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”.