My longtime coach and mentor the late great Dale Turner always told us to watch the game, learn something or look for our opponents tendencies when we were on the bench. He always wanted us to be ready to go and make sure we had tons of jump when we went on the ice and coming off of it.
Back in the day we used to sit up on the back of the bench at the old Dud James and Carrol Arena, studying the game and waiting for our next shift. We weren’t standing very often, we sat on the bench, we could always anticipate when our teammates were coming off the ice, so that’s when we stood up and were ready to go.
“Be ready, jump on that puck, get back, go hard, get out there,” Dale would always tell us.”
When the shift was getting a little long, he would yell, “let’s go, let’s go” and rattle the old handle on door. He would never stand up on the bench he worked the door until Pee Wee AAA and even then he worked the door sometimes.
If anyone were to ignore him or stay out there longer, he would go up like ten octaves and the entire rink could hear him. It became second nature that when we got back to the bench we sat down and took it all in.
Obviously, things have drastically changed since my provincial minor hockey playing days and even my coaching days for that matter.
There has always been different trends in the game, that’s part of the evolution of the sport, but there’s one trend that continues to be short of perplexing.
Clearly every coach has their own unique style, strategies and philosophy, and this isn’t meant to be a critical in any way.
Have you ever noticed why some teams sit on their respective benches why others stand?
Upon some reflection, as a coach I wanted my players to be ready to go and engaged. Ironically that meant they were standing up and ready to go, but in some cases that also meant that they sat down right after their shifts as well. Some players chose to sit while others stood.
At the time I never thought anything of it. Fast forward some ten years later and as a scout I’m watching an U-18 game when I received a text message from hockey lifer, and one of the best hockey minds I know Paul Boutilier.
I had sent Boots a question or comments about player development, and coaches providing in game feedback and he responded with this.
“One theory I have is minor hockey and sometimes major junior the players stand and coaches stand on their benches where they should be sitting. There’s no way to use (coaching) boards has everyone is out of position to learn and listen. If this was an advantage, why don’t NHL teams stand”?
“If I was to offer one change to minor hockey at all levels, it is to sit on the bench and coaches stand where they should be. Then maybe feedback can occur in a way to help their games.”
“Most coaches are worried more about falling off the bench and players don’t rest or can’t be taught. U-15 and U-18 are very high levels of hockey. They are prospering kids to play at NHL levels – this is an easy one to change.”
“Boards are there and the markers and at least 3 coaches, but all are standing on bench, crazy easy to see why they get limited feedback,” Boutilier replied.
“In addition, if you watch games from behind the bench – boards and markers are there, seldomly used,” Boutilier said.
“In game” teaching and feedback is essential at any level, and if you have been around the game lately there’s not a lot of feedback being provided by coaches across the hockey world.
The arms crossed stoic coaching stance is a trend has taken over the game at all levels. Again everyone has their own unique teaching and coaching approach, but there’s no question Boutilier’s observation is incredibly relevant. Boutilier is currently a developmental specialist with clients in the pro ranks in Europe and all across North America.
Every coach would want to see their hockey club be more successful, and it’s clear that every coach would be open to trying anything to accomplish that.
Maybe if more teams and players alike would “take a seat” watch, learn, observe and if more coaches provided in game feedback rather than standing all game they might see some small or perhaps significant gains in performance.
“Little things” in the game matter more now than ever before, it’s one way that every team, player or coach could improve and get better.
You won’t know if you don’t try it!
Take a seat, it doesn’t mean you’re not engaged, it might mean you’re even more engaged, educated, rested and ready to go.
As a player and coach you have the best seat in the house to learn and take it all in. Let’s hope more players use that seat to improve and get better.