More Than Just X’s And O’s

National Hockey Coaches Symposium Gives Grassroots Coaches A Lot To Think About

LAKE PLACID, N.Y. – For four days more than 450 coaches came together at the 2018 National Hockey Coaches Symposium to listen to some of the best and brightest minds in the game during presentations and breakout sessions on the ice, in the classroom and outside the rink.


From members of the iconic 1980 U.S. Olympic Team to NHL coaches to a legendary college coach, attendees were presented with important concepts and messages that they can take with them back home and incorporate into their own coaching philosophy. 


Here are a few takeaways from a great weekend of talking hockey:


“We can’t properly invest in player development unless we first invest in coaching education.”

Dave Starman, pro scout, long-time coach and television analyst who served as emcee for the event. 


“There are opportunities out there and if you don’t try you’ll never know what can happen.”

Mike Eruzione, captain of the 1980 U.S. Olympic Team


“I had some good coaches who saw something in me. They spent time with me and didn’t tell me what I wanted to hear but what I needed to hear.”

Mark Johnson, 1980 Olympian, 11-year NHL player and head coach of the University of Wisconsin women’s team


“I was lucky to have played for a lot of good coaches and I learned that there are many ways to coach. I was able to take all of their ideas and sliced and diced them and put them all together and put my name on it.”

John Harrington, 1980 Olympian and head coach of Minnesota State Mankato women’s team


“Herb was a great motivator. He knew what buttons to push in all of his players. When you coach kids you have to remember that everyone is different. Get to know your players and know what buttons you need to push in each of them.”

Mike Eruzione


“The fact that we’re still talking about [the “Miracle on Ice”] 40 years later is mindboggling.”

Mark Johnson 


“People ask me what did Herb say after the Russia game and I say ‘nothing.’ And they ask me what did he say after [we won the gold medal] the Finland game and I say ‘nothing.’ He let us enjoy the moment together.”

Mike Eruzione


“When we look at players in today’s game we focus on the deficiencies. Jimmy [Johannson] taught me to look at the positives and their attributes that can help the team win.”

Tony Granato, 13-year NHL player and head coach of the 2018 U.S. Olympic Team


“Be a sponge. I’m sure if I sat down with everyone in this room that I would learn something from each of you. It sure be your mission to learn something new every day.”

Paul Mara, 12-year NHL veteran and assistant coach with 2018 U.S. Women’s Olympic Team


“Developing skill sets is very important but we need to help kids improve their hockey IQ. Kids these days need to watch games on TV and in person and become a student of the game.”

Guy Gosselin, two-time Olympian and head coach of the 2018 U.S. Paralympic Sled Team


“This is a great opportunity for guys like me who coach in the NHL to talk with grassroots coaches. We can’t do what we do without the efforts of guys like you.”

Mike Sullivan, head coach of the two-time Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins


“Great players don’t win championships. Great teams win championships.”

Mike Sullivan, head coach of the two-time Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins


“We encourage our players to just play and control the things they can control and not worry about the things that they can’t.”

Mike Sullivan, head coach of the two-time Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins


“The most important piece of equipment you have is your brain. How you approach the game is what matters most.”

Mike Richter, U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame goaltender


“We have to get rid of the stigma that goalies are weird. We want to get more kids playing the position and that growth starts with how we treat our goalies.”

John Vanbiesbrouck, U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame goaltender


“You’re a coach but you’re also an entertainer. Your practices need to be fun, high energy and entertaining to help your kids love the game.”

Roger Grillo, ADM regional manager


“You are USA Hockey’s player development program. When you see the United States winning medals in international tournaments that’s because of the work that you do.”

Kevin McLaughlin, senior director of player development for USA Hockey


“The great thing about hockey is there’s not a lot to it. Every team plays pretty much the same system, it’s just who plays it better.”

Jon Cooper, head coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning


“As my wife says, you need three things to be a successful hockey coach: an understanding wife, a loyal dog and one hell of a goalie.”

Jon Cooper


“A lot has been said and written about the trend for NHL teams to have taller goalies. Maybe we should measure them by what’s between their ears and the way they approach the position.”

John Vanbiesbrouck


“You had an NHL coach [Jon Cooper] who said he didn’t know what his team’s record was last season. That’s because he wasn’t focused on the results, he was focused on the process.”

John Vanbiesbrouck


“Every single person is a puzzle piece on your team. Every kid matters.”

John Vanbiesbrouck


“Kids learn by doing. My kids watched me drive for 16 years but that didn’t make them good drivers.”

John Kessel, director of sports development for USA Volleyball


“What happens when you have four kids and a puck? They play. What happens when you have four kids, a puck and a coach? They drill. You need to put the puck in play and get out of the way.”
John Kessel, director of sports development for USA Volleyball


“People ask me all the time how you balance winning with player development. That’s crazy because winning and development go hand in hand.”

Jeff Blashill, head coach of the Detroit Red Wings


“Tell players what you want them to do. Don't tell them what NOT to do.”

Dr. Tiffany Jones, owner of X-Factor Performance Consulting


“When you leave here please lead. Don’t sit on what you learn here. It’s about you making the game better and your kids better.”

Dave Starman

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