Wednesday Drill of the Week: King Low

King Low

A simple defensive drill that works on outnumbering the puck and teaching players to anticipate plays down low. Three defensive players start at the net front (typically 2 D and 1 F). Two forwards start with a puck on both walls – they can be facing the wall, facing out, vary positioning to change skills worked on. On the whistle, the three defensive players sprint to defensive positioning and play an outnumbering situation, 3v2. Typically speaking, the first player on the puck is taught to hit and pin into the wall, the second man is looking to take the available play away (anticipate the pass to the partner and go right to him) and the third defensive player is looking to come in and take the puck. Once one side goes, the whistle blows and the same three players expand to the other side of the ice. The offensive players are trying to protect the puck and challenge the defensive players to outnumber and take it away.

We use this drill to teach defensive concepts – hitting, pinning, anticipating options, quickly attacking and outnumbering on the defensive side of the puck. Can be done in one end or both depending on numbers.

The Three Tenets of Coaching

Sitting in the office the other day, we were having a discussion about what makes a good coach and what areas you have to excel in to be considered “good.” After some thought and conversation, I believe that coaching comes down to three major areas: Technical, Tactical and Interpersonal.

1. Technical: A good coach must have a strong technical knowledge of the game or sport that they are coaching. Technical expertise is anything that is involved in the mechanical ability to complete an action. In hockey, this boils down to skating, passing, shooting, stick positioning, how to play the body, ability to execute under pressure, etc. Personally, I feel as though situational play also falls under technical ability, although an argument can be made for this being a part of the tactical game. For example, how you play rushes (on both sides of the puck) can be seen as both technical and tactical. Executing on both the offensive and defensive side of a situational play is a technical ability and, to me, the tactics involved in the situation are again a technical skill in the game of hockey.

2. Tactical: The tactical elements of the game mostly involve systems and what structure a team plays with. A coach’s tactical ability influences a game in a number of ways – primarily through adjustments and the ability to identify strengths and weaknesses (both in game and on tape) and attack/protect the respective elements. Coaches with strong tactical abilities have an ability to impact the game through the style of play of their team, their ability to implement adjustments and their proficiency in teaching their systems. 

3. Interpersonal: The interpersonal abilities of a coach are often the biggest indicator of success. Coaches who can interact with people, teach their players and thrive in a pressured environment are often the ones that are the most successful. Good coaches must have strong interpersonal skills to relate to their players, their own peers in the coaching world and their colleagues within their office/department. You can be the best technical and tactical coach in the world, but if you cannot relay your message to your players, it is completely useless. The ability to connect and build trust with your players is critical. In addition, you must be able to get along with your peers in the coaching world and your colleagues in your office/department.

It is my belief that all great coaches possess these three elements – I know there are many more skills and habits that create a successful coach, but without these three tenets coaches will struggle to be successful.

I would love to hear some feedback – what do you think? What have I left out? What does it take to be a successful coach?

Variations on Wednesday Drill of the Week: 4 Dot Shooting

4 Dot Shooting with Variations

Received some great feedback from TJ Manastersky, Head Coach at Curry College about some variations to yesterday’s drill of the week. The original drill is on the bottom half of the diagram in black. The variations are at the top.

The first variation involves an exchange between the two lines and then a flat pass to the mohawked player on the flank who goes in for a shot. The second variation is in blue, with the player who makes the flat pass driving the net for a 2v0/rebound opportunity. The third variation is in green, with the player who mohawks driving in deep, cutting back and hitting the second player for a trailing shot opportunity.

Wednesday Drill of the Week: 4 Dot Shooting

4 Dot Shooting

Simple shooting drill that encompasses a number of skating and stick skills. Players line up on the four dots with pucks in all four lines. Opposite lines start. Player one makes a pass and then skates a button hook pattern with a mohawk maneuver at the end. The player in the line opposite receives the pass and bumps it to the next player in the line that started the drill. That player then passes to the player who skated the pattern who goes in and takes a shot.

Another variation is to have the player who skates the pattern exchange with the opposite line twice while skating towards them, then receive a flat pass while they are mohawking towards the boards.

While the execution of the drill is simple, players need to focus on doing everything at full speed. Passes should be flat and on the tape. The skating pattern should develop a players ability to use their edges. Player need to attack the net hard with a wide drive and shoot in stride, stopping at the net for a rebound opportunity.

Wednesday Drill of the Week: Goalie Center Shifts

A very simple drill that works on goaltenders shifting their body weight into the puck. Has a three step progression.

Center Shifts



The drill starts with a goalie in the net and a cone at the center line. A shooter is mid slot and off to one side (just above the hash marks) with pucks. The goalie starts standing up and centered on the cone. The shooter shoots a puck at the net, and the goalie shifts his weight to make the save. The second progression is the goalie starts on his knees and again shifts his center line to the new angle as the shot comes. The third progression is to have the goalie start standing and then drop into a butterfly to make the save.

The concept behind this drill is to work on goaltenders moving their body into pucks – too many goalies rely on extension saves vis a vis a center shift save and moving into the puck. The cone is used as a visual marker for goalies to see how much (or how little) they have moved off their original center line. Goalies should be moving and pushing into every shot, and the drill should work both sides.

Why I Love Hockey Camp

I’ll admit it. I’m a hockey camp junkie. I could do hockey camps every summer for the rest of my life. I’m a big believer in the value of hockey camps and what they bring to the table for a young person no matter what age.

Camps force players outside of their comfort zones. They have to interact with and play with people they have met mere minutes before. They have to become comfortable in a new environment, in a new location and with new coaches. They are given an opportunity to learn from different coaches and leaders – they are exposed to ideas and concepts they may have never seen before. Players are given a first hand look at just where they fit in the pecking order.

As a coach, I love the opportunity that camps present. I love to teach the game of hockey and there is no better place to do that then at hockey camp. During the season, we often get bogged down in strategy and systems almost to a fault. Camp season is when you can work on and train the fundamentals of the game. You can teach proper technique and mechanics. Coaches also have the opportunity to learn from each other in the summer – exchanging ideas and teaching points you use during the season. The free flow of ideas is invaluable for a coaches development.

I love hockey camp for everything it brings to the table. It puts people in new situations where they have to learn to do things in a new or different way. It exposes you to the outside world and challenges you to not only fit in, but find a way to excel. Hockey camp develops young people and coaches in ways that few other things in life can do. That is why you’ll see me on the summer camp circuit for as long as I work in hockey.

Wednesday Drill of the Week: 3v3 on the Circle

Harff 3v1

A simple and competitive tight area drill that is good for all players – goalies can get as much out of this as skaters.

Players can play any position, for explanation the positions are marked differently. The drill is 3v3 on the circle. Only the two players in the circle can play inside of the circle, the other players have to stay on the perimeter. There is a center line that the players cannot cross (blue dashes). When the puck is in play, the X’s attack the net on the right, the O’s attack the net on the left. If the X’s have the puck, the two XF’s and the one XD are playing together in a 3v1 – the one OD is attempting to use his stick/body to defend. On possession, the OD combines with the OF’s to attack the one XD and the net on the left.

The objective is puck movement and quick transition. The ability to get shots off quickly and/or make a quick back door play. Goalies are tested in their ability to compete and battle for pucks around the net and back door.


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