Brent Sutter thinks we need a ‘new normal’ for Canadian kids’ hockey; he’s right

January 8, 2014 10 Comments »
Brent Sutter thinks we need a ‘new normal’ for Canadian kids’ hockey; he’s right

Bravo, Brent Sutter, for having the courage to take the road less travelled.

Sutter coached the Canadian team that took fourth at the World Junior Hockey Championships that finished January 5 in Malmo, Sweden. In an attempt to make sense of Canada’s disappointing performance, Sutter had the courage to take the road less travelled and stayed away from the usual excuses.

Instead, he pointed to a different way to develop hockey players in Canada.

In a Globe & Mail article by Roy MacGregor, Sutter identified Canada’s takeaways from the tournament if we want to develop better youth players and remain a top hockey nation:

  • cut down on games
  • de-emphasize wins and losses
  • get off the tournament carousel
  • make better use of ice space
  • work on skills and speed
  • and make it fun

Sutter’s statements show courage because they are contradictory to what the majority of Canadian grass-root coaches and parents believe.

We have always dominated the world game by pushing kids to learn to compete, to be intense and physical. Nothing wrong with these attributes, but they are not enough anymore. The old norm has become obsolete.

At events like the World Juniors, we are witnessing a new standard in the game. A “new normal” displayed by countries like champions Finland that play a smart physical game with great intensity, but they also play with ample skills.

Hockey Canada is aware and ahead of this “new normal” as demonstrated by its long-term player development approach. The next battle is to convince hockey’s grassroots – parents and coaches at the youth level – that we must change our perspective on the game.

As we celebrate the roster of men and women who will compete for Canada at the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, let’s make sure that our kids develop more skills and, more importantly, that they grow their love of the game and remain “hockey players for life”.

Related Articles

10 Comments

  1. Paul Hughes January 7, 2014 at 4:53 pm - Reply

    In 1997 I implemented a program to advance skill development in Airdrie and maximize ice usage. ICE: Ice Capacity & Efficiency was a hugely successful program that increased an athlete’s access to development ice by 75% with no increase in cost. Airdrie launched the Coach Development Program I designed. We met as coaches monthly and discussed ways to improve practices, tempo and skill development drills. We moved to a focus on skill development, not wins.

  2. Jenn January 9, 2014 at 1:37 pm - Reply

    Yet nothing is ever mentioned about taking fighting out of the game. Seriously, how can you teach good sportmanship when fighting is part of the game? This is only sport that it is allowed, and it’s horrible. Not that I disagree with what was said above, but fighting needs to come out. Why doesn’t anyone talk about that?

    • Blaine Kyllo
      Blaine Kyllo January 10, 2014 at 9:45 am - Reply

      Jenn, fighting is not allowed in any International Ice Hockey Federation event nor is it permitted in Canada’s minor hockey system. Players who fight are penalized and suspended.

      We advocate for young players getting the chance to learn the movement skills that will help them become better players. That means more skills training, fewer games, and more fun.

  3. Jean Brault January 10, 2014 at 4:29 am - Reply

    Mettre en place des bon coach, faire joué tes éléments offensif quand c’est le temps et surtout mettre en place un entraîneur neutre . Mettre en place un camp d’entraînement pour chaque compétition importante. (“Put in good coaches, increase offense and mostly put neutral coach in place. Also put in training camps before major each major event.”)

  4. Nadine January 23, 2014 at 2:50 pm - Reply

    The penalty that kids get for fighting is 2 minutes in the box. It should be banned completely and harsh penalties such as, one punch and your out of the game.

    Hockey should be a game of skill, not killing each other up against the boards and no fighting. Olympic hockey is all about skill and team playing.

    If the rules change, more kids would play.

    Coaches also need training on how to talk positive to the kids without calling them losers. A parent should be present at all times in the change room and bench for fair play and kids safety.

  5. Hockey Mom January 24, 2014 at 7:33 am - Reply

    I’ve only heard encouraging words from coaches for my 6 and 9 year old boys and if they lose it’s not a big deal they work hard and have fun when it’s no longer fun we won’t register for the next season. We also have the good fortune of living out in the country so the kids have lots of ice time for practices and scrims with a game once a week sometimes every two weeks. Kids are allowed to bring mini sticks to play hockey outside during recess at school and have fun. I thought we had a great hockey program out here in rural Manitoba but after reading this article I know we do:)

    • Blaine Kyllo
      Blaine Kyllo January 24, 2014 at 8:16 am - Reply

      Thanks for sharing your experience. Certainly there are great programs and great coaches and great parents – and great kids! – playing hockey. It’s important to recognize when we’re doing it right, and to celebrate that.

    • Richard Monette
      Richard Monette January 25, 2014 at 6:30 am - Reply

      Time for the silent majority to stand up?

      Since my article was published, numerous parents and coaches have brought to our attention the many good things that are happening in minor hockey.

      There are many who believe in the “new normal” and make it a reality everyday on rinks around the country.

      What if the many coaches and parents that believe that the “new normal” is good for minor hockey were to speak up? Become more vocal within their associations, league and provincial chapters?

      Parents volunteer to coaches, to manage teams, and direct league. They are in a position to improve the game from the grass root level up.

      Maybe it’s time for this silent majority to become more vocal and help make the “new normal” a reality?

  6. Drew Berketo May 20, 2014 at 4:30 pm - Reply

    Sutter’s comments are welcome but momentum is in the opposite direction – more games, more tournaments, win, win, win, etc. I think there needs to be a road map and from our hockey leaders to make Sutter’s comments more of a reality.

    • Richard Monette
      Richard Monette June 17, 2014 at 8:28 am - Reply

      Drew, I asked Corey McNabb Sr. Manager, Coach & Player Development @ Hockey Canada and he shared the following comment with AfL:

      Hockey Canada promotes the “new normal” for kid’s hockey – a 12 month road map that insures kids do the right thing at the right time. Not just hockey, but also athleticism, multisport, skill development, competition and proper physical and mental recovery. We are developing the tools that will help hockey leaders and coaches know what to do and when so that hockey is brought to kids in a way that they will grow their skills and their love of the game.

What do you think?