WHAT IS EHC, Anyway?
EHC, European Hockey Connection, in association with IEMS (International Educational Management Systems) and the European Hockey Academy, is an organization that is committed to providing the finest sports education for its participants. We believe that the best players develop when they are simply allowed to play a sport they love. When one reflects upon the success of our nation’s basketball players, one can’t help but understand that these players were developed on the streets of the major cities, playing, playing and playing. Most of these players honed their skills without the help or benefit of coaching. They simply got better by learning to be creative with only the help and advice of their peers. Once the basic skills were learned, professional coaches were able then to develop the talent, derived mostly from hard work and long hours on the courts.
This is where EHC helps. We are, first and foremost, teachers, concerned about the well-being and the best interest of our players. We are most deeply interested in doing what is correct, developmentally and educationally, for our players. We look at the overall picture. Schedules, grades, outside interests, other sports, are all topics of conversation in our locker rooms. We don’t expect anything, except their best effort and, of course, that they have fun – playing a sport. With this in mind, we try to minimize coach-talk on the ice and, as well, try to minimize the time spent by players standing in line. Whenever players must stand in line or listen to a coach speak about the philosophies and the intricacies of hockey, their interest will naturally wane. And, most importantly, they will not get much better. Obviously though, some sort of instruction is necessary. Most of the time, this instruction takes place in our controlled games and scrimmages. In addition to being just ‘flat out’ fun, playing games creates natural situations where players learn their hockey skills under game pressure. Game sense and good playing habits too, are subsequent by-products. Skills then, are taught as part of the game. Creativity, important in any sport, is always encouraged. Players become better by playing with other players, their peers, who can, through their own playing, offer the best form of education. We are, in effect, taking the game back to the pond, where it began. And, it was at the pond, in cold climate areas, where hockey players used to become proficient by practicing by themselves or with their friends, often times before school, most of the time, after school. We do realize too, that not all hockey skills can best be learned in game situations. There are times when skill development requires much repetition. For those skills that require many ‘reps’, drills will be utilized, accompanied, of course, with demonstrations of proper technique and followed by games with modified rules.
What we do –
When you watch our practices, pay close attention to the point(s) of the game(s). Most often, skating skills and stickhandling skills are incorporated in the flow of the game – again, what kids want most. We may ask them to play with only the backhand part of their stick – or their forehand, in effect, separating the upper body from the lower body. We may ask them to play with both of their skates on the ice, in effect working their inside and outside edges. We may ask them to play a game of keep-away, forcing them to use open space behind, the beginning of learning support and regroups. We may play a 2 v 2 or a 3 v 3, working on such things as defensive side positioning and/or transition. We may ask them to play a regular 5 v 5 game without allowing any passes at all, attempting to get everyone to feel comfortable carrying the puck. We may use multiple puck games. Sometimes these may seem, to the casual observer, a bit frenetic. However, they are closely controlled, with the idea of increasing all players handling of the puck. Some may wonder what street hockey balls, tennis balls, small pucks, light pucks, heavy pucks, or even soccer balls are doing on the ice surface. We may be working on footwork, one skate work, edges, or simply, basic hand/eye coordination. Ringettes are often used to teach edge work on skates, and/or to simply give the players confidence in handling game objects with their heads up. Sometimes we keep score, or add a time element, thus increasing the pace or the competition level. We work hard to make sure our activity ratio is 80% movement / 20% rest, as opposed to the more traditional practice activity ratio of 20% movement / 80% rest. At the end of practice, check out the condition of the ice. Usually, one will see the ice surface in bad need of resurfacing, a sure sign of good ice-time management and player movement.
How we feel about hockey –
We, all too often, but sometimes though, with the best of intentions, chase the wrong end of what we call the ‘practice to game’ ratio. We organize and require of our kids, far too many games at the expense of good quality practice. This is done for a couple of reasons. Many times, because we have been misled by ‘knowledgeable’ authorities into believing that playing a 60-80 game schedule is the best instruction a player can get. Other times, it is because it is far easier for coaches to stand behind a bench and change lines, than it is to organize several meaningful practices per week. Sometimes players travel hours to a game venue, play, at most, 15 minutes, touch the puck maybe, at the outside, a couple of minutes, and leave thinking that they are doing what’s best for their hockey development. Can you imagine, in the musical world, playing 60-80 concerts a season, and practicing one hour a week during that season? Is it any wonder then, that the parents of top players elect to have their children attend junior prep schools or to have them continue their education at boarding schools where, seemingly, the only correct ‘practice to game’ ratio exists?
In the age of adult-led sports programs, and our litigious society, sandlot baseball and the like, have become obsolete. Now, adults organize, adults coach, and sometimes adults relive their own athletic fantasies. Kids of sport often become pawns in an adult’s game. They are organized into leagues, selected onto ‘A’, ‘AA’, and ‘AAA’ teams – many ‘chasing the dream’. And, many of these elite or ‘AAA’ teams are elite or ‘AAA’ teams in name only. They do little but further the belief that players of these teams will turn into future Division I, college hockey stars. Many of these teams have been developed because of certain players being denied their “inalienable right” to play at a level, oftentimes past their ability level. These ‘travel’ teams abound. Families are sacrificing huge amounts of money on all sorts of related hockey things – things like travel, hotel, the best equipment, year-round seasons, summer leagues, spring leagues, ice-time, special clinics, memberships in gyms, fees or dues for one, two, or even three teams, all who play in competition with one another, at the same time. This is all done with the hope that players will fulfill their own dream, or the dreams of their parents. And, once they reach their mid-teen years, they are saying often, “We’ve had enough.” Players are leaving organized sports in droves, often around the age of 15. They have simply had it with the organization and the demands of the adults in charge. Somewhere along the line, they have lost their love of the game. In response to these demands and expectations, kids are more likely to spend their free time playing NHL on the screen rather than hockey on the pond.
Is it any wonder our youth are losing their enthusiasm for organized sports? The realization that many players are choosing different sports or, simply to ‘do nothing’ is sometimes hard for coaches and parents to accept. After all, aren’t we the same people who have invested the time, the hours, days, months, years, shuttling our charges off to practice, to camp, to skill sessions, to power skating lessons, and investing countless dollars in the process? When they say they’ve had enough, it is difficult, at best, to accept. Somewhere along the line, we’ve forgotten that hockey is a game, and most importantly, that a game should be fun. Most of the time, players can have the most fun, without the pressures and expectations of the adult world.
EHC brings the game back – where it started. This is what we do.