August 27 2013 01:36PM
Developing skill is one of the main objectives in hockey, and it should be the second most important factor for minor hockey associations. Ensuring the kids are having fun should be the first objective of every minor hockey parent, coach and association.
Before we get to the Oilers signing of Linus Omark, let's look at how Edmonton is hoping to develop even more skilled players.
The Edmonton Minor Hockey Association will announce that all pre-novice and novice practices will now be done on half-ice. Also atom teams will have 11 practices on 1/2 ice, while peewee teams will have 7 practices on the smaller rink.
This is an outstanding decision.
I know that cost and lack of ice was a main reason the EMHL decided to go this route, but the kids will actually be the biggest benefactors. Some teams have been using half-ice practices for a few years, but it wasn't mandated across the city until now.
The benefits to half-ice practices are immense.
In confined spaces the kids will be turning more frequently, handling the puck more often and they still have ample room to skate.
I would argue that kids in pre-novice and novice would improve their skills even more if they played games on half ice. Many other sports change the dimensions of their playing fields to accommodate the age of the players. Should six, seven and eight year olds really be using the same size rink as NHL players?
One of the new phrases in hockeyby coaches is they want players who can make plays in confined spaces. If kids are playing games in smaller rinks, they will have more opportunities to enhance those skills. It should make the game more fun, because the kids will become more adept at giving and receiving passes, thus having the puck on their sticks more often. Having the puck is fun. Constantly chasing the puck down the ice after another errant pass isn't as much fun.
Here are a few easy drills coaches can use, up for any age, on half ice.
I did a quick Google search and found these here. There are numerous other drills coaches can use to keep their kids attentive and entertained while still developing their skills.
Over the years I've listened to many parents complain when their kids had to have a half-ice practice. They felt they wouldn't learn the game. I don't agree, but at the Hockey Alberta Summit former Calgary Flame player, Jim Peplinski, shared a story on the topic that summed it up nicely.
Peplinski told me that Bob Johnson used to run half-ice practices for the Flames. "He'd put us through the paces for 45 minutes, and we'd be bagged. Way more stops and starts, turns and battles in small spaces. It was a great change of pace from regular practice, but it allowed guys to keep improving their skills and it also was a great way to maintain cardio," said Peplinski.
I'd suggest if NHL players can benefit from half-ice practices, then minor hockey kids will as well, as long as the coach running the practice knows how to effectively introduce drills.
To me that is the key. I hope EMHL and on a bigger scale Hockey Alberta email every coach some practice plans. I know they are available on websites, but take the initiative and give volunteer coaches even more resources to make their practices enjoyable and beneficial.
The best advice Peplinski said during the Hockey Alberta Summit was, "Don't mix amateur and pro hockey." He gave a pretty interesting example. "You don't need to be at the game 90 minutes early in atom and peewee to prepare. In the NHL we were playing ping pong before the game, we weren't sitting in our stalls for 90 minutes mentally preparing," said Peplinski.
I chuckle when I hear stories of coaches telling parents their kids need to be at the rink an hour or more before a game. Do the coaches give the kids instructions on how to "mentally" prepare?
Some one by the handle sweet69ification is clearly an Omark fan. He made a video showcasing Omark's best goals. There is no debate that Omark has world class puck skills. He also isn't lacking in confidence or creativity.
The Edmonton Oilers have no shortage of offensive skill amongst their young forwards, and added to that today when they re-signed Omark to a two-way contract.
This was a smart decision by Omark. He still needs to prove to the NHL that he can play here, and the best way to do that is by playing in the NHL, even if it is only preseason games.
The issue isn't that Omark has skill; it is whether the Oilers have room for another small, skilled forward. I just don't see this team winning if they dress Omark, Hall, Eberle, Nugent-Hopkins, Perron, Gagner, Hemsky and Yakupov every night. You can't win with all similar players in your top-nine.
I do understand, however, why both parties would sign this contract.
The Oilers might have to move Taylor Hall to centre for a few games until Ryan Nugent-Hopkins returns, and Omark's skills fit those of a top-six forward. He hasn't proven he is a regular top-six NHL forward, but he does possess the high-end offensive abilities necessary to fill that role.
Maybe he slots in on the left side while Hall moves to the middle. If he plays well, other teams might take notice and that could, possibly, enhance his trade value. If he doesn't he likely will be sent to OKC, spend the season there, and then next summer he'll become a UFA.
I'd be very surprised if the Oilers had all eight of the aforementioned forwards, when they are healthy, in Edmonton for an extended period of time this year.
Omark is very creative, but like many young players he still struggles with consistency and if he plans to make an impact on Dallas Eakins' team he'll need to be reliable in both ends of the rink.
The addition of Omark will increase the competition at training camp, so that is a plus for the Oilers. Signing an NHL contract gets Omark much closer to the NHL than playing in the Swiss Elite League, so that is a plus for Omark.
I see this as a "more of the same" addition for the Oilers, and while it is good to have skill, you can't win on skill alone.
For me the best case scenario is that Omark fills a void until RNH is healthy, and in doing so improves his trade value so the Oilers can potentially move him for another asset.
That would be a win-win for both Omark and the Oilers, or it could be just another signing that doesn't impact the organization. Time will tell.
3RD ANNUAL SPEC'S DECK
We are 56% sold out in less than four days. If you are thinking about entering, I'd suggest getting in fast.
Two years ago I came up with an idea to raise money for charity, while including a great night out. We hatched the idea Spec's Deck, where my good buddy from Sportsnet, Mark Spector, would host a party on his deck.
The past two years have been great, so we are doing it again...This year it will be at a secret location, but all the details are the same.
The contest works like this. You donate $100 to help end MS and you get in the draw. We will have FIVE winners and we cap it at 100 entries. You can enter as many times as you wish. $100 gets you one entry; $200 gets you two and so one. Last year we sold out in less than three weeks, so if you want to win, get on it.
The party will be on Friday, September 20th....
Here is what you get:
The winner gets to bring three friends.
Prestige Limos will pick you up, (Each group of four has one pick up spot) and take you to Spec's deck in style.
Vons Steak House and Oyster Bar will be catering the event. BBQ steak, chicken, potatoes, veggies, etc...And Oysters.
Big Rock will supply beer all night long and in the Limo.
Yellow Cab will ensure everyone gets home safe and sound. They, like me, don't want anyone drinking and driving.
The party will start around 6 p.m. and last for as long as we like. Joining Spec and I will be Brownlee, Strudwick, Ryan Rishaug, Meg Storms and maybe even Wanye. I've also secured a few SPECIAL GUESTS. A few current and former pro athletes will take part in the festivities.
The past two years have been very fun. Last year we had Brett Kissel perform live on Spec's Deck, and it launched his career (maybe his singing ability had more to do with it, but we are certain Spec's Deck really gave him the confidence to go to Nashville), and today he has the #1 song in country music in Canada.
We will have some great live entertainment on the 20th as well.
A huge thank you to all the sponsors and to those who enter and support MS. Good luck.
You can enter by going to Gregorridesforms.ca and click pledge me online.