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Richard Bercuson: Deflections


Richard is an award-winning writer and hockey coach/mentor. The former Director of Coaching for Hockey Eastern Ontario, he's a Hockey Canada Master Facilitator/Mentor and coaching evaluator. He's worked with teams from minor to junior to university to Europe and also Canada's Program of Excellence. He's been a newspaper and magazine columnist and has authored two books, one of which is the recently released coaching manual Inside Coaching Hockey. It's available from his web site He spends inordinate amounts of time running to and from rinks and to finish lines as a runner of various ridiculous distances. He likes cheesecake, dry red wine, and long walks on a hot beach. One of those is not readily available where he lives.


Deflections - Demo – Yes; Play – NO

Should coaches participate in drills with kids? No. Once upon a time, in my early days as a house league coach, I used to practice my formidable stickhandling skills by keeping the puck away from my players.

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Deflections - The Cold-up

Everyone knows what a warm-up is. It’s that wee time frame before engaging in an athletic endeavour when the body and the mind need to be tuned up for action. Read More

Deflections - Tough’s Good; Fair’s Better

The time-worn rule for new classroom teachers, one never really expressed in training programs, is that you’re better off having a firm hand at the beginning than trying to tighten up later. It’s a similar approach for coaches, new or otherwise. Read More

Deflections - The importance of the NHL influence

A former NHL player, a team captain no less, once coached his son in competitive hockey. It wasn’t unusual for the coach to berate officials or stand in the bench doorway and wave them over.  Read More

Deflections - Every cut is the deepest

If anyone thinks releasing young players during a tryout is tough, they ought to spend a bit of time in junior. There, we coaches dash their hopes upon the rocks of the future, or so they would have us believe.

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Deflections - About Those Skills Instructors

Are we going about skill development the right way by hiring specialists to teach skills to our kids? As I wrote last week, associations are hiring groups to run extra skills instructions sessions. It ain’t cheap! When people complain about the high cost of the game, this has to be a factor. 

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Deflections - The Value of Skills Sessions

Here’s the newest rage among hockey associations: skill development people. Do you coach in an area where the organization has hired someone or a group to conduct additional skills sessions for players? If so, this could be a great addition to your season curriculum. It could also be a bit prickly.

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Deflections - Importance of a Good Demo

Good demonstrations are one of the key things I watch for in practice assessments. They’re one of those line items which illustrate if a coach truly understands the importance of good teaching, not just good drill diagramming. Read More

Deflections - Difficult Then Easy

Everything is difficult before it is easy. Nothing like a pithy aphorism to make you lean back and take note. Or yawn. The statement, like so many such proverbs, is attributed to more than one person: A 17th century clergyman, Thomas Fuller, and the 18th century German writer Von Goethe. 

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Deflections - Repeat Until Learned

What’s in a rep? The summer hockey school had 22 kids on the ice with seven instructors, one of whom was the head fellow. That’s an unusually good player:teacher ratio. Of course, parents pay for it, in this case $600 for 15 hours of instruction over the week.

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Deflections - Thinking About the Start

Dear Coach-to-be, I understand you’re taking on a team of your own next year. Congratulations on a terrific decision. Now they become a lot more complicated – the decisions, I mean. The kids are another story altogether.

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Deflections - The early mentoring days

Long before the 1999 Molson Open Ice Summit, mentoring coaches existed. That ’99 event, coincidentally the year Wayne Gretzky retired (99, get it?), produced 11 recommendations to improve minor hockey.  Read More

Deflection - Not just an ordinary coach

The standard retort from those who run half marathons is, “Remove the ‘just’.” As in, “it’s just a half marathon.” Running 21.1 km ain’t a walk in the park, folks, and until you’ve done one, it’s best to say nothing and just imagine. Read More

Deflections - One size fits all?

I went to a coaches conference and one of the bits of swag they gave everyone was a ball cap. I have lots of caps and there was nothing particularly unique about this one. Except there was a sticker on the brim which read “One size fits all.”  Read More

Deflections - Are there identical plays?

Are any two hockey plays identical? Don’t use the pros as your guide. Their skill level, experience, knowledge and ability to assimilate information dwarfs those of mortal beings who tinker at the game.

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