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Deflections: The missing link


As I wrote last week, I need to provide ongoing direction and feedback to my boys in our games. The dearth of practice time, packed game schedule, and—heavens!—no time outs, let alone commercial breaks, make it necessary. Even between periods when they gather at the bench, I have, at best, 30 seconds. Think fast; be succinct; make sense.

Here are some examples of my typical bench play-by-play colour commentary:

“Nice back check by Joey on that winger.”

Translation: He did what he’s supposed to do, even if I hadn’t taught it or he was in the wrong position to begin with. In other words, announce to the team on the bench that Joey tried his best to catch someone. His physical and mental effort are worthy of recognition.

“Great positioning on the forecheck, boys!”

Translation: You two other lines need to watch your teammates at how they set themselves up properly. No matter what happened, even if the forecheck was unsuccessful, they were in the right spots to execute properly.

“Who’s got the guy in the slot?”

Translation: It isn’t rhetorical (a word I’ll explain another time!). I really do mean it. Watch our slot. Who’s supposed to be there when we’re battling in the corner? One of the two forwards on two lines on this bench right now ought to be able to answer the question.

“Help him!”

Translation: Our defenceman is battling in the corner. We don’t know if he’ll succeed at getting the puck, but that isn’t the point. We’ve done many a drill on defensive area support—in the corners, at the net, in the slot. So here’s the exact same situation we’ve done in practice, yet the boy who is supposed to be helping, isn’t.


Translation: Defencemen, you’re going to get the puck and you’re not under pressure. Again we’ve done numerous exercises where you’ve had to practice your tight turns near the boards while digging out the puck while turning your heads in search of someone to pass it to. Avoid the panic rim! But if you don’t look first, that’s exactly what you’ll resort to. And by the way, no, your forwards won’t always be in position just because you looked. However, that’s not your fault nor your problem. You take care of your own challenge first. (I know. So much from one little word, but it’s essential)

“Great chip play!”

Translation: Well sure, it didn’t work because the intended receiver had one hand on the stick and wasn’t ready. But Billy did just what we’d practiced and at the right moment. He was looking and reacted the right way. 

“John, smart net coverage!”

Translation: It’s not the same as tough coverage or aggressive coverage. You were netside of your guy with your stick under his stick and looking around. You didn’t try to physically stop someone who didn’t have the puck. You played it right. You dee-men watching?

Is the commentary helping? Indeed. The kids are becoming more game aware now and understanding of the link between what we practice and what needs to be executed in a game. Being Elmer Fudd just would not do the trick at this level.

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