Call it nostalgia that had me post this old and faded photo here, because it sure will be a good reason for me to smile each time I pass through…
The 1977-78 Hobomock Chiefs
If I’m not mistaken, that was taken during the Montreal North Tournament, perhaps one of the nicest and best run tournaments I’ve ever been involved with.
Now, although I can recognize most of the guys (I did do a double-take seeing myself in the back there with the long hair and mustache), I’d love for passersby to help me identify everyone for sure.
As importantly, I’d love to be reminded of the few guys who were with us but didn’t make it into this photo. I know my son, Mike Chighisola, was out with a seriously cut finger, and I notice that a team captain and alternate are missing, as well as our other goaltender.
So, maybe anyone passing by could spread the word on this, and help to bring back a few more good memories.
Especially, I would love it if each of the players (and coaches) would leave a message below and let me know how you’re doing.
Thanks for the memories, guys
– Dennis Chighisola/
PS: I wouldn’t mind at all if other former Chiefs said hello, as well. We’re all family in this wonderful game!
As the old adage goes, “The wheels of progress turn slowly.”
That’s been the case as the new Tropical Elite Hockey League has started to come together, and so has my involvement with the new Florida-based league been sort of a slow transition.
With that, I’d like to update members on what’s been going on for me, and I also want to let all of you know how my move will affect CoachChic.com.
– Dennis Chighisola
Yes, It’s Official!
Let’s cut to the chase, or at least to the recent word out of the TEHL Office down in Kissimmee, Florida:
June 3, 2012
ANNOUNCEMENT: Coach Dennis Chighisola (Coach Chic) is the first coach to be named in the Tropical Elite Hockey League. He will be heading up the St. Cloud Thunder of the TEHL!
Man, what a turn of events for me, both exciting and panic provoking!
Quite obviously, the excitement for me is in getting back to work with high level players again. A part of that is the fact that most of them — the junior players, I mean, by their very nature, will be highly motivated. (Oh, not that my old high school and college guys weren’t into their games. However, many of them knew they were near the ends of their competitive playing careers, and it was understandable that their priorities were really split. Again, though, Junior players have their eyes on a bigger prize — for sure hoping to get to a good college, with some of them hoping to even play pro down the road.)
Ugh… The part that has me kinda in panic mode…
You know my life is going to change drastically. A quick check on Google says that I’ll be relocating some 1,300 miles from my lifetime home, and that the Kissimmee-St Cloud area of Florida is about 23-hours away. Oh, believe me, I relish the opportunity to live and work in a place dubbed The Sunshine State. The scary part is the logistics — or the physical part — of transferring all my personal and work stuff that far away.
I’m also panicking a bit with the drastic change in my responsibilities. I mean, for those of you who don’t know, I’m the type of guy who has to really get his head into something. And, given that chance, I can usually out work most other coaches on the planet. What’s troubled me most over recent weeks is going from an all-in approach to working with younger, developmental level players to a similar approach to elite level athletes, with an unnerving state of flux in between.
Ya, that state of flux… The killer part of the whole thing has been in the not knowing where I’d end-up come this August, or in my not being able to tell local hockey folks where I’d be next season.
The panic doesn’t end with those two things, however… Suddenly, I find myself in a race to get some talented players to play for me. For sure, there are great Junior eligible kids out there. The problem for me is in connecting with them, or in letting the right ones know the great opportunities that await them in the new TEHL.
For those who don’t know, Junior players can range from 15- to 20-years old. In a perfect world, I’d look to some older guys for stability and leadership, the bulk of the roster would be made up of 18- and 19-year olds, with a sprinkling of younger kids in the mix as my future stars.
The beauty of the new TEHL setup is that I can draw from literally the entire hockey world. That’s right… I am currently dealing with kids from the US and Canada, in the UK and across Europe.
Oh, don’t think I don’t respect the local talent, too. I know that the hockey in Florida has come a long, long ways, so I’m really hoping a few homegrown kids will make our roster. In fact, I’ve written a lot over the past year or so about the vast improvements in hockey throughout the south, so I’m also scouring places like Georgia, Texas and even out in California for the best players I can find.
My team isn’t going to be for everyone, however…
How so? Well, not every player (or parent of a player) sees the need to get away from home. From my point of view, however, a lot of the home distractions disappear when a player lives far away. And, for the most part, TEHL players (and especially my guys) are going to have to focus on academics and serious training. Ya, they’re sort of a captive audience under such conditions, thinking mainly school and hockey for at least seven straight months. (Not that there won’t be plenty of rec time, socializing and sending pictures home from poolside in January !)
Something else has also come to mind as I’ve spoken with a couple of potential players lately — especially ones from as far away as Western Canada, Norway and the UK…
For example, I’m think about a really talented forward from Manitoba, and how he can easily stay close to home and play in a very strong Junior program. The first thing that makes me think of is that he will probably continue getting the same kind of training and systems work as all the other local players. In contrast, I think that a move away from home is going to slightly break the mold, and help him add some new dimensions to his game.
At the same time, I’m thinking that his skills and style of play might keep him partially buried among similarly skilled players back home, and among kids who have developed in pretty much the same style of play. This line of thinking originally arose as I thought about the Norwegian boy who has developed in the same program — with mostly the same group of players — for a good 5- or 6-years. What’s the chance of him looking unique and really being appreciated back home? Hmmmmmm… And, what’s his chance of dazzling some college recruiters or pro scouts in a very different setting here in the States? Again, hmmmmmmmm…
In a way, it’s going to be my hope that my players also learn as much from their teammates as they learn from me. Ya, every player is going to arrive with his own unique strengths, and it should be interesting — and beneficial — as they work together over a long hockey season.
Am I dreaming here? Absolutely! I’ve mentioned that often in previous articles, about the way every coach looks forward to their newest coaching assignment. If there’s a difference with this one, well… The talent pool for youth coaches can sometimes be confined to a very small circle around the local rink. So can the same be true for high school coaches. Come to think of it, even non-scholarship college programs are limited by academic requirements, tuition costs and other things. Not so with the higher levels of Junior hockey, though, where the world really is the limit.
Anyway, I know my CoachChic.com members are dying to know how things will change around here. And my first guess is that they’ll be subtle, at the most…
For sure, a lot of my articles will be influenced by what I’m seeing during my Junior team’s practices and games. In a way, however, that doesn’t represent a huge change, because a lot of the advice I’ve provided within these pages has always been based on what I’ve seen in my highest level players. If you’ll recall, I taught a great many who went on to pro and Division I college careers, and I’ve always used the good, bad and ugly from their games to develop new training ideas for the youngest kids.
Then, although there’s nothing in the works right now, you have to know that I’ll ultimately work at least a little with the youth level kids down in Florida. I know they’re crazy about the game there now, so I sense they’re going to appreciate some of the things an old coach from the hockey hotbed of New England might be able to show them.
So, can you understand my current excitement — as well as some of the logistical craziness I’m likely to face over the next few months? Ya, it’s now official, and I’m promising to take you right along for the ride!
The following piece was so moving that I couldn’t go without placing it somewhere within this site. But, where? Well, I suspect “My Hockey Experiences” is a fairly appropriate spot.
Then, before turning things over to the star blogger, Jeff Chick, I thought I’d tell my own quick story…
For, you see, although Jeff currently resides in Texas, he calls Whitman, MA his hometown. Yup, he’s from the same tiny town as I. Jeff and I aren’t related, though. In fact, we didn’t really know each other until a mutual Whitman friend sent me the link to his article (she knew I’d enjoy the hockey connection).
There IS more to this story, however… Jeff’s dad, Dennis Chick (can you believe that?) and I grew-up together, we played against each other in Little League baseball, and then we were teammates through higher levels — into high school and American Legion Baseball. (I can’t recall if we played semi-pro together.)
And, in a town of only about 5,000 people back then, you can just imagine the occasional confusion when folks would mention one or the other — Dennis Chick or Dennis “Chic” Chighisola. In fact, to this day, I’m always teasing “the other Dennis” about getting me in trouble with all the girls in town.
That out of the way, the following is a lot more somber, and something we’ll probably remember for a long, long time, mainly because it has to do with the plane crash that just killed members of the KHL’s Lokomotiv hockey team. Enjoy it — if you can, but have a tissue ready.
– The REAL Chic — Dennis Chighisola
By Jeff Chick
My day was supposed to be over a little after noon today, but as I dropped off my last client, the office asked me if I could do one more run at 2 o’clock. Being the team player that I am, I said I would. I had 90 minutes to drive back to our company lot, switch into a van and then go to the pickup. Plenty of time to stop for some lunch and mess around on my phone. Peace of cake.
After making the vehicle change, sucking down a burger and fries from BK, and washing it down with a Coke Zero, I proceeded to my pickup location, a full 40 minutes ahead of schedule. I am a happy chauffeur……….for the moment.
I locate the residence that I need to be at, but being that the pickup is at 2, and it is only 1:20, I park a couple blocks away, per usual, and pickup my Thunderbolt to check FB and do some surfing.
First check of FB is littered with numerous comments and links about the tragic plane crash in Russia. 40+ people dead. NHL players, past and present, coaches, prospects and flight crew. Very sad news. I had been reading and hearing about it, off and on, all day. The ramifications reaching virtually all parts of the hockey world, and in less than 5 minutes, ME.
After my FB pitstop, I open up the trip ticket info on my phone, to see who I am picking up. Aaaah, another Dallas Stars transfer to the airport. That explains the van. These hockey guys always have big bags because they are usually traveling overseas. The last name, Skrastins. Never heard of him. No first name. I’ll have to google him. Google search: Skrastins Dallas Stars.
The rush that comes over my body is unexplainable. I am just staring at my phone. He was on “that” plane and he is dead. I am sitting 200 yards from his house and I realize what this pickup is all about. I am about to pick up the family of this man. A family that went to bed last night without a care in the world. A family that had no plans to board a Lufthansa flight to Europe when they woke up this morning. This explains why it was added to my schedule at 12:15 today. Is this for real?
It’s finally time to go down the street and pull in the driveway. Within a couple of minutes, a man comes out to let me know that the family will be out in a few moments. He alerts me to the situation, and tells me not to offer condolences because the children don’t know, and then he returns to the house. I can’t even imagine what his widow must be going through. My heart weeps for her. I am so glad this will be a short ride.
Then it happens. 2 girls, about 2 and 5 come running out the door, completely elated about the trip they are about to go on. Long blonde hair, blue eyes and giant smiles. I nearly burst into tears. My body gets tight. Every second feels like an eternity. The pain inside me is almost unbearable. I don’t even know these people and I am on the verge of a breakdown, right in their driveway. Knowing that these girls are utterly oblivious, to the true nature of their trip, is agonizing. I can’t help but think of my own children, and what it would be like if they woke up tomorrow and I was gone forever. Devastating! The wife and mother in law finally come out and we are on our way.
The entire drive the widow is on the phone. She, as well as the rest of the family, are not speaking English. Although, this would seem trivial, it is not. I don’t understand a single word she is saying, but the pure pain in her voice tells the whole story. The mother in law is keeping the kids entertained in the back of the van, while she sits up front and seems to be getting everything in order, over the phone. I sense sorrow, trepidation, confusion, and despair. Just a few of, what I imagine have been, the many emotions that she has experienced since she woke up today. Again, my heart weeps for her.
We finally arrive at DFW airport, and a liaison from Lufthansa is waiting curbside for us, with a security escort. He “quietly” offers his condolences to the widow while the girls are still getting out of the van. Personnel grab all their bags, and they are off. Girls still giddy about the trip. I, however, am a mess.
I barely get 100 feet away from the terminal when I lose it, crying uncontrollably. I feel stupid, but I don’t care. I can’t get the image of those girls out of my head. The idea that they have no clue that they will NEVER see their father again. What’s worse, is that they probably haven’t seen him in a couple of weeks, and expect to see him when they get where they’re going. Utterly heartbreaking. What a way to end the day.
So, as I sit here recapping this gut-wrenching afternoon that I have experienced, I would like to end it with a final thought. It makes no difference to a child what happens to you when you die. They are going to be devastated either way. Just make sure they know what they mean to you. Remind them EVERYDAY. Hug them EVERYDAY. Kiss them EVERYDAY. Most importantly, love them EVERYDAY. Unconditionally. Because, you never know what tomorrow will bring.
Jeff Chick writes a sports related blog called A CHICKS PERSPECTIVE
I think it’s really neat all the wonderful people I’ve met in this game. And I count Cathy Cuff Coffman as one of the nicest of them all.
Actually, we go way back to when her oldest son first attended one of my summer hockey schools in Reading, PA. Back then, I didn’t know the story she is about to tell, but it would have explained why Cathy knew what she was talking about whenever we discussed the game.
Her boy Tim and my grandson attended that first school together, and ultimately became great little friends over several more summers. And, while the boys eventually went their own ways in the game (both now starring in college hockey), Cathy and I have attempted to stay in touch.
As you might gather from her style, Cathy Cuff Coffman is a freelance writer (and a very good one). I know you’re going to enjoy the following, and there’s a pretty good chance that a lot of members will connect with her story.
– Dennis Chighisola
We Are An Ice Hockey Family (Thanks To My Dad)
My Dad did not play hockey. His sport of choice growing up in Brooklyn was baseball. Ice hockey was always around Philadelphia in one form or another—several minor league teams trekked their way through Billy Penn’s town, and my dad would frequent the games. If there was play by play on the radio, you can be sure our transistor was tuned to the game.
But when Ed Snider gambled and brought the Flyers to Philadelphia, my dad was one of the first to sign up for season tickets. The year was 1967. I was five years old. And so began, in earnest, our family’s love affair with ice hockey.
I’m the oldest, and grew up as a rough and tumble tomboy. I was, in essence, my dad’s first born son. Sports brought us together. I played softball at a competitive level, and also played field hockey and lacrosse. A rival school had a girl on the field hockey team that also played ice hockey. I wanted to do that. “Learn to skate backwards,” said my Dad. And so I spent my allowance at the local rink, skating and working on cutting “C’s” in the ice to skate backwards.
I told him I learned—and he still wouldn’t let me sign up for the local team, the Springfield Quakers (named after one of the minor league teams that briefly made Philadelphia their homestead). Later on—as an adult—I realized that ice hockey was just too expensive for a truck driver’s salary.
But I digress.
So after a few years of season tickets my Dad and his friend worked their way into the front office of the Flyers—literally. He became Ed Snider’s bartender. He and his friend shared the job, and the job came with two season tickets in Section X of the famed Philadelphia Spectrum.
So while my Dad tended bar just 10 rows away, I and a sibling got to watch Flyers hockey from atop the opposing players’ blue line. After the games we would go to the Superbox—Snider’s private suite—and clean glasses while my dad entertained the players after the game. We were privy to these young heroes as they drank and regaled in stories of the game. This was before they headed out to their favorite watering hole in South Jersey, where most of them lived. It just didn’t get much better than that.
My Dad’s love for the game was infectious in our family—even my Mom, the most non-sporty person there is, watched with intent and knowledge. One of my favorite pictures of my Dad is one where he’s in his recliner, covered by an afghan, watching the Flyers on TV. His hands are raised above his head, and when I look at that picture I can here him yelling “Score!”
Fast forward to 1991. My four-year old son, Tim, decides to trade in all the birthday presents he received for roller blades and a stick. I obliged. No kiddie rollerblades—inline three-wheelers with no brake pad. The little guy—who had seen enough hockey on TV, transferred what he viewed to his feet. The boy could skate. The next year, he was on the ice, skating as if he had been doing it all his life. He went right to the Mite A team. And my Dad couldn’t be prouder.
My Mom and Dad came to as many of Tim’s games as they could. One particular match was against a team coached by Ed “Boxcar” Hospodar—a former Flyer who my Dad had served in the Superbox. Tim’s team was down by two goals, with a minute left to play. Tim, in quick succession scored three goals to put the game away. Dad didn’t have much to say—he was proud—turned to me and said, “That boy is fast.”
The next year Tim made a Tier I AAA team and the realization of travel set in. We had two other children at home and I was afraid the travel would be too much. Not to worry. Dad went out and bought a conversion van and said he’d take Tim to as many games as he could.
That never happened. That summer Dad passed away suddenly. My Mom sold the van. Our daughter Kelly was bitten by the hockey bug, and she turned into a fine Tier 1 boys’ goaltender. Our youngest, Joe, eventually laced up the skates as a happy recreational player.
But it’s my Dad and his infectious love of the skill and effort put out by hockey players that turned my family into a hockey family. My husband is from West Virginia and knew nothing of the game. When he took a job in Philadelphia, my Dad welcomed him to our town with the season tickets in Section X. Dad was tending bar, and snuck us a bread bag filled with jumbo shrimp. My husband felt the energy in the Spectrum, I don’t remember who the Flyers were playing. But I remember the feeling of passing something along to my husband that colored the fabric of my life for as long as I could remember.
Our involvement in hockey is winding down. Tim is a college player entering his senior year. We make as many of his games as we can. Kelly laces up the skates as a Flyers Skate Girl, working the ice during Flyers’ games. And Joe is a midget defensemen who calls his brother with highlights of his Tier II games. A corner of our basement is filled with used hockey gear. And every once in a while, each of the kids will say, “I wonder what GrandDad would think?”
His hands would be raised above his head, and he’d be shouting “Score!” And then he’d serve up another drink.
As I mentioned earlier, Cathy is a freelance writer located in Elverson, Pennsylvania. So, if you’re interested in asking about her services, just email her.
– Dennis Chighisola
As always, we enjoy your Comments. Also, if you have a story to tell –
about a special hockey memory, this is the place for it!
I’ll begin this by saying that hockey actually began for me when I was about 9- or 10-years old. Up to that point I’d been mostly a baseball and football enthusiast, mainly because those were the sports my dad was most interested in. But then, my mom’s youngest sister married a guy who was all hockey, and he soon got me hooked on that game too.
This entry isn’t about those earliest playing days, though. No, what I’d like to share with members are my earliest days in coaching, when hockey REALLY began for me.
– Dennis Chighisola
How Hockey REALLY Began for Coach Chic
I’m guessing that those currently into hockey will find this kind of interesting, but when I was very young, most of the really good hockey in these parts could only be found in the big city of Boston, Massachusetts. And it trickled only slightly outside the major city to close by smaller burgs like Weymouth, Hingham and Arlington (to only name a few). My point: that there were no indoor rinks where I grew-up, some 30-miles outside Boston. So, any of us who really wanted to play would have to do out best at honing skills on the rural ponds and cranberry bogs the bulk of the time, and then commute closer to the big city to get some formal training and perhaps play a weekly game. A now long-gone rink in Weymouth, MA is where we Whitman boys would go to get the best youth hockey we could. Ya, so current day kids and their parents ought to appreciate the fact that there is now a rink just around the corner for you.
Thank God, that the Viet Nam Conflict affected me far less than it did some of my childhood buddies, and so many guys in my generation. Still, a military commitment did cause me — again, a lot less than many others — to alter my schooling and work, and to give-up some semi-pro level play in baseball, football and hockey.
When the chaos of those times did subside a little, I found myself coaching in all three of those sports, which brings me to something else current day sports enthusiasts might find interesting. For, there weren’t anything like baseball or football camps back in the 1960s, no clinics or AAA-type teams, nor any paid coaching positions outside school or professional programs. Hockey was different back then, though — probably owing to the local rinks’ needs to fill hours with the likes of summer hockey schools or camps and weekly skill-oriented clinics. And, fortunate as I’ve so often been, I found myself being hired by several local arenas to run a lot of those kinds of programs.
Now, did I just insinuate that I’ve frequently been lucky? Ya, and I’m going to suggest that I couldn’t have been more fortunate in my earliest coaching experiences.
You see, I’ve always been inquisitive. I mean, I like to know how things work, how pieces fit together, what makes things tick, and so forth. And, if I’m going to get into something, it almost always has to be all or nothing.
Is that good? Maybe not for my health — , but most surely for my future career in hockey coaching.
I started studying far and wide (and I’ve actually been through the old AHA/USA Hockey coaching certification program three — yes, I said three — times). And I also started collecting and devouring every hockey (and other related) manual I could find.
I also wrote to a few big-time hockey coaches, asking for their help. Ha, talk about future influences… Actually, several pro guys were unbelievably helpful, while a couple of the Division One college guys never even responded (which suggests — at least in my book — who is and isn’t really big-time). So, you might now appreciate why I answer every email and CoachChic.com question that ever comes my way. Yes, partly because of those long ago experiences, but also, I think, because I was brought-up dawgoned right.
Anyway, what this piece is really about is my feeling fortunate to be AN EMPTY sponge as I began my hockey coaching career. I mean, I’d had modest coaching in an equally modest playing career, so my mind was w-i-d-e open to anything and everything I thought could help me, my students and my players.
As an aside here… If there are some guys I feel a little badly for, they’re the ones who can’t get themselves out of the 1970s. In other words, they think that’s the way hockey is still played — ’70s style, and they think the kind of training they received way back then is how it should be done today. Yes, I feel very, very badly for them, and I’m also often frustrated by those types when I try to convince them there are better — more scientific — ways to improve hockey playing qualities nowadays. Ugh.
Oh, as I’ve mentioned in a few other posts here at CoachChic.com, I felt fortunate to have played for two of our area’s most innovative coaches. My dad was a creative genius when it came to devising baseball practice techniques, and so was my high school football coach far, far ahead of his time. In fact, borrowing from what I’d learned from them, I was probably one of the first coaches in our area who thought to use teaching stations within a practice or hockey school atmosphere.
Okay, so I was a sponge… And I also suggested earlier that I traveled far and wide to gain any sort of help. So, Canadian based coaching seminars were often on my summer todo list back in those early years, as were family vacations. In fact, two getaways to the north country helped to forever change my coaching methods…
Ah, I remember it as if it was yesterday, a camping trip we took to Ontario, Canada. After a day or so on our site, my family became good friends with an older couple who camped right beside us. Oh, and it didn’t hurt when we discovered we had a love for hockey in common.
Then, talk about luck… One night our gentleman neighbor announced that he had a TV set with him, and he was planning on hooking it up somewhere in the campgrounds where everyone could watch the start of the big series between a team of NHL all-stars and the Soviet Union’s so-called “Big Red Machine”. Yes, this was the summer of 1972, and that series now sits in hockey history as The Showdown at the Summit.
Don’t forget that we were in Canada. So, there was no shortage of local campers to gather in the campgrounds laundry room for the opening face-off of Game One. Yup, we were crammed-in like sardines, with most folks licking their chops in anticipation of the NHL pros destroying the “amateur” Russians.
Now, the pros didn’t letdown their faithful following, at least at first. For, they pumped-in a couple of goals right at the start, and it surely looked like the rout was on. Ya, it looked like it. However, the Soviets just kept coming — and coming and coming and coming. And, in no time, they had overcome the Canadians’ lead, and headed-off to their own rout.
Did I say that we were crammed into that small concrete structure? Ha… Little by little, the crowd thinned, and only my neighbor and I remained to see the final game action.
As a backdrop to the following video, let me say that the uniqueness of that famed Showdown at the Summit had to do with an anticipated David versus Goliath match-up. I mean, the pros were expected to kill the amateurs, but the games should have still proven interesting due to the drastically different playing styles, and the fact that pros and amateurs hadn’t been allowed to play each other in recent Olympic or World Cup tournaments.
I remember reading that legendary NHL goaler, Jacques Plante, felt badly for the young USSR netminder, Vladimir Trechiak. So he provided him some pre-tournament advice about various NHL snipers.
And there were even some other controversies going on behind the scenes… The great Bobby Hull (among others) was being excluded from the Canadian roster because he’d jumped from the National Hockey League to the new World Hockey Association. There was even a controversy among Canadian fans over the selection of the announcers who would broadcast the games. So, to put it bluntly, this tournament was big, and seemingly everything mattered, at least between the land of the maple leaf and the old Soviet Union.
Oh, one more thing… I grabbed this first video because it tends to depict some of the things I want to talk about here. I AM NOT INTO TAKING SIDES ON THE SERIES OUTCOME. (Actually, this video is obviously slanted with old Soviet bias.) What I was — and still am — very interested in is the impact this series had on hockey training methods. So, that said, take a peek, just to get a “feel” of things as they transpired back in the summer of 1972…
As a quick recap, Paul Henderson emerged as a true star in this series — at least in my book, ultimately helping Team Canada win the final and deciding tournament game.
Among some of the clips you might notice in that video…
For sure, there was a cultural exchange — and a mutual admiration — taking place over the length of this series.
Insiders were heard to say after the early games that the Soviets showed the NHL defensemen some moves they hadn’t ever seen before.
It shouldn’t have been difficult to spot the Canadians’ frustrations throughout that video. Actually, this is important to note, because the Russian players were trained to show no emotions (and this sort of goes along with current day psychological theories — about not getting too high or too low, but just staying on an even keel at all times).
You might also notice the Canadians losing a physical confrontation or two… Well, long ago thinking — for athletes in almost all skill-related sports — was that strength training was taboo. However, those on the Big Red Machine demonstrated great upper body strength.
Perhaps most frustrating to the North American skaters was the offensive patience shown by their Soviet counterparts. I mean, the Russians didn’t hurry plays, and would sometimes even pass on one shot in order to gain an even better scoring opportunity. No dumping and chasing for the Russians, either, but lots of puck control, and even something new in “regrouping” if they couldn’t immediately penetrate the offensive zone.
One thing common to European sport, I think, was the Russians inclination to play the whole game, and to not get too emotionally rapt in the score at any given time. And by this, I mean that the Soviets fell behind early on several occasions, but just kept playing — for the entire 60-minutes, and they won those games in the end. (This might be a hard concept to explain. But, two teams are provided so many minutes to out-score their opponents. It really doesn’t matter when the extra goals come, only that they do ultimately come. Get what I mean?)
One humorous time came during an opening ceremony… Phil Esposito slipped on a rose petal, and he played that to the amusement of the crowd.
Near the end of the video, that’s a young Bobby Orr shaking his head as he watches from the stands. Yes, one sad part of the tournament was that Orr was recovering from a knee injury, and unable to participate.
Finally, did I suggest there was a bias in that video’s production? Of course there was. And I’m sure we could have collected at least as many great plays made by the NHL stars. (So, apologies to all my Canadian friends.) Still, that particular production does provide a feel — or flavor — for the many things I need to point-out here. Then, before continuing, here’s another video that might give you a bit more background info on this series…
Interesting for me were my many trips to Canada over ensuing summers. Actually, I sensed I was frequently one of the few US coaches in the audience. So, I got a true feel for what was going on among those hockey leaders, as they seemed to speak Canadian to Canadian.
In the first few off-seasons I traveled up there, CAHA and Hockey Canada lecturers were almost apologizing for their prior training methods. Reflecting back, this may have been intentional, just to get their audience’s attention (as in shaking the shoulders of the guys and gals who held the future of Canadian hockey in their hands).
Up front, some in Canada knew ahead of time that their pros would be out of shape entering that series in mid-summer. The Soviets put an exclamation point on that one, though, skating as hard in their last shifts as they did in their first ones. (In recent years, I’ve advised my older teams to, “Make them skate with you!” Yes, if I felt we were in better shape than another team — which we almost always have been, I’d want my players to push their opponents to their limit early, and then have some fun after those opponents wilted.)
Of course, thanks in large part to that series, serious hockey players nowadays train nearly year-round, just as the Soviets always have.
Suddenly, the line-up of instructors also changed at most North American hockey symposiums. Sure, there were still plenty of high level coaches and NHL types speaking, but so were there physiologists, psychologists, strength coaches and nutritionists. And so were there as many suggestions for off-ice training as there were on-ice drills and systems advice. Athletic attributes — like speed, agility and the likes — were also mentioned right along with all the traditional hockey skills.
Okay, so I was loading my arsenal of hockey coaching ideas in those first few years after the Showdown at the Summit. However, another vacation to Canada — this time to New Brunswick — had an even greater impact on my future approach to the game…
My Canadian friends might not appreciate the difference between their bookstores and the ones down here in the US. However, every time I ventured up north, I’d load-up on pamphlets and manuals I’d never ever find where I live.
Your newspapers — even during the summer — also carry articles that wouldn’t be found down here in The States. And that brings me to a column I read by the campfire one day, this containing Fred Shero’s impressions after a recent visit to Moscow to study the Soviet’s unique training methods.
What? The Soviets are entertaining coaches from around the world to come study their methods? Where do I sign-up?
Well, it wasn’t until 1979 that I could pull-off that one. But I did. And let me tell you… I landed in Moscow thinking I kinda knew my stuff when it came to teaching our game. By the end of the first day of training, however, I realized I didn’t know a dawgoned thing. I mean that.
Again, we’re talking 1979, and I’m going to suggest that few back home knew anything about plyometrics. Nor did they know anything about over-speed training. (Actually, the Soviets weren’t showing us anything about the latter; I just happened to sneak-off from my study group one day and discover it on my own!)
Okay, so back to my title — “How Hockey REALLY Began for Coach Chic”…
What I am suggesting is that I was lucky to be influenced so much by that NHL versus the Big Red Machine series, and my eventual Soviet studies.
Although I’ve never been one to stay stuck on anything, my head was clear enough (or maybe empty enough — ) to really get into what is now considered the “modern way of doing things”. Yes, I do still have a tiny bit of my earliest hockey experiences to fall back upon, and I’m still influenced quite a bit by the way my dad and my old football coach did things. But, that first day of studies in Moscow really did it for: teaching me to keep my mind wide open for the very latest information.
That open mindedness has further influenced my studies of track athletes, tennis and soccer and rugby players, and I’m willing to look anywhere else if I can steal an advantage. Yes, I consider myself lucky that my attitude hasn’t changed — from my days as a 20-something beginner coach to my white-haired days today.
For your enjoyment, I found this clip over at YouTube that tells a little about the USSR philosophy, it introduces the great Anatoli Tarasov, and it also shows some pretty interesting Soviet training methods. Enjoy (and please leave a Comment below, huh?)…
Folks, our friend, Tim T, left a link in a Comment below for another awesome video. I couldn’t help adding it here, because it shows Tarasov putting his squad through their paces on the ice, and those guys are doing a lot of the things my high school players still do. Oh, by the way… I swear they’re at the Central Red Army rink in Moscow, a place I visited so many years ago. Again, this is awesome, once you get past a short Russian introduction…
First, the following reminds me of a saying made famous by the great UCLA basketball coach, John Wooden. For, having seen many of his former players mature to do great things in later life, one of his greatest pleasures was in saying, “I knew him as a boy.”
Ya, I knew the author of this piece as a boy, and I’m proud to see what he’s done with his life.
Then, let me tell you, that I had some difficulty arriving at a title for Frank Johnson’s article. As you’ll ultimately come to appreciate, though, it does run the gamut in emotions.
Between the lines, there are an awful lot of lessons to be learned from Frank’s long ago experiences, and I’ll suggest that we’ll all want to mimic the good parts and then try our darnedest to avoid repeating some of the not-so-nice ones.
That said, I think anyone who has ever been involved in youth hockey — in any capacity — is going to find the following very, very interesting.
– Dennis Chighisola
After graduating from Whitman-Hanson Regional High School (’87), Frank Johnson entered the health care/emergency services field, serving with fire and EMS departments in Massachusetts, Michigan, California, and Wisconsin. He now serves with the Pittsville, WI Fire Department as a Firefighter/EMT and also functions as a Cadet Leader in an area youth program (assisting in the training and education of young, aspiring firefighters). Frank is divorced and the dad of two.
The Gamut in Youth Hockey Emotions
By Frank Johnson
At the age of 4 my parents both noticed that I seemed to be clumsier than most kids my age, and that my mind and body didn’t seem to be in sync with each other. They got concerned and consulted my primary doctor to look into this affliction. He couldn’t find anything physically wrong, and suggested that they get me involved in some type of game or sport to improve my coordination.
Football was out because I was too young, as was baseball. My dad suggested to my mother that I try hockey. Of course, being a very protective mom, she was at first against it, but my dad had already asked me if I wanted to play so she didn’t have much more to say about it. (Unless you count “If anyone hurts my baby, I’m going to be kicking someone’s a–!”)
So my dad brought me to Hobomock Arenas in Pembroke, MA to get me signed up for the Whitman-Hanson Youth Hockey instructional program along with my friend Kevin. My ankles were bending like hell and I was sore as all get out after my first practice, but I was okay from then on.
Kevin dropped hockey after that season, but I stuck with it and returned for the following year, again in the instructional level. I was mainly a defenseman, but I also had two games in goal, with one win and one tie. But I knew that I didn’t want to be a full time goaltender, so I returned to defense. There were only two instructional teams, the Maple Leafs (my team) and the Canadiens, and so we saw a LOT of each other.
In 1975 I reported for tryouts with the WH Mites, and it was here that I learned one of the harsher realities of sport. Ray Sanchez and the rest of the coaches didn’t see me as fit for any of the teams — either A, B or C, and they cut me after the last day of tryouts. This is in direct contrast to a lot of sports nowadays, hockey and otherwise, where everyone makes the team.
I remember driving home that night as my father ripped me up one side and down the other about my lack of ability and pretty much everything but my shoe size. I didn’t want him any madder at me, and if he saw that I was crying he would have been, so I just sat with my back to him and listened as his words hit me like a sledgehammer. He calmed down somewhat as we pulled into our driveway, and he offered at least a little bit of an apology. I ran inside and went to my room as he repeated everything that had happened to my mother.
I fell asleep shortly afterward, and didn’t hear my father get on the phone. I found out later that he had called my uncle Mike Flaherty (RIP Uncle Mike) and explained what had happened. Uncle Mike was now a coach in the Rockland Youth Hockey Mite program, and he told my dad that he would talk to a few people to see if “something could be worked out”. A day later he called Dad back and told him that I was welcome to try out for the Rockland mites, if I could secure a written release from WH Youth Hockey. “Oh don’t worry, I’ll get it,” Dad said. He then sat me down and apologized profusely for his outburst the night of tryouts. “It’s ok Dad,” I told him. “Do you still wanna play hockey?” he asked. “Yeah,” I said simply. He then explained that once he had gotten the paperwork squared away that I would be trying out with Rockland Youth Hockey (RYH). Well, he didn’t waste any time, and by that night he had the release in his hands, freeing me to make the transfer.
That weekend I found myself at the South Shore Sports Center (or Rockland Rink), along with a lot of other hopefuls who were trying to make the cut. Coach Bob Silvia was running the tryouts. And since I had missed the first day, he asked me who I was. I told him my name and why I was there, and he didn’t say another word about it. Well, I must have done enough things right, because my uncle selected me for the “B” team, and after the euphoria wore off, he sat all of us down, issued jerseys, and informed us that our first game would be the following weekend against the Abington Stingers. He also told me that he was switching me from defense to right wing, effective immediately. My only thought at the time was “it’s better than defense”.
Game time came and I remember being nervous but excited. That’s when I saw who the referee was. It was Coach Silvia, who had told us earlier in the week that he wouldn’t be able to make it to our game, but that he would be rooting for us. I put it out of my mind and concentrated on the game.
About midway through the second period I found myself with the puck on the Abington blue line and no one in front of me except Frank O’Rourke, Abington’s’ goaltender. Frankie and I would see a lot of each other in our youth careers, and we would go on to become friends, and later teammates. Anyway, I had the puck and I was all alone. I skated a few strides and “swept” the puck towards the net. O’ Rourke went down, but just a smidgen too late, and I caught the lower left corner. I was dumbfounded as I realized I had just scored my first goal. My dad said he darn near had a stroke when he saw my stick go up. In a flash, all of the bad memories of cut day were gone and were replaced by complete joy.
When I came out of the locker room after the game, my father grabbed me right there in the aisle and hugged me so hard that I thought he was gonna break a few ribs. After the game, he started telling everybody who would listen about my goal. “He beat him cleanly” and “The goalie never had a chance” were among some of his wording.
The following weekend we found ourselves up against the Stingers again, and I never expected to find myself in the situation I was in during the previous game. Apparently fate has its way. There I was on the blue line again, same goalie, same distance, same result! I can still hear the clang of the back brace where the puck came to rest in the net. Granted, the rest of the games weren’t that easy, and the goals didn’t always come that often, but I managed to put enough points on my record to be awarded the “High Scorer” award that I shared with my friend and teammate Jimmy Ewell.
The bottom line of that season was our loss in the playoffs to Abington’s premiere Mite team, the Hornets. We did NOT like each other, and it escalated to conflict both on and off the ice. The Abington newspaper carried weekly youth hockey results back then, and they took a lot of pleasure in writing about how the Hornets “shellacked” us, or how the Stingers “blanked” us. Both Abington teams had custom signs made to hang behind their benches, with their team name and logo, and that to us was both strange and intimidating. Not to be outdone, our coaches had a Rockland Bulldogs sign made up for our bench, and began submitting weekly scores to the Rockland newspaper.
Midway through the season we had a game against the Hornets. And, not to put too fine a point on it, they handed us our butts by something like 10-3. Ronnie Hedin was the Hornets’ coach, and Paul Mincone handled things behind the bench for the Stingers. (I would come to respect these men a great deal during my youth hockey days, and I also had the pleasure of suiting up for them many times as either a substitute player during summer hockey, or in the case of Mr. Mincone, as one of 6 Rockland players that joined forces with Abington in the Hobomock League during our Bantam year.)
After the beatdown by the Hornets, the Abington paper had a field day at our expense. This is where the “shellacking” comment came into play.
We faced them again 3 weeks later. And although we lost again (3-1), we turned in a much better performance than the previous outing. The paper even grudgingly showed us some respect in that week’s edition, calling us a “strongly improved Rockland club”. We did manage to take them down once that season. And outside of our double overtime win against Sharon in the Snowflake Tournament, that was our high point.
Over the next few years I advanced up through the ranks of youth hockey, playing next at the Squirt level, followed by the PeeWees. Most times I found myself relegated to playing “B” team hockey, although I suited up my fair share of times at the “A” level in place of an absent player or other such contingency.
As anyone who is familiar with the sport knows, there’s a lot more prestige playing at the “A” level, but with it comes a higher level of intensity and competition. I found myself overwhelmed at times, but I didn’t let that unnerve me. In Rockland, we always watched out for each other on the ice. So there were times when my “A” level teammates looked upon me as their “little brother”, and they’d take anybody to task who dared to mess with me. Some of the time, I was grateful for my teammate’s actions, while at other times I thought, “Hey, I can handle myself.” It was only after something like getting my mouth guard knocked out, or my helmet ripped off (more than once), that I realized that having a team full of older “siblings” really wasn’t all that bad. It also served to better prepare me for the somewhat lesser pace in the B program where I was a regular starter. My coaches also were pleased that they had a player who could “float” between the two levels and hold his own.
I had developed a reputation during those days, and it follows me even to this day. I wasn’t the most prolific goal scorer, fastest skater, or hardest checker. But I always gave 150%, every game and every practice.
I also developed a lot of friendships that would endure for many years. A good example of this occurred during the early part of the 1978 season, when I was playing in my second year of Squirts. I was hospitalized for 5 days with a particularly severe form of pneumonia, and I missed two weeks of practices and games. So one morning while I was lying in my hospital bed, my Uncle Mike and my cousin came in to visit with me. I asked how the team was doing, and they told me that they were thinking of me and were anxious for me to come back. It was then that my cousin handed me my stick. I asked what it was all about, and I was told to look at it closely. Upon examination, I found that it had been signed by all of my teammates, coaches and pretty darn near everyone associated with RYH. The inscription really got to me, though, a line written by the captain of the South Shore Braves, a New England Jr. Hockey League team based in Rockland. My teammates and I idolized a lot of the Braves players, and we hardly ever missed a home game. The Braves found out that I was hospitalized, and all of them signed my stick, along with the greeting, “Waiting for you – from the Braves”. It was then that I realized that I had a lot of compassionate and loyal teammates and friends, and that made me all the more determined to get back on the ice as soon as possible.
Three weeks later, with the help of the nursing staff at Brockton Hospital, along with my parents and coaches, I was strong enough to rejoin my teammates for a game against Dorchester Lower Mills. Not only did I get back on the ice at full capacity, but I also scored 2 goals and was voted the game’s #1 star. Hockey can teach you a lot of lessons that will carry over long after you hang up your skates. And this point was brought home with amazing clarity during that season.
Our rivalry with Abington continued during the latter part of my youth career. And if anything, the emotions got ratcheted up a notch during my Peewee and Bantam years. The games were more intense, and the physical aspect of the game itself was at an all time high. Skirmishes and fights, both on and off the ice, were a fairly regular occurrences. And to the casual observer it would appear that we were nothing more than “goons” or “thugs” who were more interested in hurting each other than in playing hockey. Nothing could be further from the truth. We were fighting for not only wins and points, but for, above everything else, respect. In this sport, the want for respect is not to be taken lightly.
We won our share of games and lost a few as well, but Abington realized that we were not the same doormat that we were in our younger days. I suppose it was inevitable, what began to transpire in the latter half of my 1st year in Bantams and into my second. It’s been said that if you combine two rival teams into one working unit, the results can be surprisingly positive. The coaches from both sides saw that: although we were wearing different colors and hailed from different towns, the division between us was really not all that great. None of us would ever think about turning down a chance to play, and thus, if either Abington or Rockland found itself short a player, kids from the other team were more than willing to step in and help. Granted, the first few times this occurred were awkward, to say the least. And under the façade that we would put on was the dominant thought that, “I play for Rockland, not Abington,” and vice versa. But it allowed us to diversify and at the same time to get to know the players behind the rivalry at a personal level. Before long, strangers would become teammates, and teammates would become friends. Of course, when we played each other, all bets were off, and the rivalry was burning as brightly as ever. Until the game was over, that is. The customary muttered profanity and begrudging acknowledgements in the post game handshake line were now replaced by “See you soon,” or “Great effort”, along with a firm hand grasp. We realized that we were growing as both players and young men. We would need that newly found maturity and acceptance midway through that year.
Coach Paul Mincone, the Abington Bantam coach, was planning as he had in years past to field a team for a league at the Hobomock Arena. He didn’t want to deplete either his A or B level teams by utilizing too many players, so he approached the RYH coaches and division director (my own dad) with a proposition. He had seen the way that we had interacted when we had played together, and the newly found respect that we had for each other. So he suggested a merger of sorts between the two towns. He would take 5 of our “A” level players and combine them with 10 of his own athletes to form a team. “It would be great for both sides,” he explained. And as he talked, the idea began to appeal more and more to the parties involved. The clincher was when Coach Mincone informed everyone that the regular team practices from the individual teams would count as one for the newly suggested organization. The response to the proposal was an immediate and enthusiastic “Yes!” When my dad asked about the selection process, Coach Mincone straightforwardly told him that it wouldn’t be necessary, as he already knew who he wanted from the Rockland ranks. Among the 5 selected were myself and my two cousins. I was thrilled when my father told me that I had been chosen, and I realized that we had been given a terrific opportunity.
To commemorate our new status as a team, our name was changed from “Abington” to Abrock”. We convened the following Sunday at Hobomock. Coach told us that he wasn’t expecting us to be immediately cohesive, but at the same time he rightfully asked us to give our best effort. As he gave the line assignments, I looked across the room at our starting goaltender. It was none other than Frank O’ Rourke against whom I had notched my first and second career goals back when we were Mites. We were now teammates, and I marveled at how we all seemed to be coming full circle. Mr. Mincone needn’t have been concerned with how we would play together.
We laid a one sided thrashing on Marshfield, our first opponent. The scoring was well-balanced, with 3 of Rockland’s players notching at least one tally, (including my own unassisted goal), and my cousin turning the hat trick. When it was over and done, we had an 11-1 victory under our belts. In just one game we had meshed into a sharp, aggressive and volatile team.
Afterwards, on the drive home, my dad marveled at how well we had come together, and he asked me how we had done it. I looked over at him and said, very simply, “We know each other, and we know each other well,” He simply nodded understandingly, and let the subject drop.
The following Sunday we came together again for our second game, this one against Kingston. Granted, we didn’t light up the scoreboard as we had the previous week, but we still came away with a thoroughly workmanlike 5-0 shutout. For the first time in a long time, I managed to notch two goals in as many games, putting Abrock’s second goal on the board midway through the second period. After the noise and banter of the post-game locker room celebration died down, Coach Mincone asked for quiet, and within seconds he had the undivided attention of every one in the room. “Okay, fellas, great win today, excellent effort, but I’m about to give you a dose of reality.” He looked up and down the room and told us that the following week’s game was NOT going to be an easy one, and that we would be in for our first real test of the young season. “We’ll be playing the Hobomock Chiefs,” he said in a flat, calm tone. “They’ve won the Hobomock title twice in the last 4 years, and they know all about us now. We won’t get past them as easily as we did Marshfield or Kingston, you can bet on that. Think about it, have a good week and let’s be back here Sunday ready to play the best game we’ve played so far.”
Coach’s words stuck with us throughout the week, and by Sunday we were focused, determined and ready for whatever our opponent could throw at us. This was fortunate, because the Chiefs came out flying from the opening face off. They had obviously done their homework, and they realized that we were primarily a free wheeling, finesse type of team. They forechecked aggressively, they went after loose pucks like men possessed, and in short, did everything to throw us off our game. After the third or fourth bone jarring check laid out on an Abrock player, we realized that our game plan wasn’t working, and we decided to take on a “grind it out, hit everything that moves” mindset. It served us well as we came to the end of the period tied at 1. Periods two and three were repeats of the first, as the action was non-stop and wall to wall. I suppose that a game between the two best teams in the league was almost destined to end in a tie, which it did (final score, 2-2).
To this day, it stands out in my memory as the best game that I was ever a part of. The post game handshakes were those of two quality teams who had given their best and left everything on the ice. I was in the line behind my teammate Rick Clifford. And as he shook the opposing captains’ hand, I heard him say, “We’ll see you again.” His counterpart replied simply, “Looking forward to it.”
Talk about irony. After Coach gave his traditional pre-game analysis, he told us that our following weeks’ opponent was to be determined, but that he would get back to us ASAP with further details. Three days later we got some news that we were never expecting. Evidently several of my teammates’ parents had gone to our coach and complained about the lack of parity in playing time. Coach tried to explain that playing time was “earned”, and not given out freely. But his words fell on deaf ears. The Abington parents said that the Rockland players were receiving more time than the Abington kids, while the Rockland parents felt quite the same. So, to pacify everyone, Coach Mincone reluctantly disbanded the team. To say the least, this did not sit well with anyone on the team, and we all agreed that this was one area where the parents should have minded their own business. However, we had no say in the matter, and with that, the brief but fruitful merger between the two old rivals was over.
We all returned to our normal practice and game routine, but we couldn’t help but feel a genuine sense of loss at what had been taken from us.
In an almost fitting sense of irony, we squared off with Abington in the Bantam “A” finals that year, which would mark the end of our youth hockey careers. And just like in my first playoff finals all those years ago — in the Mite level, Abington swept us 2 games to none. I was saddened that it had to end this way, but all of us were looking ahead to the next phase in our hockey journey, playing for our respective high schools.
I would, of course, be returning to where it all had started for me more than ten years before. I began my tenure in WH hockey with a hard swallow of reality. Not only was this not going to be the safe confines of the youth hockey world, but it would require more self sacrifice than I ever dreamed of.
High school practices were held on Monday mornings at 5am, which is hard enough to begin with, never mind our having to rush home to get ready for seven hours of school.
As a freshman, I realized that I would have little chance of cracking the varsity team at Whitman-Hanson. So I settled for playing junior varsity hockey. My dad told me that it was a stepping stone to bigger and better things, and that I shouldn’t get down on myself. “Hey, a JV letter as a freshman isn’t bad at all, Frankie,” he said. “Next year, I can feel it; you’ll have a varsity letter on your jacket.”
My dad would turn out to be right. I did make the varsity team after investing lots of sweat, blood, battered muscles and sleepless nights.
I’ll never forget the first time I donned the Panthers’ red and black. It was during Rockland’s annual high school Christmas tournament, and our opponent for the day was none other than the Abington Green Wave.
My dad was up in the stands, and he had no idea what my number was, as I had just been named to the team the day before. Unlike youth hockey, numbers are assigned at this level, and you don’t have much of a say in it. I was given #20. And as we took the ice to a nice round of applause from the W-H fans, my dad craned his neck trying to catch a glimpse of me. My brother-in-law John looked as well, and then said to my dad, “That’s him!” Dad asked, “Is that number20?” “Yep!” said John. Dad told me later that he would never in his life forget seeing me in a varsity uniform for the first time.
The game itself was a lopsided affair, as we routed Abington, 7-3. As we passed through the handshake line, I was greeted warmly by nearly all of my old Abrock teammates. Yes, we were opponents again, but we were also friends, fellow competitors, and strongly focused young men.
All of us would have varying degrees of success in hockey during our post-youth careers. But all of us earned the right to wear our school’s colors, and subsequently earn a varsity letter. Several of my former teammates went on to play collegiate hockey, or pursued other avenues such as coaching or sports medicine. But one thing rings true to this day. A lot if not most of our important lessons in life were taught not in a classroom, but in broken down ice rinks, in locker rooms, and on team buses. And to tell the truth, even the bad times — in retrospect — weren’t all that bad. I tried to learn something from everyone I came in contact with, even though I may not have agreed with them or even liked them. Was it all worth it? Yes. And I wouldn’t have traded it for anything.
As a footnote… Frank moved from Massachusetts to Wisconsin some years ago. So, as we talked over recent weeks, I came to realize that he wasn’t privy to what had happened to a number of the characters he’s mentioned here. For sure, a few have passed on, including our mutual friend, Ron Hedin. Ironically, Bob Silvia still coaches a local high school team, and he also runs a summer pro-am team my grandson plays with when he’s home from college.
Mainly, however, I want to point towards the fact that a guy now in his forties still remembers those who touched his life so many years ago. And I guess I also feel the need to suggest that many of us are going to be remembered for years to come — in a very positive light, or maybe not so nicely. That, of course, it seems that’s up to each of us — as a teammate, as an opponent, as a parent, or as a coach.
Like this story? Your Comments are REALLY appreciated!
By Dennis DeFrehn
My story might be a little different than the typical hockey player. Even though I grew up in New England, there were no local leagues around, or at least none I knew of. Hockey for me was NHL 94 on the Sega Genesis, or a Whalers game at the Civic Center, even though the Bruins were always my team.
I ended up going to school in Boston, right on The Commons. When winter descended upon the city the Pond in the Public Gardens froze over, and the Four Seasons would shovel it for their guests’ enjoyment. While that was all good and well, the Park Rangers didn’t take too kindly to college kids showing up with pucks and sticks. But, after dark, well into the night, the ice would be open. And it would be Ours.
We called it the Midnight Hockey League. Pure Pond Hockey, at its roots, in the heart of one of the greatest hockey cities around. We’d usually have about 6 people, all casual players, all fans of the game. Every player knows how it feels to step out on the ice, and have it to yourself, whether it’s a rink at 6 in the morning, or a local pond. There, in The Commons, it was an amazing experience. A mix of the chill of the winter air, paired with the fact that we weren’t supposed to be out there, playing in the shadow of the Prudential Tower in the middle of the night. A bunch of friends together, enjoying the game in it’s purest form. No score. Just the sound of the skates carving the murky ice, the puck coming off a stick, or the laughter that would ensue when somebody took a dive into the snowbank.
Those nights out on the ice are some of my fondest memories from college, and it cemented my love of the game.
Okay, this area of our site is meant to be fun. When I created it, I envisioned members sharing their “experiences” in the game. However, I never did picture an entry quite like the following.
– Dennis Chighisola
Jerry Z versus “The Brute”!
Now, most of you know Jerry as a hard working roller hockey player. However, when I first introduced him — back in July of 2009, I said, “I’ll tell you a lot more about Jerry Z as time goes along. As you’ll soon discover he’s a great personality, and you’re going to be pretty impressed with what he does for work.”
Well, all these months later, I’ll say that Jerry surely is an interesting guy.
He mainly works as a writer/composer for the video/movie industry. What you ought to really get a kick out of are a couple of Jerry’s sideline interests (beyond roller hockey).
Jerry and his brother Orrin, who’s an animator, host a site called “Its JerryTime!” from which the The Brute has been taken. It’s an absolute riot, as are all of his videos, which are about his life. (Actually, I had my own thoughts on how Jerry might deal with the so-called Brute, but…)
Oh, despite the fun he has in this and other videos, he’s no amateur when it comes to producing winners. In fact, once you’ve seen the movie (popcorn not included), you can check out the reviews and awards “Its JerryTime” has garnered, including an Emmy Award! Take a peek there, take a browse at Jerry’s site, and especially enjoy “The Brute!”
Talk about getting goose bumps… That’s exactly what I told my young friend, John Galluzzo, when I read the following article. Never mind that his brief recap of the Miracle at Placid really touched me, but I know (or knew) many of the characters John mentions here. Actually, the author’s late dad worked with me as an assistant high school hockey coach eons ago, and a young John skated in a few of my clinics way back when. Then, I worked with Bobby Sheehan, Ed Taylor and Peter Breen, and I even had the chance to watch a young teen named David Silk in his youth hockey days at the old Cohasset Winter Gardens and Pilgrim Arena (where my NEHI Teams still practice).
No matter how you connect with the following, however, I doubt anyone forgets where he or she was the day Al Michaels spouted those magic words (through a snowy, pre-cable broadcast?).
Many thanks to John for sharing this…
– Dennis Chighisola
As originally published in South Shore Living
By John Galluzzo email@example.com
Broadcaster Al Michaels’ final call of the astonishingly unexpected wrestling of the Olympic Gold Medal for hockey away from the juggernaut Soviet Union team by the United States in Lake Placid, New York, in February 1980 still echoes in the minds of hockey fans across the country. “Do you believe in miracles? YES!”
While the victory itself was one for the United States as a whole, and one which had obvious political overtones during the strenuous days of the Cold War, the story of the accomplishment ultimately grew from early morning skating drills and hockey practices in only four states: Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin and right here in Massachusetts.
We may never fully understand the effect that Boston Bruins defenseman Bobby Orr had on the development of that 1980 team. Much like the Tiger Woods craze of the late 1990s is responsible for the overabundance of golf courses today in the U.S., the urge to be like Bobby drove kids in the Boston area to beg their parents for skates, pucks and sticks in the early 1970s. Their wishes spurred the construction of ice rinks all over the region which were soon filled to their rafters with town teams of “mites, squirts, peewees and bantams,” sometimes two and three levels deep, organized into leagues that kept the lights burning from pre-dawn until post sunset.
The South Shore already had a love of the game, played until the mid-sixties outdoors on frozen ponds, and more formally in places like the Hingham Skating Club, where a small wooden hut with a wood-burning stove gave players a place to lace up before hitting the pond. “There has always been a strong hockey tradition down here,” said Richard Johnson, curator of the Sports Museum at the TD Garden. “In the late 60′s and early 70′s no less a team than the Montreal Canadiens signed both Larry Pleau [of Lynn] and Bobby Sheehan of Weymouth at a time when you could count the number of Americans in the NHL on the fingers of one hand.” In Pembroke, Hingham, Rockland, Cohasset and elsewhere, indoor rinks became the schooling grounds for the boys whom Johnson calls “the sons of Bobby Orr.”
“Dave Silk started skating at the Winter Gardens at a very young age, 7 or 8 years old,” said Peter Breen, former owner of the Cohasset Winter Gardens, which sat on what is now the site of the Cohasset commuter rail stop on Route 3A. “He skated a lot with Ed Taylor, in his hours,” he remembered. Taylor, a champion of South Shore youth hockey, founded the Scituate Braves program in 1968, coaching, managing and even driving his team from home to the rinks and back. Young Silk, who had just lost his father, found “a surrogate father” in Taylor, he told the Boston Globe years later. And so the road to the Olympics began for the Scituate youngster.
Thayer Academy called first, and Silk answered with an astounding 85 points (goals plus assists) in his freshman year. Boston University’s attention was gained. In his first year there, 1976-77, Silk broke freshman records for goals, assists and points, earning New England rookie of the year honors. In 1978, he and his teammates earned a national collegiate championship, and the National Hockey League’s New York Rangers could wait no longer. They drafted him that year.
But Silk had one final item on his hockey agenda before giving up his amateur status, which, in 1980, was still required to participate in Olympic sports. He skated for the national hockey program through 1979 and into 1980, alongside a final squad composed of twelve Minnesotans, two skaters from Wisconsin, one from Michigan, and three of his Boston University teammates: Mike Eruzione of Winthrop, Jack O’Callahan of Charlestown and goalie Jim Craig of North Easton.
Their story has been told repeatedly through nearly thirty years, most recently notably through the Disney movie Miracle. Silk netted 48 points in international competition, climaxing with two assists in the 4-3 victory over the Soviet Union on February 22, 1980, the penultimate game on the road to gold medal, but, to all true fans of the sport, the gold medal game (the United States beat the Fins two days later 4-2 to officially claim the medal).
As the final seconds ticked off, Al Michaels began his call, giving Scituate and the rest of the South Shore youth hockey community – the coaches, the rink owners, the teammates, the Zamboni drivers, the fans, the pro shop skate sharpeners, the moms and dads who sacrificed early morning sleep to help their kids follow their dreams – a moment they would never forget: “Eleven seconds, you’ve got ten seconds, the countdown going on right now! Morrow, up to Silk. Five seconds left in the game. Do you believe in miracles?”
You can put my good friend Michael Mahony near the top of the list of those I’m constantly referring to as the best and brightest on Twitter.
For those who don’t know, Michael posts frequently in “The Muscle Building Fat Burning Video Blog“. It’s an interesting place to visit, in that he’s talking to readers (and video viewers) about his personal fitness quest. (Mike’s videos can also be found on YouTube).
Now, when I saw Mike Mahony’s latest post — concerning pain, I thought to myself that CoachChic.com members just have to consider this stuff. So, have a read, and I’ll add my own comments a little later.
– Dennis Chighisola
What about pain?
By Michael Mahony
What’s on my mind today?
I’ve been doing some thinking lately and have come up with a few interesting conclusions regarding pain. I am not talking about the debilitating, unable to walk type of pain. I am talking about the type of pain you get from an intense workout or how your lungs burn during an extreme cardio workout.
When you walk barefoot in your house and stub your toe, how long does the pain last? Generally it passes rather quickly. You might be left with a bruised toe, but the pain itself subsides as fast as it started. It is the same way with the pain you get during a lift. Yes, it hurts to push yourself past the burn, but that pain subsides. It goes away quickly.
You obviously need to pay attention to the intensity of the pain you are feeling. There is the pain of going past the burn during a lift and there is the pain of an injury. Both are different kinds of pain and they are obvious as to which is which. Pay attention to pain from an injury because it is an indicator that you need to stop what you are doing. However, the pain you get while taking a lift to failure is something you want to go beyond. Push yourself hard and you will see gains.
Each time you do a lift you are going to feel pain if it is done correctly. Your job is to push beyond that pain. Working at this level of intensity is required to get good, consistent gains. Yes, you are going to be sore after pushing your body this hard, but the results should be worth it to you. If they are not, maybe this isn’t the right thing for you to be doing?
What is failure?
Finally, you are trying to take the set to failure. What is failure anyway? I strongly believe the point of failure is completely influenced by your mental attitude. Yes, the muscle has a point where it will be unable to move the weight another repetition, but is that where you quit every time? I am suggesting that most of us quit sooner than we should. We let our brain stop us before our body does. Do me a favor. The next time you are in the gym, do not pick a stopping point (ie. 8 repetitions). Just pick a weight and do the exercise until you can’t move the weight any more. I call this “doing all the repetitions.” That’s right, do them all. Don’t stop until you can’t move the weight another repetition. Don’t let your brain stop you, let your body stop you. You will have to be ready to go beyond the pain that you feel, but it will be worth it. Give me this favor for the entire workout and then let me know what you think.
Mike mentions some VERY interesting things within his piece…
I have a huge sign posted in The MOTION Lab that states, “No pain, no gain!” You might find it interesting, however, that I whisper to parents that it’s only partially so; I mainly put that up for the sake of some teenagers who seem to have a need for such stuff.
As Michael suggests, there’s a good pain and a not-very-good pain, and it’s important for athletes (or those responsible for athletes) to recognize the difference. In fact, if one of my players or students complains that something hurts, I’ll usually question him until I get to understand which sort of pain he might be talking about. Hey, it surely is going to make a difference in how we’ll approach the next drill, the next practice or the next game. And, with a little bit of experience, it might also provide us a pretty good indication about whether the player should seek some medical attention. (Obviously, it’s best to err on the safe side.)
Now, I can’t for the life of me exactly remember the quote, but… In a Jerry Kramer book about Vince Lombardi, the late, great Green Bay Packers coach pushed his players with the belief that, “The lesser conditioned player will always quit first!” (or words to that effect). My interpretation is that Lombardi was really talking about pain — or, a player’s ability to endure it. Just think about that, if you will: Two players do battle, and one just finds it easier to quit. We might also be talking about “mental toughness” here, in that the one able to endure a little (of the right kind of) pain is likely to have more staying power than someone who can’t.
Then, I’ll bet most non-athletes reading all this have still experienced both the good and the bad kinds of pain. As this relates to our (adult kinds of) labor, I’m often heard to say how much I hate the tiredness that comes from something like stressful paperwork, while I really enjoy the tiredness derived from a day of toiling in my yard. (Man, I sleep like a baby after a day of getting the good kind of tired.) Athletes experience something very much akin to this, even very old athletes like yours truly. I mean, it’s definitely no fun dealing with a real injury, but there’s something still kind of nice about that little bit of soreness gained from some hard work.
Finally, thanks, Michael. And I look forward to following your progress over at “The Muscle Building Fat Burning Video Blog“!
– Dennis Chighisola
I’m kinda shaking my head as I ready this post for release… I mean, as much as I’m into improving skating and stickhandling and playing smarts, I’m frequently thinking this website wouldn’t be worth a hoot without the kind of articles that are surfacing in this very special section. Ya, and it’s YOU writing in this area (not us so-called experts), and I’m thinking YOU are saying some things here that just need to be said.
With that, along to my desk comes the following article submitted by the hockey playing daughter of a long-time charter member. And, man, does it hit home with me, as it should with other parents and coaches. So, please pay attention to what young Samantha is saying. For, without heeding her advice, we never get to teach kids the skating, puckhandling and other stuff…
– Dennis Chighisola
Losing Players by the Whistle?
By Sam Hiller
Discipline has always been an important aspect to the game of hockey, but how much is too much? We’ve all seen good coaches, sometimes even great ones, but usually they can only be spotted in the upper levels of age groups and skill level. This is to say that the players these coaches acquire have made it past youth hockey and the issues that many players go through to get to higher levels of the game. Then I ask myself, just how much influence does a coach have on his/her players?
I believe it starts when the player first joins a team at a young age. They have so much to look forward to and every time they lace up their skates (or have someone else lace them) they just want to have a good time. Rarely can they follow positional hockey because they’re just out there to have a good time and put the puck in the net. For a coach, this could be frustrating and sometimes lead to too much screaming and not enough instructing. All parents should be cognizant of the environment their child is playing in regardless of whether or not they’re in competitive or non-competitive hockey. When a player is just learning how to skate or learning the basics of hockey, there’s no need for them to worry about the complex threads of the game because all they want is to have fun. However, fun doesn’t just stop when you have to learn more technical and physical objectives of hockey. My first year of competitive boys hockey as a second-year squirt was probably the biggest jump for me. My coaches were supportive and never yelled at the team or even remotely sucked the fun out of our game, but I learned a lot and carried that with me to peewee hockey. These were the two worst years of my young hockey career where I almost dropped the gloves for good.
My head coach was terrible and even though I was young, I was intelligent, yet he was always condescending towards me. Sometimes the drills weren’t done correctly (frequent in all levels of hockey) and I was usually the example player for what not to do. He pointed out my faults to the team and it was embarrassing to say the least. I was never the star player for those two seasons but I wasn’t the weak link either. Being the only girl on this competitive team, I was often ridiculed by other players and I usually felt uncomfortable in the locker rooms. When I brought this to my coach’s attention he did nothing. He may have said, “treat her like an equal” once, but he looked at me as a woman in a male dominant sport, not a player. It’s almost shocking how our coach’s attitude rubbed off on the team. The players weren’t like that at the beginning of the season, but they soon picked up on the fact that I was not the favorite and got the idea that these actions were okay. Our coach was also rude to referees and occasionally other coaches. With our impressionable minds, we thought this was okay, too, so we joined in. We were no more than 13-years-old and here we were cussing at referees and cheap-shotting players because we hated the other coach. After those seasons I took about four months off. It was just too much to handle. I thought I was going to quit the game that I once loved and couldn’t stop thinking about. While kids my age were crushing on other kids, I was sitting there crushing on hockey and missing every moment of it.
During the summer prior to eighth grade, I went to a hockey school in Breckenridge, Colorado. This camp made me want to wipe the cobwebs off my equipment and get back on the ice because I realized that I wasn’t going to let one coach get in the way of my dreams. Cammi Granato was a guest coach there and I tried to stay beside her for most of the camp and learn as much as I could from her. One day, for lecture, they brought the girls into a meeting room on the second floor of the arena. The fluorescent lighting with the backdrop of a scoreboard and the mountains that lingered outside was the perfect setting for a story. Cammi began to tell us about youth hockey for her and all the issues she faced as a girl on a boys team with a coach that wouldn’t do anything about it. My eyes watered when I thought of my own experiences and now that I reflect on it, I see why many kids drop-out of the sport. Not only women, but boys who think that their coaches don’t care for them or give them a hard time without purpose.
Boys don’t necessarily get to hear these heart-felt stories about how to recover from a terrible season. They can’t complain to another coach and say, “I’m not being treated fairly” because it’s not the ‘masculine’ thing to do. They’re supposed to just suck it up right? So instead of sacrificing dignity, they’d rather quit the game and waste whatever talents they used to have. I have many friends who played AAA hockey or midget major AA and right before junior hockey, they quit. Not because they couldn’t make it, but because they could no longer have fun with the game. The pressure from coaches saying, “you gotta be the best” and skating them until they puke or from parents showing disappointment dwells in a kid’s mind. An 18-year-old is still out there to have a good time, just like a 9-year-old.
Yes, there is a lot to learn and oftentimes a coach needs to be strict with his/her team if they want to get somewhere. From mini mites to midgets is youth hockey and a coach needs to recognize that. What is it that each individual player wants? Some are college-bound and some are not. Some want to play past the age of 40 and some don’t. I believe it’s the job of the coaches to help the players keep open minds about their future with the sport. Something brought them to it, so don’t take that away from them. Coming from the view of a youth player, all I want is for a coach to treat me as an equal to every player on the team. I want a coach who can crack a joke but be honest and serious when it’s necessary. Coming from the view of a young referee, I think the more a coach can respect the rules and how we choose to execute them, the more respect they gain from their players and everyone in the vicinity. We refs make mistakes, too, but I promise you, I don’t hear a coach any better at three times the volume. Finally, coming from a young instructor/coach, I think it’s important to laugh and smile. It’s important to let a kid know that he or she is the future of the game and give them pointers and praise at the same time. It’s our job as instructors and coaches to teach and share our love for hockey with our players.
Perhaps like anywhere else, a lot of rinks in the South Shore area of Massachusetts look for creative ways to use ice-time during the off-season months. Some ideas are probably not all that great, but some surely are.
I think one of those worthwhile undertakings is a weekend long 3 versus 3 tournament held each summer at Pilgrim Arena in Hingham, MA. (I don’t know why they dubbed that place “Arena”, because it actually houses three ice surfaces, two of regulation size and one that’s considerably smaller.)
FYI… The guys who run Pilgrim Arena tend to try some of the most unique stuff, even holding summer and fall 4 versus 4 leagues for local high school players. They seem to have more variety in teaching programs as well (and I sense that small rink gives them the latitude to do a lot more than other local facilities).
The tournament takes place in the middle rink (the smaller one), which sort of forces bigger guys to handle to the puck quickly. And it’s pretty much all action, with no real stoppages… As I understand it, member teams supply one guy to quasi-officiate, his job basically including dropping the puck for the one face-off that starts the game, then ruling on goals and penalties. Oh, ya, there’s a pretty stiff punishment for a penalty, in that the fouled player is awarded a penalty shot. The play keeps going after a goal, with the scored-upon-goalie quickly dishing the puck to a teammate to start a rush back up-ice.
Teams are composed of 9-skaters and one goaltender. And most of the participants in this league are either current or former college players or pros.
Anyway, my grandson has played in this event the past two summers, and that’s why I was at the rink yesterday, and why I happened to grab a little video footage. Hey, besides saving a few clips of Anthony for posterity, I also thought my friends here at CoachChic.com would get a kick out of seeing this kind of format…Loading...
This is exactly the kind of article I’d envisioned when I first created this special area at CoachChic.com. My good friend, Joe Coulter, shares with us some truly awesome past experiences, and he also adds a little bit of advice for fellow goaltenders. So other members get to know him, let me briefly point-out that Joe works with numerous goalers on the South Shore of MA — at clinics and with a local high school girls’ team, he head coaches a local Mite team, and he also acts as an administrator with several youth hockey leagues.) With that, I think everyone should really enjoy this one…
– Dennis Chighisola
GOALTENDING — CANADIAN STYLE
By Joe Coulter
Having grown up playing youth hockey in Toronto in the late 1960’s, and being a goalie, you learned very fast how to stay warm and limber. Most of my games back then were played on outdoor rinks. Great ice, boards, blue lines, center ice and face-off circles, and of course benches.
I remember the chain link fences instead of glass, but what I remember most was the cold and the wind and the snow from a typical “Ontario winter”. I remember pucks that would disappear in the corners due to snow that had piled up. I remember players that would vanish from my sight due to the snow that was falling.
Every time there was a whistle or a line change I would venture out of my crease and go for a skate. I would use both face-off circles in my zone and skate out and around them and back into my net. I would go for a skate around my net and return to my crease. I found that my legs were comfortable and very limber when play would return to my zone. I was better prepared than the lone goalie standing in his net at the other end doing nothing between whistles.
As time moved on and more indoor rinks were being built, I continued this tradition of skating around the face off circles, or skating around my net or moving “post to post” or dropping down on both pads and getting up quickly. I found that in a very slow game or not a lot of action in my zone this practice made my legs and body very limber and when called upon I did my job!
So when you have the opportunity, with face-off in the opposing zone, line change or a whistle, move around, stay limber, stay warm, stay flexible. There is nothing worse for a goaltender, young or old, to see little or no action. What’s worse is a goalie that just stands in his/hers net, doesn’t move and when called upon, is stiff and cold and doesn’t do his/her job!
No, thank you, Joe! I know a lot of folks are going to enjoy that (and probably recall some similar memories of their own)!
– Dennis Chighisola
Michael Mahony once again contributes some great insight, this time for goalers!
– Dennis Chighisola
Strength Training and Your Player
By Michael Mahony
I have been extremely active in bodybuilding and strength training for several years now. At the same time, my son has been climbing the ladder to higher and higher competition as an ice hockey goaltender.
His job on the ice is extremely demanding, both physically and mentally. So last season we asked his goalie coach what would make him an even better goaltender. The answer wasn’t what we expected. “He needs to get a little bit older,” the coach said.
I was not really content with the answer, so I delved deeper with the coach. I was finally able to get him to explain that for most kids, speed and quickness is an issue, but it resolves itself as they hit puberty and gain in strength. Gaining strength — that sounded right up my alley.
I sat my boy down and discussed his goals with him. Upon hearing everything he had to say, I asked him how he intended to get there. He commented that he’d like to join me in the gym. I was excited because a) I love lifting weights, and the thought of sharing that with my oldest son was amazing; and b) he was telling me that he wanted to get better on the ice, and was willing to work hard to do so.
The following morning we headed to the gym together (at 4am!).
I started him out on a basic strength training program popularized by Mark Rippetoe. I had my son doing squats, bench presses and overhead presses one day (workout A), and squats, bent over rows, and deadlifts on another day (workout B). We would work out three days a week, alternating every other day between workout A and workout B.
My son’s capacity for how much he could lift on these exercises progressed quickly. It wasn’t long before that 135 lb. boy was deadlifting 150 lbs with relative ease. However, his success was not only in the gym.
On the ice he became much stronger. The leg strength he developed from squats was translating into faster and stronger butterfly slides. He could push himself from one post to another in far less time while down on the ice. His focus increased tremendously (this being an offshoot of his having to focus intensely while training with weights). He became more disciplined at practice, learning that what you do in practice translates into game situations. And his stamina increased because the pain of pushing harder didn’t bother him any longer.
Weight training really transformed my son as an athlete. And, summarizing the benefits he received:
- Greater strength
- More focus
- Increased discipline
- Increased pain threshold
So, if your child wants to improve at hockey (or any other sport), get him or her into the gym. The lessons learned there will translate into the sport they play. And they will become much better athletes as a result.
Hey, why can’t The Old Coach post an entry in this special section? Actually, because it’s partly personal, and because it doesn’t really fit in any other category, I’ll take the risk…
Okay, you may or may not find this all that interesting. Yet, my last name brings the occasional question, while the spelling of my nickname seems to raise more than a few eyebrows. Monikers aside, there’s a thought (or even two or three) in here for other coaches (and maybe even for some business types).
– Dennis Chighisola
Let’s dispense with the last name first… No, it’s not Native American, nor is it Polish. Despite my studying in the old Soviet Union, I don’t have personal ties there, and I am not Russian. That vowel at the the end gives it away to some. Yes, my dad’s side of the family came here to the US from Italy prior to the turn of the last century.
Next, many of you might be surprised to learn that 1) I never intended to be a coach, and 2) my first coaching stint wasn’t with an ice hockey team.
You see, I was just out of high school when an old chum asked me if I’d help him work with a 13- and 14-year old baseball team. That’s right, baseball. (Some old-timers around my hometown have said I was one of the best in that sport. Of course, I’d have my late dad to thank for that, since he had great success coaching on the diamond.)
That season of chasing my buddy and our team around the local Pony League circuit included a little fun AND some anguish.
The fun part should be obvious — as in my getting to hang with other athletes, and in my getting the chance to stay active with a glove, bat and ball. (At the same time, I was also playing shortstop for the local semi-pro ball club.)
If there were problems — and there surely were, I’d say that the first one had to do with me not liking the assistant’s role. Oh, I loved my buddy, but I didn’t agree with many of his managing decisions, and I’d have preferred to practice a whole lot more than we did. The second difficulty stemmed from us coaches being too close in age to the young guys in our charge. I mean, my friend was 19, I was 18, and our players likely felt they weren’t that much younger. Slightly connected to this was the fact that we coaches made a huge blunder by letting the kids call us by our nicknames. Yes, this made them feel all the more our equals (or nearly so).
Now, if there’s one thing I’ve learned about myself, it’s that I’ve always noticed things like I’ve just mentioned. In other words, I made a mental note, telling myself that I didn’t like being an assistant coach. And, IF I ever planned on coaching again — which I didn’t, I’d surely want to find a way to deal with that respect issue.
Just a few years later, a funny thing happened on my way home from an Army base in Fort Sill, Oklahoma… A younger brother was playing back home in the local Little League, and that’s where an odd chain of events begin… For, one night at the ballpark, the manager of my brother’s team asked my dad if he could replace him as manager. The young guy, also an old high school chum of mine, explained that he’d just been drafted, and he was leaving for his Army training assignment within a few weeks. My dad had to politely refuse the offer due to his work schedule. But, my new wife happened to be standing nearby that night, and she promptly offered, “Dennis will be getting home just about when you’re leaving, and I’m sure he’d love to do the job!” So there I was, something like 2000-miles away, worrying about lots of more important things, and not knowing I was soon going to be a baseball manager.
As fate would also have it, I was handed a team that was loaded. I mean REALLY loaded. So, we trounced most of the league as I got my feet wet.
Now, skipping back a few paragraphs, remember that I suggested how I learned a few lessons from that single Pony League season? Well, I was no longer someone else’s assistant, and that suited me just fine. As for the respect thing, or as a way of slightly distancing myself from the players, I introduced myself to them on the very first day as “Mr Chighisola”. No “Dennis”, no “Chick”, no anything but “Mr Chighisola”.
Just briefly let me say that my teams continued to win, and I found that I actually liked teaching (errrrr… coaching). I liked it so much, in fact, that I remained on the job (if we can call it a job), and my teams won the title almost every year for a decade. Let me also say that I remembered and applied a lot of lessons from my days as a young athlete. I found myself doing things like my dad had, even copying his way of focusing on what mattered most. I frequently used stations, owing to my old high school football coach, one of the state’s very best. And, although the sports differ a lot, I’m sure I slipped-in at least a few things from hockey. Of course, that approach has stayed with me, almost 40-years later, as I continue to borrow from the best coaches in other sports.
Oh, while I was still very young, and shortly after I’d started with that baseball team, I was asked to also help with a local hockey club. But, my climb up that ladder — including my ditching of an engineering career and studies in favor of a Physical Education degree — is fodder for yet another VERY long story.
Getting back to the history of my name… As a few early seasons came and went, I found that new players were struggling with the long version. (How could I blame kids when their parents had difficulty pronouncing “Chighisola”?) So I just shortened it at some point, henceforth introducing myself as “Mr Chick” (or “Mr Chic”). Ya, you want to know about that missing “k”, huh?
Well, somewhere out there in the world is a seamstress (or whatever) who hung that “Chic” tag on me. Oh, my high school football jacket was supposed to arrive with “Chick” on the sleeve. But, it surely didn’t. I sensed my dad was a little steamed at that, and he even suggested sending it back. I, on the other hand, was 17-years old, and I could live with the missing “k” so long as I could continue parading that jacket up and down the school corridors.
Of course you know that all my different team jackets had to ultimately have the same name on the sleeve. So, the next and the next and the next all proudly displayed the new spelling somewhere. And so did my first coaching jackets and warm-up suits as I began working on the ice.
Finally, it seems to be a long standing tradition here in The States (but not so in some other countries), that the guy with the whistle is called “Coach”. (I’ve been to coaching clinics where one call of, “Hey, Coach!” in a hallway is cause for 120 cases of whiplash!) That in mind, when it came time for me to introduce myself to new hockey players, it only made sense that I’d do it as “Coach Chic”.
So, as the late, great Paul Harvey would say, “Now you know the rest of the story.”
Man, talk about hitting all the key points on this extremely important subject! In fact, this article probably ought to be required reading for every parent as he or she enters our sport. Interestingly, each point struck a chord with me — having witnessed some, having (sadly) been involved in some. With that, it gives me great pleasure to introduce our first guest writer, Michael Mahony.
– Dennis Chighisola
Michael Mahony is not only a hockey dad, but he’s also a youth hockey coach. Mike lives in Cypress, California.
The Role of the H ockey Parent
The job of a hockey parent is a big one. If you are a hockey parent you probably think you know exactly what your role is. As someone who has been around the hockey world (and hockey parents) for 10 years now I am quite certain that most of you do not truly know your role.
As a hockey parent we have a very specific role in the entire process. I would break that role into the following 4 parts: (1) Be positive with your hockey player; (2) Be supportive of your hockey player’s coach; (3) Be supportive of your hockey player’s dreams; and (4) Be supportive of the program your hockey player plays for.
1. Be positive with your hockey player
When your child is involved in competitive travel hockey you wind up spending a lot of time with them in the car driving from one rink to another. That time is extremely valuable and should be cherished. Make sure that your player’s memories of that time are positive. Don’t use that time to tell him/her how they could have/should have played the game better or how they could have/should have practiced harder. Take the time to tell them what they are doing right. Tell them that you are there for them no matter what. Your player expects correction from the coaching staff and he or she even expects teammates to give him or her a hard time, so from you he or she expects positive comments. Give your player what he or she wants.
2. Be supportive of your hockey player’s coach
This is one area that really gets abused. Your kids will react the way you do. If you find something the coach is doing objectionable take that up with the coach in private. Don’t talk to other parents about it. Don’t tell your child on the ride home how ridiculous the coach is. As an adult you have a right to your opinion, but that opinion doesn’t need to be imparted on your child. When you talk down the coach to your child respect gets lost. The child begins to think about your comments and pays less attention to the coach. This creates a major problem for the coach and for the team. It also creates a major problem for you. How is your child going to develop if they have no respect for the person trying to develop them?
3. Be supportive of your hockey player’s dreams
When I was young I wanted to be a professional baseball player. My mother would always remind me of what a long shot it would be to make it into Major League Baseball. Listening to that constantly eventually took away all my drive and motivation to become a baseball player. As an adult I would never let someone else steer me away from my dreams. Don’t do that to your child. You will know in your heart if their dream can ever become a reality, but let life handle that for you. Eventually, as the child gets older, they will understand whether or not their dream is realistic. Support them in their dreams. Let them spread their wings and try to achieve the things they want. They will thank you for it later in life.
4. Be supportive of the program your hockey player plays for
This one always bothers me. As parents, we pay a lot of money to the program. The cost of that program is generally directly proportionate to how successful it is. Why bad-mouth the program? Why go around telling everyone how horrible it is? If you don’t like the program, don’t come back next season! Why would you ever want to spend your money someplace you have no respect for? Instead of acting this way, be supportive of the program. Volunteer when asked. Take the time to help them make the program better. Give your suggestions in a positive, low pressure manner. If you do this you will be happy with the progress the program makes and proud that your child plays for that program.
These are just some of the pieces of your role as a hockey parent. You are responsible for guiding a child through the greatest sport on earth. Don’t mess it up!
I know there are lots of ways members can make their voices heard here at CoachChic.com — like in Comments, under Ask the Coach, or in our occasional Polls.
However, have you ever had the urge to contribute something of more substance here? Well, this is going to be the place. What I’m talking about is contributing an article on a particular subject you think might benefit other members. In particular, we’d like to hear about your experiences — as a player, a parent or as a coach. Or, perhaps you have a slightly related area of expertise that would help others see our game in a different light.
If so, here’s what to do… Draft the article and send it to me (CoachChic) within the body of an email (I’ll do all the dirty work after that, and put your experiences out there for the hockey world to see)!