurts to go back and review the positive and negative components of your own individual skating stride.  Everyone has their own style, and habits.. but their are always ways to get more out of what you are doing.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Holiday Wish List

Many of you know I am very "Do it yourself-er" when it comes to hockey training and training gear.  I think most items can be made, retro-fitted or the activities be replicated with a little elbow grease.  Yet, there are some great tools that would make terrific gifts for the Youth Hockey Player in your life...

1) Weighted pucks-  These items are very difficult to be retro-fitted as the vulcanized rubber of a standard puck loses its shape when altered.  Weighted pucks are great for stickhandling practice to speed up your hands and shooting practice to strengthen your shot.

2) Don Cherry Videos-  As a kid I used to love to watch Don Cherry video's, back when these were in VHS format, and try to copy the stickhandling and scoring moves of the players featured.  Don Cherry has made a video a year, every year for the last 20 or so, so there are plenty of options to choose from.  Each video includes a years worth of highlights, playoff features, and commentary.

3) Exercise Ball-  These are a great way for youth players to first have an experience with strength training, and the difficult manuevers can be valuable for experienced players as well.  Use the ball to strengthen your core, lower/ upper body, and balance training.  Hundreds of exercises can be performed.

4) Street Hockey Net-  These are necessary for any young player.  Can be used for a backyard shooting station, street hockey games, or on a backyard or pond hockey rink.  I've always preferred metal over PVC nets, as the PVC will break easily if used in the winter months.

5) Ken Dryden's "The Game"-  A must read for any hockey fan.  Dryden is a Cornell- grad and Hockey hall of famer, who detailed in this classic book the inner workings of the Montreal Canadiens dynasty.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Scoring Concepts LLC is Expanding! Christmas Clinic in Laconia, NH.

Scoring Concepts has had a great spring, summer and fall run.  The amount of new kids & families we've been able to reach each and every week, with positive feedback, has given my wife and I enough confidence to expand our borders.

Being that we will be up in Gilford for a few days around the Christmas Holiday visiting with her family, I thought it'd be great to set a 90 minute clinic in the rink where I first met her... Laconia Ice Arena. 

What should you expect from a "Scoring Concepts" Clinic?
Here's the August 10th Skills Workshop broken down by the numbers-
* Players had the puck on their stick for a minimum of 40 Minutes (almost 300% more than the average game)
* Players participated in 47 minutes of drills involving shots. Each player took roughly 30 shots, compared to an average of 1 to 2 shots per average youth hockey game.
* 12 minute small area game had no line changes.  This is equivalent to the same ice time a player would recieve in a full 3 period youth hockey game if the team had 3 lines per squad.  The small area games develop communication and game sense skills that are difficult to develop in any other format.
* Players were given feedback and instructed on their powerskating (which represented 30 minutes of  drill work at the clinic). As stated in the OMHA study, "99% of the feedback coaches give players is when they have the puck. Ironically players only have the puck on their stick for 0.2% of the game." 

A recent article in the "New England Hockey Journal" (October 2011) pointed to a decrease in NHL players coming out of VT, NH, CT, and Mass.  How a decade ago some of the NHL's brightest stars (John LeClair, Tony Amonte, Jeremy Roenick) grew up in New England, and now New England can not claim any true Superstars born and raised in the region.  Pointing to sun belt expansion and european influence, the article detailed a troublesome trend... that New England- based youth programs are focused on increasing game totals, rather than paying attention to skills and skill development in practice. 

Scoring Concepts focuses 100% of its clinics on skills.  The format wastes little to no time on setup, and kids learn in a competitive, yet fun atmosphere.... perfect for any attention span!

Email- scoringconcepts@gmail.com with questions.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

At Home Strength Training Activities for Hockey

Wanna improve your strength, stability, and performance but too young or is it too expensive to go the gym?  With school, homework, family, and hockey games/ practices can you not find an extra 30minutes to strength train?

Try these exercises WHILE you are watching one 30 minute TV show....

1) Core Circuit-  Perform the following 4 activities for a timed 30 seconds and repeat for 2 sets.
a. Mui Tai Sit ups- legs stretched out flat and hands to forehead.  Roll your upper body completely up to 90 degrees.  Repeat.
b. Russian twists- balance yourself on your butt with back at 45 degree and and legs bent but elevated off ground.  Twist torso left and right.  Repeat.
c. Leg lifts- Back and legs flat.  Extend upwards, keeping legs straight 6-10 inches off the ground in a controlled motion.  Up then back down again.  Repeat.
d. Crunches-  Feet flat on ground and back down.  Crunch your upper body up, with your arms crossed, to your knees.  Repeat.

Rest for 1 minute after all 4 are done, then repeat circuit for 2nd set.

2) Dumbbell (weighted) Wrist Rollers- Take a dumbbell (5-10lbs to start) or anyother household item with a handle (milk jug, kettle etc.) and roll up your wrist forewards for 30 seconds, then backwards.  This will greatly strengthen your forearm muscles and improve your ability to catch passes and power your shot.

3) Yoga Stretches- Perform a 10 minute yoga stretching and balance routine, with an emphasis on completing these activities with proper form and breathing technique.  Here is an example.-

4) Pushups- During the 2 to 3 commercial breaks in the 30 minute program, try to complete as many pushups as possible.  Commercials generally last for 90 seconds to 2 minutes, so pace yourself and complete all pushups with proper form.

These activities are all relatively easy, and can be done, basically, without ever taking your eyes off the TV screen....

If you do these every night WHILE you watch TV, you will see tremendous strength gains, and become a better hockey player!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Thoughts on Effective Coaching

Coaching is an interesting profession... no two days are the same.  Every variable is constantly changing, from the attitudes and perceptions of individuals, to the motivation and characteristics of the collective team, on a day to day basis getting through and being effective takes great attention to detail.

Here are some ideas...
Poll finds Huge Gap in How Employees Are Recognized and How They Want to be Recognized
Managers have a lot to learn about employee recognition according the results of a recent national Maritz® Poll. Over one thousand full-time employees were asked to compare companies’ reward practices to employee preferences. The results show there is a significant gap between how employees are currently recognized in the workplace and how they actually want to be recognized:
• Only 27 percent who want to be recognized by non-monetary employee incentives, such as award merchandise, gift card or trips, are recognized that way.
• Only 27 percent who want to be recognized by a symbolic award (trophy/plaque) are recognized that way.
• Only 29 percent who want to be recognized by a cash bonus are recognized that way.
• Only 30 percent who want to be recognized by a recognition event are recognized that way.
• Only 40 percent who want to be recognized by written praise are recognized that way.
In addition, even though 70 percent of employees receive verbal praise – the most prevalent form of employee recognition – only 49 percent of them want it; and 21 percent of those who actually want verbal praise still aren’t getting it from their companies.
The research reveals that 55 percent of employees agree or strongly agree that the quality of their company’s recognition efforts impacts their job performance. At the same time, only 10 percent of employees strongly agree that they are completely satisfied with their company’s employee recognition efforts.

Many of the statistical data can be applied to a similar "team" setting...

Consider this other statistical example-

Hockey is easily the most costly of the team sports.  "Nick" has been playing since he was five and this year, says his father, "John", 46, the family will spend over $4500 a year for the hockey habit.  The equipment alone will cost $750.  Some parents hope their kids win college athletic scholarships.  But think about it.  If you spend $4500 per year for 10 years of youth sports, you can pay for the college education.  Robert Malina, director of the Institute of Youth Sports at Michigan State University, says the parents would be better off putting the money they spend on travel teams into a savings account.  According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, fewer than 1% of the kids participating in organized sports today will be good enough to land a college scholarship....
Studies show that 73% of kids quit their childhood sport by age 13 because it ceases to be fun.

Info provided by- http://www.collegecharlie.com/ysports.html

Coaching is constantly evolving.  This blog entry was started primarily because I recently finished the above book by Tony Dungy "The Mentor Leader" and would highly recommend it to anyone who is interacting with children, or working in a management capacity. Mr. Dungy has published other books that are equally as terrific, "Uncommon" comes to mind, but as I prepare for my High School Hockey season, his newest book is most fresh in my mind.

Take the above statistics on managing people, and properly motivating them.  Infuse your own person style, and be creative, but focus with the long-term ambition in mind...

Although I am relatively new to coaching, I find it to be the most stimulating endeavor I've ever undertaken.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Defenseman Gap Control

I had one of my favorite private lesson student's Father ask me the other day about what his son's coach was really meaning when he was saying "Control your Gap" or "Gap Up"... 

These are common hockey coaching terms, but need to be drilled down deeper, to get a greater understanding, specifically for youth hockey players, so that they learn the right way.

* The 'Gap' is the distance between a defenseman and a forward attacking your defensive zone with the puck. When playing defense, it's important to be aware of the gap, but judging the amount of gap to leave is not always easy, as all forwards attack with different skill sets and at different speeds.

A Gap too wide will allow the forward to cut to the inside, giving away the center of the defensive zone.  This is an area I call the "shooting zone" as it gives players the best angle and most net to shoot at, as well as, rebounds generally come back out in front or remain in the prime scoring area, rather than wrapping around the boards and out of the zone.

A Gap too narrow, and you run the risk of letting the forward skate by you with room behind to make a hard cut in front of the goal.
A common mistake youth defenseman make is to leave too much gap. This makes it far too easy for the forward to move to the middle of the ice for a  nice scoring opportunity.  Consequently, because of the fear of failure, inexperienced defensemen fail to "gap up" out of the zone and stay deep in their own end fearing to get beat by attacking forwards.  From a skills perspective this is equally as troubling, as it hinders the development of defenders skating ability.  In all situations, I'd rather have defenseman get beat to the outside and learn proper pursuit angles, then fear gapping up and giving away too much of the middle of the ice.

Focus on once the forward crossing the blue line to tighten the gap, and use your body positioning and sticks to communicate.   Sticks should be out in front and on the ice taking away the "shooting zone", knees should be bent, and defenders should be inside the face-off dots. Force players to the outside, by giving them no room to attack the middle, and the illusion that they can turn you.. While there is always the chance he will get by you, at least he will have a sharper angle to the net, and you can pursue to the inside near goal post, cutting away a hard cross in front.

Gap Control on the Off-Wing

Another good tip on controlling the gap is to look at the side the forward shoots from and making adjustments to where the puck is being controlled on the ice. The off-wing refers to a forward who shoots left coming down the right wing, or a player who shoots left coming down the right wing. His strong side is just his 'normal' side, and since the puck is too the outside, he has less net to shoot at.
You can actually leave a wider gap on forwards coming in on their strong side, and a tighter Gap on forwards coming in on their off-wing.
Why it Works

A forward coming in on his strong side has to expose the puck by bringing it in front of you as he cuts toward the middle of the ice. Leaving a wider Gap, encourages the forward to try cutting into the middle, rather than going to the outside. This gives you a better chance to poke the puck away.

If the forward is on his off-wing and you play too loose a gap, he can cut to the middle of the ice while protecting the puck with his body. That’s why you need to play a tighter gap in these situations.

Remember!!!  Always keep an active stick (stick on the ice moving to cut off passing angle and ready for poke checks), focus on body positioning ( your outside shoulder on his inside shoulder), ice location (stay inside the face-off dots), winning pursuit angles, and to pay attention to if he is a right or left shot and what side of the ice he is attacking from....  If you do this your Hockey IQ will win you battles and make you tough to beat.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Habs Private Training Session at Hawk Sports Performance 9/26/2011

Select Habs Player get great Workout at Hawk Sports Performance!

Hockey Specific Speed, Strength, and Performance Training at Hawk Sports Performance this fall
Hawk Sports Performance proudly held an open house for the Jr. A Trenton Habs on Monday, September 26th at 6pm. Coach Kevin Hawke tailored his revolutionary sports performance program to meet all of the teams hockey specific needs. Coach Hawke's facility and system has produced some of the best results in the State of New Jersey this past year, and the Habs really benefitted from the experience.  Assistant General Manager Andrew Trimble had this to say, "Hawke Sports Performance is second to none when it comes down to speed, strength and athletic training facilities.  His system is detail-focused and hones in on the technical aspects of achieving superior results.  We were honored to have the opportunity, and train again with Kevin in the future!"
Here are some of the highlights of Coach Kevin's workout-
1) PVC Barefott Balance Training- Players walked on PVC pipes forward and backward strengthening their ankle, calf, and core muscles in an advanced functional drill.
2) Plyometric Series-  Using platforms and obstacles, players were taken through a series of 1-legged and 2-legged explosive manuevers.
3) Accelerator Machine-  This advanced machine was, as Forward Russel Armbruster put it, "The most grueling calf training he's EVER had."

Thursday, September 22, 2011

3 Skating Errors Observed on Day 1 of "10 Weeks to Success" Clinics

After running our students through some speed training on Sunday night I'll reconstruct for you the three most common mistakes our students made. Typically they were: not enough kneebend, using two hands on the stick, and poor edge-control. Correcting one or all of these common errors will automatically improve your skating ability.
I constantly remind kids to remember that if they only focus on one aspect of that will definitely make them better skaters, that fundamental would be to bend the knees more than what feels comfortable. You will find that your balance improves, as well as your stride length, mobility and speed.
* Bend your knees deep enough so that they are about 2" out in front of the toes of your skates.
* Except for in the tight turn, where the outside edge skate should lead you into the turn, the Knee should always be out in front of the toes of your skates.
* If your legs are not burning at the end of practice, than you know you are not bending the knees to the optimal position.
Obviously, when you shoot, pass, catch a pass, you should use two hands. However, when you are attempting to gain top speed in open ice you should have one hand, yout top hand, on the stick. This includes when you are controlling the puck. Be sure to stretch your arms fully to the front, rather than side to side, so that you are able to keep all your momentum and speed going in the direction you are traveling, not against or across it.
* Use one hand on the stick whenever you are in open ice situations.
* Remember to turn the palm of your stickhand up once the arm has fully extended to the front, this will flatten your stick out on the ice, allowing you to maintain top speed while pushing the puck on your backhand side.
* Keeping one hand on the stick will dramatically improve your balance, especially when skating backwards.
You have to be able to grip the ice with all 4 of your edges in order for you to get maximum power and control. The proper angle of an edge rolling to the ice should be maintained at 45 degrees, halfway to the ice. Too many players we see never roll the ankles of their skates which means they are standing mostly on the flats of the blades. This mistake will severely hamper your power, turns, starts, etc.
* Make sure your edges roll at least halfway to the ice.
* Be sure to center all of your bodyweight directly over your edge to create a Counterbalancing effect.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Fall Clinic Announced!

The constant complaint I hear from youth hockey parents is that mites, squirts and pee wee coaches focus on systems and positional play.  Obviously, this stuff is important, but not, in my opinion, till the pee wee level, and more so at the Bantam level.  Coaches with a defensive forecheck or "homeplate-style" D-zone scheme can win a ton of games... but it drastically hinders the kids skill development.
The Fall clinics I am doing are ONLY skill focused.  In addition, I plan on tailoring these clinics to high school kids by implementing a game situation conditioning element.  They will be great for all ages and abilities, and be perfect for guys gearing up for the season.  10 WEEKS TO SUCCESS!
If you are interested reach out to me at scoringconcepts@gmail.com

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

3 Exercises to Increase Power! Transform yourself from the Weightroom to the Ice.

Transfer Off-Ice strength and power to the Ice with these 3 Exercises!

Training for power requires that you do exercises in which the speed of the exercise movement is relatively high, includes a load, and is executed with some explosive intent. This might be done in the gym or on the track/field. For example, runners might use plyometric exercises like bounds and jumps and marches and footballers might use special tackling machinery and equipment.  Hockey players can use a combination of the track/ field & Football principles to achieve results, but in today's article I want to focus on 3 specific weightroom exercises that will GREATLY increase your functional strength and explosive power.

1) The power clean. In the power clean, you start with bar on the floor but you only squat half way down (mid-thigh) or higher.  Then you explode with the weight upwards, before lifting the weight to shoulders.  You will have to use your entire body to hoist the weight as well as roll your wrists over, so this is a difficult, but very effective power exercise.  Start with just the bar for technique and gradually increase weight.

2) Jump Squats. Instead of writing in detail on how to do a good jump squat, watch the video below.  The main points are to perform a normal squat, then as you rise jump in the air as high as you can.  Make sure when you land you are landing on the balls of your feet first, not flat footed or landing on your heal after you do jump squats. This will help prevent injury.  Start out by performing this activity using just your body weight.  Gradually add dumbbells with increasing weight.

3) Pull-ups: The King of Upper Back Exercises -    The greatest upper-back exercise known to man & also the most basic - pull-ups. The most important exercise for building size and strength in the lats.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

What is a "Scoring Concepts" Clinic... by the Numbers.

In our last post we looked at the difference between a typical practice and a typical game in order to quantify which would afford the youth athlete a better opportunity to develop.  Using a study by OMHA (Ontario Midget Hockey Association), it was determined that at a minimum 2 practices are necessary for every 1 game in order to achieve steady skill development.

What I want to accomplish with this blog entry is to look at my training progression, which focuses on 1. Multi-Skill and Overspeed Drills 2. Actions over Instruction aka minimal or no on-ice chalkboard session (I believe kids learn best on the pond or by doing) 3. Competitions (kids competing in teams or against one another in a fun atmosphere), in order to fully understand how my clinics match up against a game or team practice.

Let's look again at the practice numbers in the OMHA study-
The following statistics were recorded during a 60-minute Peewee level hockey game:
  • Players will have the puck on their stick for an average of 8 seconds per game.
  • Players will take an average of 1 – 2 shots per game.
  • 99% of the feedback coaches give players is when they have the puck. Ironically players only have the puck on their stick for 0.2% of the game.
  • 1 efficient practice will give a player more skill development than 11 games collectively.

And then let's look at the practice plan for my August 10th "Summer Hockey Skills Workshop" at the Arenas in Woodbridge, NJ-

6-6:05: Warmup/ Free Skate & Welcome
6:05-6:15pm: Group Warmup
* 5 Circle Drill Fwd/ Bkwd
* Iron Cross/ Knee Propulsions
* Half Moon Drill in all 5 circles
SPLIT- SKATERS/ GOALTENDERS  (goalies go on 1/3rd the ice with private goalie coach)
6:15-6:35: Powerskating

LineDrills: Snowplow/ Inside C-Cuts/ Drunken Sailor Outside edges/ hourglass/ downhill skier/ Jumps
Athleticism Drills: Horsepower circles with athletic line maneuvers/ with pucks
6:35-6:50 Partner Skill Drills
* Mirror Drill with pucks
* Attack the tripod with pucks
* Athletic puck protection with stick swings
* Figure 8 pass drill 
6:50-7pm Neutral Zone Group Stickhandling Drills (everyone has a puck)
* Shortstroke/ longstroke drill
* 1,2,3 zone stickhandling drill
* 1,2,3 1-legged stickhandling progression
* 1,2,3 figure 8 stickhandling progression
7-7:25pm STATIONS (divided by bantams and below, switch halfway through)
Group 1- In zone  1v1, 2v2, 3v3 Drill
Group2- Sweden 2v1 Drill

7:25-7:30 GROUPS of 3 Passing Drill
7:30-7:40 Pittsburgh Full-Ice 1v1 Drill
7:40- 7:52 Small Area Games ( Divide groups like the stations/ no line changes, everyone involved)
7:52- End Rubber Band Relay Race

Here's the August 10th Workshop by the numbers based upon the drills above-
* Players had the puck on their stick for a minimum of 40 Minutes (almost 300% more than the average game)
* Players participated in 47 minutes of drills involving shots. Each player took roughly 30 shots, compared to an average of 1 to 2 shots per game.
* 12 minute small area game had no line changes.  This is equivalent to the same ice time a player would recieve in a full 3 period youth hockey game if the team had 3 lines per squad.
* Players were given feedback and instructed on their powerskating (which represented 30 minutes of work at the clinic). As stated above, "99% of the feedback coaches give players is when they have the puck. Ironically players only have the puck on their stick for 0.2% of the game." 

Friday, July 29, 2011

I want to improve...Should I play more games or go to practices & clinics?

Let's look at some numbers-
The following facts and figures relate to a 60-minute practice session:
  • 1 efficient practice will give a player more skill development than 11 games collectively.
  • Each player should have a puck on his or her stick for 8 – 12 minutes.
  • Each player should have a minimum of 30 shots on goal.
  • Players will miss the net over 30% of the time in a minor hockey practice.
  • Coaches should try to run 4 – 5 different drills / games / activities each practice. More is not better; execution of what you do is development.
  • No more than 5 minutes should be spent in front of a teaching board each practice.
  • If you have 10 players on the ice, strive to keep 4 – 5 players moving at all times.
  • If you have 15 players on the ice, strive to keep 9 – 10 players moving at all times.
  • If you have 20 players on the ice, strive to keep 14 – 15 players moving at all times.
The following statistics were recorded during a 60-minute Peewee level hockey game:
  • Players will have the puck on their stick for an average of 8 seconds per game.
  • Players will take an average of 1 – 2 shots per game.
  • 99% of the feedback coaches give players is when they have the puck. Ironically players only have the puck on their stick for 0.2% of the game.
  • 1 efficient practice will give a player more skill development than 11 games collectively.

After each season I get feedback from parents and players about how they spent their off-season.  The old adage inevitably always applies.. Off-season preparation is what goes into having a successful "In-season". 

Parents will approach me and talk about how their son/ daughter played in this tournament, or this league... how they traveled to this "showcase".  Then they will ask me how their son/ daughter can improve and get to the next level, and each and every time the answer is simple... MORE PRACTICE.

One of the biggest issues surrounding the development of hockey players is the number of practices they have compared to the number of games they play. An ideal, realistic ratio is 2 practices for every 1 game played for ages 7 – 13.  If you look at the above stats, how can we expect kids to develop when they are playing more games than practicing? Studies show that the better kids are at something, the more they will enjoy it, and the longer they will play. Many kids quit hockey because they get to the level where they can’t compete due to lack of skill – therefore it is no longer fun. At the ages of 5 – 6 or 5 – 7, the practice to game ratio should be even higher (6: 1) and in my opinion there is no need for formal games. 

Keep in mind that children can practice hockey almost anywhere. You do not have to wait until a planned practice to practice your hockey skills. Encourage children to practice at home in the driveway or on the street and with friends.   Hit the gym and develop the functional muscles to make yourself a more powerful skater.  Look for outdoor rinks in the winter and places to practice shooting and stick handling in the summer.  At night... watch hockey on TV.

In conclusion, if you want to be the player that makes the biggest jump in their skill level from one season to the next, practice each and everyday and even on off-season game days.  Oktay Armagan, a terrific hockey coach and private lesson instructor has this outstanding quote on his website, and it certainly applies to my philosophy-

Thanks to the OMHA for allowing to publish the above chart.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Facility Review- Rock Ice Center in Dunellen

Over the last two years I've had the privilege to hold many of my "Scoring Concepts LLC" Clinics and Private Lessons at the Rock Ice Center in Dunellen, NJ, and felt it was about time to share my experiences with what I feel is the best HOCKEY facility in Central New Jersey.

Foremost, you need some backstory on Rock Ice.  "On August 2nd (2009) I purchased Rock Ice LLC and became the sole owner of the ice rink here in Dunellen.  I am fully committed to turning the "new" Rock Ice Center into a great place for everyone from the beginner skater to the seasoned hockey player." said John Puskar, owner of Rock Ice.  John has over 20 years of hockey coaching experience, including stints as Head Coach at Morristown- Beard (where he was a 4-time NJ Prep School Champion coach), Whippany Park High School, and the County College of Morris. In the brief time since John's arrival, he's seen his vision take hold, as Rock Ice has constantly made aesthetic improvements, and steadily seen a dramatic rise in the volume of kids coming through the doors to take part in the Jersey Penguins youth hockey program, clinics, several of the High School programs who call it their home rink, and the "Rock Ice Summer Camp".  NJ PowerRanking had this to say about the facility, "Renovated Dunellen rink is much improved over previous years. Fans agree that customer service has improved greatly. Nice grades is many areas especially overhang viewing area that puts spectators right in the action. Locker room improvements helped image considerably."

Yet, more than anything, like a new paint job or bigger locker rooms, I like dealing with Rock Ice and John Puskar for 2 reasons. 
1.  John is a hockey guy.  Many rinks are owned by people who see the facility as pure business, and have never coached or played the game themselves at any reasonable length.  They don't understand anything more than the bottomline... and in my experience, can be brutal to deal with. John is the exact opposite of that model.  He understands the passion coaches have for teaching the game, as he himself has walked in the those shoes.  He takes this experience and acts as a mentor for many young coaches, players and parents experiencing the game on any variety of levels. 
2. The Hockey Programs.  John invites some of the absolute best in the business to coach at Rock Ice.  This summer, in addition to his own "Rock Ice Summer Camp" & "Rock Ice learn to skate Programs", he will host Pro Ambitions hockey camps, world renowned powerskating instructor Robby Glantz, Private Lesson instructors Jeff Gorman and Greg Rinder, and my weekly Scoring Concepts "Friday Night Ice" Skill Clinics.  I'm sure that John could make more money by offering these programs or clinics by doing these with in-house staff... like many other local rinks offer.  Yet, Rock Ice outscources these programs to some of the BEST coaches in the business and as a result gives the kids who train at the facility a far better product.

In the end, Rock Ice offers a premier facility for your youth hockey player to train.  In addition, to having all the above mentioned attributes and outstanding ammenities like a brand new snack bar, Jumbo- Tron style scoreboard, pro shop, a new ceiling lining to ensure great year-round ice, and plenty of parking, Rock Ice has friendly staff that make coming to the rink even more enjoyable.  I highly recommend parents, players and coaches, to check out Rock Ice in Dunellen FIRST when choosing when and where to play.

For Information Check Out-

The Rock Ice Center

125 North Ave
Dunellen, NJ 08812
Telephone:732 752 8600

Monday, June 27, 2011

Friday Night Ice Practice Plan- 6/24/2011 Powerskating Phase 2: Dynamic Edge Control & Balance

6:15-6:18pm Free Time & Warmup
6:18-6:20pm Introductions & Welcome
6:20-6:30pm Group Warmup
          * Forward 5 Circle C-Cuts/ Backward 5 Circle C-Cuts
          * Entire Group on Goalline (advanced Drill)
               - Puck Balance 1- legged C-Cuts (Goalline to Goalline)
6:30-7pm  Splits (Forwards/ Defense with Coach Trimble & Goalies with Coach Donald)
6:30-6:31pm Group Athleticisim puck control drill at center ice/ 2 sets
6:32pm Edge Control
          * Corner Start> partner C-Cuts with 1-leg> use all both legs/ both partners
          * Line Drills
               - Snowplow drill
               - Knee Propulsions
               - Partner Cross over pushes
               - Start/ Stops and high Knee series
6:45pm Balance
          * Half- Moon Drill ( use 3 circles in our section of ice & go both sides so they get all variations)
7-7:10pm  Balance Stickhandling/ Athleticism Warmup (Center Ice)
          * 1-legged bounces with whistle jumps
          * 1, 2, 3 1-Legged puckhandling series
          * partner pendulum stick swings
7:11-7:20pm Obstacle Course  (use whole ice and finish with shots on goalie)
7:20-7:25pm Figure 8 tight turns around gloves for 30 seconds at a time/ inbetween instead of rest do 5 high jumps (group activity) 3 sets
7:25-7:40pm Small Ice Games divided in zones based upon size and ability
7:40pm- End  Competition Relay Race (make it competitive... losing team picks up pucks)
7:45pm Dismissal

Our Next Clinic is Friday Night from 6:15-7:45pm at the Rock Ice Center in Dunellen, NJ!  Clinic runs each and every Friday this summer till September 2nd.


Saturday, June 4, 2011

Facility Review- Hawk Sports Performance

On Friday morning Kevin Hawke, the founder/ owner/ head trainer, of Hawk Sports Performance spent over 90 minutes with me, giving me a tour of his facility, explaining to me what sets him apart from his competition, and sharing his philosophy on athletic development.  Never mind that it was great to catch up with an elite athlete that I knew since Little League, but for the owner of any business to take time out of his day and demonstrate such passion about his program speaks volumes about the type of business Kevin is running.

For those who have never heard of Hawk Sports Performance here is what it is-
Hawk Sports Performance is an elite 8600 square foot facility with a 2,000 square foot gym, a full tennis court, and 34 yards of training turf located right off of the Garden State Parkway. Hawk Sports Performance employs the top speed trainers and strength coaches in the area and defines itself by being the absolute best at training and conditioning an athlete for peak performance.Hawk Sports Performance originated as Hawk Speed School in 2006 at The Bill Clark Tennis Academy in Florida. Four years later the Hawk Sports Performance facility was created at the shore and home town of its founder Kevin Hawke. Besides specializing in Sports Performance training we also offer an amenity of services to the public including personal training and tennis instruction.

Kevin, a former professional tennis player, previously was a private tennis instructor, training a near baker's dozen US Amateur Tennis Champions.  In a brief period of time, he became one of the best in his trade, but came to the realization that the concepts of Sports Performance or Speed Training lacked some of the modern methods, principles and theories that he was using with his own elite athletes.  His methods, he realized, could be seemlessly introduced to athletes in other sports besides tennis, namely football, basketball, baseball, and potentially hockey, and dramatically improve not only their speed and fast-twitch muscle fibers, but also their overall strength and power.  It was this realization that became the genesis for Hawk Sports Performance.

Not only is Kevin's gym an outstanding facility with plenty of room, all the latest equipment and necessary amenities, but Kevin's philosophy and ability to tinker and adapt his craft that sets him apart.  We briefly spoke about beach training and the use of sledge hammers and tires to develop outstanding core muscles, and he laughed... took me around the back of his facility and showed me giant "Monster Truck" tires that he has been using with his students.  In all due respect, Kevin looks like a "magician" to the untrained eye, as he takes a fundamental approach to teaching students proper technique, surrounding that honed technique with dramatically increased strength, and then drilling down passionately to push that athlete to the limit.  In a brief time these methods consistently produce dramatic results-

* An 11 year old went up in their squat 85lbs from 115 to 200 in just one month.
* A students Vertical jump went from 18" to 27". Thats a 9 inch vert gain in just 6 weeks.
* Check out these scores for the 60 yard run's of the St. Rose Baseball Team after a season of training-
C. Reynolds dropped from a 7.4 to a 6.75
Z. Vuono from a 7.8 to a 7.25
K. Case from a 7.8 to a 7.3
R. Kurtz from a 7.75 to a 7.37
F. Biase from a 7.6 to a 7.3
W. King from a 7.8 to a 7.4
C. Napolitano from a 8.05 to a 7.7
P. Grodeska from a 7.35 to a 7.0
T. Howell from a 8.9 to a 7.9
M. Kellert from a 7.8 to a 7.55
T. Petillo from a 7.45 to a 7.1
C. Pilot from a 7.9 to a 7.55

Simply put... Amazing, trackable results, and accomplished in a short period of time!

In summation, if you are looking to take your game to an elite level you can no longer afford to dust off the bench press in your parents garage, especially when you are competing against athletes who are being trained at Hawk Sports Performance.  At Hawk, you will get an elite gym full of cutting edge technology, individual instruction, and personal programs tailored to your specific needs.  With an eye for evolving and improvement, Kevin's passion continually puts him ahead of the competition, and I'd HIGHLY recommend him to any and every aspiring athlete!

Check out their website- http://www.hawksportsperformance.com/
Or contact them at-
Hawk Sports Performance
3535 Route 66 Building 2
Neptune, NJ 07753
Phone Number:

Some information reprinted from Hawk Sports Performance website and Facebook page.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Goal Setting for Improvement

Here's a simple mnemonic-

  • S - Specific (or Significant).
  • M - Measurable (or Meaningful).
  • A - Attainable (or Action-Oriented).
  • R - Relevant (or Rewarding).
  • T - Time-bound (or Trackable).
Goal setting is a key, and often overlooked method to personal improvement.  Players of all ages should not just think about what they want to accomplish with each season or off-season, but rather write down and keep track of very specific goals that they wish to accomplish.

For example, instead of having "To score a lot of goals" as a goal, it's more powerful to say "To double my goal production from my sophmore year total of 10 to 20." Obviously, this will only be attainable if a lot of preparation has been completed beforehand, and the player can drill down into ways to accomplish this by setting practice hour goals, game shot totals, and conditioning standards.

If you want to improve between now and next year, in hockey, life, academics, or business, set goals for yourself that are measurable and attainable.  Then devote all your energy to fulfilling them... but never stop pushing to go further.

Anthony Robbins is one of the most recognizable motivational speakers in the world.  Here is a terrific clip of his on "Goal Setting".

Each season or off-season devote 10 minutes of your life to setting specific goals for your chosen trade, and make an activation plan to achieve those goals.  The results can be amazing!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Partner Skill Drills

Partner Skill Drills are a great way for coaches to keep all their athletes involved, greatly increase skill and athleticism, and dramatically improve your overall conditioning level in a creative, competitive environment, without looking like punishment.
Here is a list of some of my Favorites...
1) Mirror Drills w/ wo pucks
Have 2 players facing one another.  One plays the leader and the other has to reacte to the movements of the other partner like he is looking into a mirror.  Blow a whistle everything 30 seconds to switch the roles.  This will enhance athleticism in a creative way, and develop body and edge control. 
2) Tag Chase
Have both players place their sticks together to create a long divider, and have players face each other on each side of the sticks.  Basic game of tag, except players can't go over the sticks only around, and players must stay within 5 feet of the sticks at all times.
3) Attack the Tri-Pod
One player has the puck, and the other is set with his legs wide and stick out in front, making a tri-pod.  Player with the puck attacks the non-puck player, creatively stickhandling in and around his body.  Works on not only stick skills, but also edge control, balance and thinking skills.  Switch after 30 seconds.
4) Pendulum Puck protection
One player is positioned in front of the other.  Player in front controls the puck, and the player behind is on his knees with his stick out in front.  The player positioned behind will steadily swing his stick on the ice in s half- circle pattern.  The player in front will need to control the puck and leap over the swinging stick.  Works balance, athleticism, coordination, and puck control skills.  Switch after 30 seconds.
5) Puck Protection Battles
Laconia Leafs Gm/ Coach Will Fay told me had a friend who went to a practice of squirt-aged players in Finland, and saw them practice puck protection battles for almost 40 minutes of an hour long practice.  Make the only rule being that players can't escape out of a 5 foot imaginary circle that encapsulates the battle.  Players need to learn how to think quickly, use their bodies to protect the puck, keep their head up, and also the defensive skills necessary win puck battles.  These skills need to be learned by DOING.
6) 3 Pass Figure 8 Drill
Have 1 player drop their gloves 5-8 feet apart.  The player without the puck will explode up through the middle of the gloves, and then backskate outside the right of the gloves.  Then explode up through the middle of the gloves again, before backskating outside the left of the gloves, completing a figure 8 pattern.  Repeat this for 30 seconds.  The player with pucks will make 3 passes to this player (middle, right of glove, and left of glove) in a rapid fashion, one-timing it back each time.  Switch after 30 seconds.
7) Flat stick stickhandling
Have one partner lie his stick on the ice, and the other, for 30 seconds at a time, dangle up, around, and over the flat stick.  To ramp up the conditioning element, have the other player who is not participating do either pushups, sit ups or jumps.  Switch after 30 seconds.
8) Pushes or Pulls
Have players pattern up and take them through a series of resistance powerskating.  First try a player in front going forward pulling the player in kneeling in back.  Then try this with the player in front going backwards.  Then try it with the player in front performing powerskating drills such as the "hourglass drill", "Right or left T- pushes", or "Right, left or alternating C-Cuts".
Try also Pushes with the players facing one another.  This alters the center of gravity and pressure point of each player, forcing them to use slightly different muscles to sustain themselves.  Use the same sequences as mentioned with the pull drills.

These drills are a great way to start or end any practice.  If done for 5-10 minutes, it will greatly improve the overall skills of all the members involved, and can be done with any age from mite to pro.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Overlooked Essentials to an OUTSTANDING Off-season Workout Program

Flexibility is important in any exercise program. It is essentially important in hockey where players use many different muscles to help them speed up, slow down, skate backwards, and change directions rapidly. A hockey player should get a warm up before a game, practice or workout. This warm up should include stretches which are hockey specific (focus on hamstrings, calf muscles, lower back, and hips). A well-planned stretching routing helps a player prepare his muscles for action, hence preventing injury. Flexibility allows a player to react more quickly. So do take the time and STRETCH!
2) Long Distance Cardiovascular Conditioning-

For a hockey player to get up and down the ice effectively during their shifts, an entire game and season, they must build up their aerobic and anaerobic systems. The aerobic system is used for long stretches on the ice while the anaerobic system is used for quick bursts of speed. Each important for its own reasons. Building an aerobic base gives players greater energy to play longer and helps them recover faster from lactic acid build up. An anaerobic base gives players the ability to perform quick energy surges. Start first in the early months of your off-season by building a core base of cardiovascular health (running of 2 miles, cycling of 5 miles, or the eliptical machine for 30-45 minutes).  As your system adjusts you will build, and be able to perform these activities with greater speed or resistance.  Within the last 6 weeks of off-season conditioning start to incorporate anaerobic activities to develop quick bursts of speed.  Yet, remember, you need the foundation before you can build the house!
3) Nutrition-

Nutrition is perhaps the one element that we as hockey players are most forgetful of. We must remember it is the fuel that makes our bodies go! Many of you will feel that your summer is you “down time,” a time to have a few pops and eat cheeseburgers while watching women’s beach volleyball on the couch. Wrong! You are entering adulthood. It is now time that your body must be worked harder and more often if it wishes to maintain shape. Think before you eat and make sure you are always drinking plenty of water. The best way to build muscle is to focus on eating large amounts of protein heavy food in the off-season.  During the regular season, you will need to replenish lost energy so carbohydrates will come more into the picture... but a carbohydrate heavy diet in the off-season can result in unnecessary weight gain.  An 8oz. glass of water before your meal is always the best start.
4) Supplements-
I am in no way endorsing steroids or performance enhancing drugs, but a well balanced regiment of essential and safe vitamins and minerals will improve your overall health.  These can be purchased right over the counter at your local CVS or GNC.  Here are 3 essentials-
1. Multi-vitamin- Taking a multivitamin/multimineral supplement like Centrum daily can help ensure you get recommended amounts of vitamins and minerals important for overall health and well-being.
2. Glutamine- Athletes take glutamine supplements in order to prevent muscle breakdown and to improve immune system functioning.
3. Fish oil capsules (Omega- 3 Fatty Acids)- Essential fats, Fish Oils are promoted to help support a healthy heart. This dietary supplement is used to add to a healthy diet.  Recent studies have shown that these may even help the prevention of concussions.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Extra Edge Academy- Facility Review


On Tuesday, April 19th, I had the opportunity to tour the Extra Edge Academy with head instructors Devin Edgerton & Grant Marshall, and for any hockey coach, player, parent or trainer, I highly recommend this unique and outstanding facility.

Foremost, what sets Extra Edge Academy apart is it's attention to detail, and sport-specific hockey training.  This place isn't Gold Gyms with a Synthetic Ice surface.  Every activity is carefully planned to develop the body to perform better on the ice.  In the process of setting themselves apart, they use modern technology ( like a synthetic ice treadmill, computer- based read & react stickhandling, and synthetic ice shooting range with computer functionality) to accelerate the process.

I find it inspiring to be around opened minded people who challenge themselves to push the limits, to see how good they can become.  When I was a kid, my Father would travel to my hockey camps, practices and skill clinics, and take notes in order to further develop his coaching philosophy.  Many of these ideas became the basis for his 3 part "Ultimate Hockey Drill Book".  Coaches have to be a student of the game, and not seek like-minded people, but rather people who think outside the box and challenge the accepted practices.  In my half- hour interaction with Devin Edgerton I saw a coach/ trainer who not only shared a lot of my same viewpoints, but also implemented my Father's teaching in making "Extra Edge Academy".  Over the course of Devin's decade long pro career, he took bits and pieces of training programs from his coaches (in the US, Canada, and Europe), expanded and developed what he learned to create his own Optimal Program.  Here is his philosophy-

The Extra Edge Academy  is a training facility for hockey players  designed, managed, and staffed by hockey players. We believe that our trainers  understand the sport at a granular level to provide a focused program that’s proven and successful.

Our goal is simple – push our students to become the best hockey players they can be. To accommodate this objective, The Academy  is staffed with some of the best hockey trainers available. Our trainers are hockey players that have collegiate to pro-level experience and have a deep knowledge of what it takes to succeed on and off the ice. They have developed and trained  youth, high school, club, minor and major league hockey players.

Our programs encompass a wide range of training techniques taking the best from both North American and European styles. This synergistic approach gives our students an edge that’s unique and effective.

In conclusion, I was amazed by this place.  The facility is currently almost booked out to capacity, as it is quickly becoming THE HOCKEY TRAINING facility in NJ.  As my wife knows, it is my dream to one day open up a similar facility in New Hampshire, using many of the products and services that Extra Edge provides... So in many ways I truly thank Devin and Grant for allowing me in to their building, making my mental notes and giving me the VIP tour.  This is a hockey place for hockey players, and I wish I had discovered it 20 years ago when I was playing.

There is no question that if you have the desire and commitment, Extra Edge will make you a better player.  If you are willing to work hard, this facility is the BEST place to make your skills and strength dramatically better.


Contact Extra Edge Academy for how to join-
20 Chapin Rd, Pine Brook, NJ, 07058

Monday, April 11, 2011

Improve Foot Speed Off- Ice

Power and Foot Speed make skaters dynamic.  As a kid I went to a number of Laura Stamm clinics and camps, and her system has become the backbone of what I teach to my students.  Dave Andreychuk is the prime of example of the Stamm foundation, "It's not how fast your feet are moving, but rather how much ice you are pushing".  Yet, to be a DYNAMIC hockey player, and dynamic skater, the truth lies somewhere in between.  You need BOTH powerful strides, and quick feet.
Most players think that this can be accomplished strictly when they are skating, but the reality is that strength and power, as well as, foot speed are traits that are transplanted onto the ice, from off-ice development.
Here are some pointers for players who are already good skaters, but want to train off the ice to become dynamic skaters.

1) Speed Training with Ankle Weights-  People lift weights to get stronger and run to get faster. Training with ankle weights can combine both of those concepts. By using these weights in your speed workouts, you will become faster without having to alter the drills you are comfortable with.  Wearing the weights when going through different speed drills forces your body to work harder than normal because you are carrying extra weight. Thus, when you finish your training, your speed will have improved because of the added weight you were carrying. By wearing the weights around your ankle, instead of elsewhere, such as a weighted vest, you are ensuring that your legs get the added workload.  In addition, Ankle weights are simple to use, and inexpensive.  Most use Velcro to keep the weight in place. Once attached, the weights will be effective in any speed training that you do. Running while wearing them will improve your long-distance speed as well as your foot speed through sprint drills. The key to successful use is commitment, they will not be effective if used sparingly, and while effective, ankle weights do have their downside. The workouts can be strenuous on different areas of the leg, and can cause pain if used for too long The knees are an especially delicate area for these workouts.   My recommendation is to use these for long distance runs not exceeding 35minutes, and to use them on smooth surfaces.  Start off with very light weight and gradually build up.  I even use these on-ice with my private lesson students.

2) Sand or Beach Training- My recommendation is to do this at off-peak beach hours so that you don't annoy sunbathers.  Beach training (either running for distance, up hills, change of directions, using ladders, or doing plyometric exercises) adds an amazing amount of resistance to basic cardio exercises, and has been the foundation for the Junior Program I coach with's tremendous success.  Performing the exercises in the below video will challenge you to go beyond what you as an athlete think you can handle, and utilizes stability and balance muscles that you probably didn't even know you had.

3) Plyometrics- Simply put the combination of speed and strength is power.  Throughout this century and no doubt long before, jumping, bounding and hopping exercises have been used in various ways to enhance athletic performance. In recent years, this distinct method of training for power or explosiveness has been termed plyometrics. Whatever the origins of the word the term is used to describe the method of training that seeks to enhance the explosive reaction of the individual through powerful muscular contractions because of rapid muscle contractions.  My first encounter with plyometrics was an a kid when I attended several summer hockey schools, and we performed bounding, leaping, or explosive muscle movements that were designed to improve your leg strength and skating ability.  I've incorporated many of these movements and added others to use with the teams I coach.  If practiced twice a week for the length of an entire season, a team's overall speed will increase at least 10%.  Your players will be better conditioned and better athletes as well.  Below is a chart with some basic movements you can perform to enhance your speed.  Just pick a field or track and give it a try...

4) Treadmill Workouts (Hill Training)- Treadmills have always been boring to me, but when used as a devise to make hills, they can be an amazing way to increase your speed.  Hill training is great for athletes engaged in sports that involve running, because hill training enhances running economy, and functional strength. However, outdoor hill workouts can be problematic under windy and wet conditions - or for athletes who live in flat regions of the country. Fortunately you can carry out your 'hill training' indoors on a treadmill - and often get a better workout than would be the case outside!  Although most athletes recognize that treadmills can simulate hills and that it is possible to get a great workout on a treadmill, they are often stumped by two key questions: how fast should the treadmill speed be set? How much of an inclination should be utilized?   For starters, try a hill speed and incline that you can sustain for 2 to 3 minutes.  Although that is longer than the average shift in a hockey game, it will build up for strength, and be a good indicator for which you can build a program around.  Challenge yourself each week to slightly increase both the speed and incline, and also combine the incline with interval training, so that you develop the long distance cardiovascular fitness that can sustain you for the 60 minutes of a hockey game.  Before you know it, you will have dramatic success.

We all know some players are born faster than others... but that is NO excuse for not becoming as fast as you can become!