Something Good Brewin' in Boston

Bruins Host 8th Annual Coaching Symposium

While October brings about the typical excitement associated with a new hockey season of Boston Bruins hockey, there’s another event in Massachusetts that grows in anticipation with each passing year.


The Bruins Academy Coaching Symposium, in partnership with Massachusetts Hockey, held its eighth-annual event on Oct. 13, with more than 400 coaches packing the team’s practice facility at Warrior Ice Arena. 


The clinic provided participating coaches the opportunity to earn their Level 2 or Level 3 coaching certificate from USA Hockey. Over the years the event has gained in popularity as coaches get the opportunity to learn from some of the top names in the game.


“It’s like anything else, it’s grown by word of mouth,” said Mark Tabrum, the director of USA Hockey’s Coaching Education Program. “There’s a lot of coaches who probably go to this event as opposed to one of our other coaching clinics because of the lineup of speakers.”


Leading this year’s list of speakers was Bruins’ General Manager Don Sweeney and the teams skating and skills consultant Kim Brandvold, along with several USA Hockey representatives including Kevin McLaughlin (senior director of hockey development and Roger Grillo (American Development Model regional manager). Also in attendance were former NHL player and television commentator Billy Jaffe and Quinnipiac University goaltending coach Jared Waimon.


Led by the Bruins youth hockey manager Mike Dargin, the event demonstrates the growing cooperation between the NHL club and USA Hockey as they continue to work together to move the game forward.

The clinic featured live on-ice sessions to help coaches grasp some important drills to help develop a fun learning environment.The clinic featured live on-ice sessions to help coaches grasp some important drills to help develop a fun learning environment.

“It speaks volumes of the Bruins’ organization and their commitment to youth hockey and the people who coach youth hockey that they adjusted and the coaches got to watch a couple of players go through a skill session with their skill coach,” Grillo said. “It was fantastic.”


Attendees typically hear from the Bruins’ coaching staff, but when the team’s game against the Detroit Red Wings was pushed up to accommodate for a Red Sox playoff game, Sweeney stepped in to talk about the recent gains made in developing youth hockey players. 


“What USA Hockey has done with their development program, it’s so imperative, first and foremost, for our kids to enjoy the game,” said Sweeney, a local product who played 15 seasons in the NHL. “It’s less about the evaluation of that player and more about the development and how far we can move them along as they get ready for their upcoming season.”


The clinic highlighted many ADM principles, whether through speeches, on-ice demonstrations or breakout sessions that addresses specific elements of the game such as body contact and checking, goaltending, coaching resources and the keys to quality development.


“Playing in small-area games leads to thinking and executing at higher levels of skill,” Sweeney remarked. “A lot like what you’d see at the lower levels with cross-ice games and seeing kids enjoy touching the puck. Reducing the bigger game into a smaller game, where skill has to come out in those small areas.” 


The symposium continues to grow in attendance, as coaches flock to hear from the game’s brightest minds, and learn throughout the event.


“The training has been unbelievable, coaching in other sports you don’t get this type of training,” Jeff Schneller, a youth coach with the Natick Comets said. “It’s pretty good and nice because you get your practice plans and learn what you need to do every day for practice.”


 The symposium also had off-ice breakout sessions, divulging into important topics in connection to the American Development Model.The symposium also had off-ice breakout sessions, divulging into important topics in connection to the American Development Model.

As a free event, there’s no reason for coaches to miss out on absorbing the coaching resources that are there for consumption.


“Sweeney hit the ball out of the park with his comments. They were phenomenal,” Grillo said. “From a USA Hockey standpoint, we couldn’t have asked for a better message or messenger from his position.”


The Bruins, meanwhile, have created a continuous event that would be instrumental in coaching development if adopted in other NHL markets. The truth is, a lot of the best youth hockey players foster inspiration and learn from coaches that truly care about their impact on their players’ development, whether that’s on the ice or off it.


Attending symposiums like the Bruins Academy helps fuel that passion to make an impact. When a bunch of people who are looking to actively improve and expand their connection and love for the game of hockey gather, it leads to a special event.


“On a game day, it speaks volumes,” Grillo said. “That the Bruins would take part in a coaching event and give their expertise in player development and how to coach the game in that environment. It was a fantastic event.”


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