If You’re Not Watching You’re Not Learning

Does anyone watch the game anymore? Do young aspiring hockey players even watch NHL games?

Do kids nowadays have the attention span to watch and learn something from the game?

Have highlight shows ruined the game of the hockey?

Why should we sit down or even promote watching hockey, what’s the value in it?

In our era of the game, we all learned something by watching, it’s clear the times have changed and in my opinion the game is suffering because of it.

An AHL Family

We were an American Hockey League family. We loved the AHL.

You see it was almost an unwritten rule in our household, “Hockey Night in Canada,” then off to bed. We always watched the game, we were addicted to it, we loved every aspect of the game.

We always appreciated and downright cherished the time watching the game with our parents. I still have fond memories of watching the New Brunswick Hawks with my father and brother back in the early 80’s. 

That was our NHL, that’s where our hockey dreams started. 

While other kids my age were running around the rink, my dad made us watch the puck constantly and always told us never to take our eyes off of it.   

I’ll never forget all three of us ducking out of the way from a puck that struck and possibly broke a women’s wrist that was sitting behind us during the warm-up. 

Obviously, there was no mesh on the ends of the rink back then, but we learned something new every time we went to the rink to watch an AHL game.

Sure we were fans, but we were hockey sponges. 

Both my brother and I wanted to learn, we wanted to get better, we dreamed of one day playing the game at the highest level. 

Game in game out we would sit contently watching the warm-up and every second of every game. My father never forced us or pressured us in anyway to go to the game it was an honour. 

We never took one of those trips to the beloved Coliseum for granted, it was our hockey Mecca, it was where we watched dreams come true, it was where we learned more about the game.

Some of the best coaching memories that I have are sitting with players during tournament games waiting to for a dressing room to free up and dissecting the game no matter what level.  

Those discussions rivalled that of my father’s and brother’s of the past. 

You see when you have young people discussing hockey it’s a wonderful thing. 

That’s how you learn the game, that’s the best teacher of the game. 

I always told my players to think the game, I wanted them to think two plays ahead. Everyone player possesses different learning styles and multiple intelligences, but at the end of the day most kids are visual.  

What’s the best way to learn the game? 

By watching the game and watching better players play the game. 

It’s unfortunate that in this day and age of social media and highlight reels players don’t necessarily have a chance to or probably don’t even care about watching a game in it’s entirety. 

It’s sad really if you think about it, but let me tell you something, it shows in their play. 

My dad and brother would always say ‘watch number so and so, watch what he does with the puck in his own zone.’ 

‘Watch how they pass the puck, did you see that Craig.’ 

I learned so much about the game just by watching it either live or on television. 

I’ll never forget watching the NB Hawks win the Calder Cup in 1982 or seeing “The Great One” at the Moncton Coliseum. 

That’s right I saw Gretzky play when I was six years old. 

I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to watch the game if it wasn’t for my Dad, who really took the time to explain, teach and made me appreciate the game of hockey on so many levels.  

The sad thing now is that my father is turned off by the thought of hockey these days, he can’t stand players rapping the boards and not making direct passes, he constantly says “they just keep turning the puck over time after time”.  My father remembers a different brand of hockey, but if we don’t take the time to educate our children about our great game we might be holding them back from fully appreciating what the game has to offer. 

You see my long-time coach and mentor Dale Turner God rest his soul, taught us from Novice Selects to always watch the play, watch for player tendencies, watch for weaknesses. You watch everything while you’re on the bench so you could apply it the next time you went out.

That’s development, that’s forward thinking and that’s how you teach hockey IQ. 

The New Era 

I really don’t think this era of players watch anything except for an odd viral video on Instagram. 

They sure as hell don’t watch the game. 

I see young kids at the rink all the time, they are constantly running around, yelling and screaming instead of watching the game and learning something. 

Yes you can learn a lot by being observant and you might just become a very smart hockey player. 

Pee Wee and Bantam aged kids are on their phones more than half the time and always miss the key plays, sure they pay attention after the team scores because the goal music snaps them out of the social media zombie like trance. 

Wake the hell up and watch the game.

You might learn something that might help you get to that level, if you would just put your phone in your pocket and watch the damn game.  

Is anybody watching the game these days? The answer to that question is NO!

Players today aren’t watching the game and you can see it the way they play the game. They are selfish. They don’t move the puck, they don’t play a full team game, it’s all about individual skill.

In my opinion they don’t understand the little subtle nuances of the game, like defensive side and proper checking technique, because all they see are goal highlights or silly eye catching crap like “new celly’s.” 

That’s the shit the new era of player is seeing from highlights. 

You see players these days don’t appreciate the benefit of playing the game the right way, playing as a team, taking short shifts, moving the puck, and doing all the little things to take to win.

That’s what we learned from watching the game back in the day. 

The new era of player continually see the flashy side of the game, that as we know doesn’t always translate into the all the hard work and dedication that it really takes to improve and climb the ranks within the game. 

Don’t get me wrong it’s great that they are seeing players within the game having fun and showing some personality, but are they learning anything other than bad habits from watching highlights. 

I don’t think so. 

Every young player should put their phone down, sit down and really watch a game. 

Every young coach should put their phone down, sit down and really watch a game. 

Hell, everyone should put their phone down, sit down and really watch a game. We all might learn something.

One comment

  1. Agree Craig is about having the right mindset as Burkie says” Hard on pucks aggressive fore checking playing with fire.

    I don’t about you but I rather be a team with right mindset that plays hard comes up short then be a team team that wins from piss poor effort mentality any day.

    Look at it like this sports is 90 % cerebral mindset you can have all the talent in place but your state of mind is weak you have no fire ” You’ve already loss before you started

    The All Blacks in 120 yrs have loss 12 times but did they really or as the Maori say Rugby pitch is like chess match sometimes you just run out of time

    Mindset is what makes you dangerous like I said I rather have blue collar team that has fire with conviction, than a team full of allstar talent players possess all the skill but have no heart any day

    Yes, you need mix of youth and vets to create structure but it is vital to your success having foundation



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