There was no Yk Minor Hockey Association action at the Multiplex this weekend for good reason.
The days were set aside for the association to host Hockey North’s second annual Coaches Forum, which wrapped up on Sunday. It was a weekend full of instruction both on and off the ice with the special guest being Corey McNabb, Hockey Canada’s manager of player development.
McNabb said the forum was a chance for the coaches to see what the best practices are when it comes to delivering instruction and advice.
“We put all the coaches through the drills so they can feel what it’s like at each station, going from one to the other,” he said. “It was all about giving them the chance to feel what it’s like and I feel like it was good to get them to buy into it and teach it to their kids.”
The forum kicked off Friday evening with discussion on age-appropriate skill development from initiation to midget level. The next day saw coaches join in with their peers from other sports as part of a coach-development conference at the Chateau Nova Hotel organized by Movement, a Yellowknife-based sports consultancy firm.
Sunday was a mixture of on-ice and off-ice instruction with a focus on small-area games and skills, and drills instruction.
Small-area games have picked up in popularity around the country, especially in the North. McNabb said Canada is behind other countries in developing them but the gap is closing.
“We have a mentality about being passionate about hockey in Canada and we’ve always thought that the little guys need to be playing on a large ice surface, just like the NHL players,” he said. “Several studies across many sports have shown that if you reduce the space, they get more involved and that’s true in hockey.
“They’re touching the puck more, they’re stopping and starting more, all of the benefits are there — some people may look at it and say it isn’t real hockey but to a five-year-old kid, it’s as real as it can be.”
McNabb said he believes small-area games are a much greater experience for the kids too, from a development standpoint.
A majority of the 50-plus coaches who came out for the forum hailed from Yellowknife but there was also representation from Hay River, Fort Smith and even Gjoa Haven in Nunavut.
Stu Impett, the director of skills and training for Yk Minor Hockey, said things couldn’t have gone better.
“It was great to have a weekend to focus on just the coaches,” he said. “It’s a volunteer-driven league, no-one is paid to to this, so to give coaches more tools to help them develop – especially given where Hockey Canada is going – it was a success.”
“In a perfect world, every coach would have been here because every opportunity is a learning opportunity.”
Al Bowerman, the association’s director of league programs, said the forum provided a good opportunity for coaches to see what’s happening in the coaching world.
“One thing that was really well done was they tied in what the drills would do in a game situation,” he said. “I hope the coaches that were here had a real positive experience so they can go out and have fun coaching. Without the coaches, we don’t exist.”