Coach Nielsen's Ice Hockey Drills

Thanks for stopping by. This site contains information and drills that I have learned over the course of my 28 years on the ice. Everything is FREE, if I have a drill I will post it and you can use it.

If you have a question you can contact me privately Email Coach Nielsen and I will do my best to answer your questions.

Filed under: General

RMU Head Coach @DerekSchooley Shares His Game Day Bench Card

Now that the new season is rapidly approaching, I thought it was a good time to share the game day bench card that Robert Morris head coach Derek Schooley shared with me. Each of us has their own way to track things on the bench during a game. Coach Schooley’s card has a nicely organized way to quickly see who you want to put on the ice in different situations. I would suggest printing this on some type of heavy stock so you can write on it easily. I hope this helps organize your bench experience.

RMU-Game_Card (Word Doc)

RMU-Game_Card (PDF)


Filed under: General

Keys to Dealing with “The End” in Hockey

This is a really well written and thought out article on how to deal with the end of your playing career by Jamie McKinven, from the site

Typically, I like to post information for ice practice, but this is something that we all can help our players deal with each season. I’ve seen it up close myself, and it is sometimes very difficult for young players to deal with moving on from something they have spent years trying to reach their playing goals. Give it a read, and also check out Jamie’s site, it really is packed with great content from a former player.


There is nothing more terrifying than the concept of “The End.”  While the end can mean many things, negative or positive, it is the former that is often first manifested in our minds.  We are conditioned to fear and prepare for the worst.  The end of a path.  The end of a dream.  The end of a life.

In hockey, like in all sports, the end is an inevitable certainty.  There is no way around it.  Whether you finish up in midget, junior, college or pro, your career is going to end and you’re going to have to find a way to pick up the pieces and move on.  The reality is, when that final game comes and goes, most aren’t prepared to say goodbye and take that next step.  Most aren’t able to transition and see the value in what they have accomplished and how the skills they’ve acquired and lessons they have learned can continue to pave the way to future success.

One thing I learned after 25 years in the game of hockey is that the end means something different for everyone, no matter what level you reach or how long you play.  I’ve seen kids with two years of junior experience bawl their eyes out and fall into deep depression when the lights go out on their career.  I’ve also seen 14-year pros, with NHL experience, shrug their shoulders, walk away and never look back.  It’s important to refrain from assumptions.  Just because someone retires with millions in the bank and Stanley Cup rings on their fingers doesn’t mean they will take it any easier than someone who finishes up after 12 junior hockey games, or vice versa.  What I’ve learned is that everyone is different and the end of a dream affects everyone in different ways.

I’ve seen players grind through a career, suffering horrific, life-changing injuries; lose families, fortunes and their sense of self-worth.  With growing awareness of the lingering and debilitating effects of concussions, we’ve seen an uprising of courage from former players to speak about their post-career struggles, tearing down the walls of stigma.  Players like the late Steve Montador, who took up the fight to create awareness for mental health, and his friend Dan Carcillo who dropped the guarded, tough-guy image to open up in an emotional revelation, have shed much needed light on the struggles faced by players when their career ends.  These guys are heroes.  True warriors.

While the weight of the end hits everyone at every level differently, there are common themes and lessons that can help lessen the blow of reality.  Things that benefit everyone while dealing with major change and transition in life.

Here are five important things to remember as you prepare for “The End”:


  1. You’re Not Alone


The most important step to climbing out of a dark place is to reach out for support.  Too often, especially in hockey, a sport governed by an unwritten code and represented by a certain image, players will conceal their wounds, both physically and emotionally, and try to “tough it out.”  You don’t want to show weakness, so it’s better to suffer in silence or use other coping methods.  You don’t want to go down this road.  If you’re suffering, reach out and get the support you need before it snowballs into something you can’t get out of.  Be courageous and drop your guard.  You’re not the first athlete to admit they need help and, hopefully, you will pave the way for others to feel safe to do so.


  1. Recognize the Transferrable Skills


I touched on the value of hockey players and their transferable skills in another article (Hockey to the Workplace:  10 Transferable Competencies).  Whatever level you reach in hockey, you have learned some invaluable life lessons and acquired a transferable skill-set.   From the value of perseverance to proactivity in the workplace, hockey provides a strong base of skills and values to build off of as you transition from one stage in life to the next.


  1. Understand the Value in Your Accomplishments


One of the issues I had during my playing career was that I never recognized the value in what I was doing.  This is mostly because players are coached and bred to never be satisfied and always reach for something more.  It wasn’t until I retired, took a step back and decided to write a book, that I began to see the intrinsic value in everything I had accomplished.  The biggest value I was able to take away from my career was the relationships I built and the experiences I had, both good and bad.  Most of my best friends in life have come from the hockey world.  Hockey paid for my university degree.  Hockey allowed me to travel the world and experience different cultures.  All of these amazing positives dwarfed the fact that I never made it to the NHL and that I was often a healthy scratch in college.  Always look to the positive value in anything you do to help you understand the purpose.


  1. You’re Somebody’s Hero


I recently spoke to a mother of a child with down syndrome who spends her Saturdays during the winter in cold rinks watching single-A bantam hockey games.  They don’t have a relative playing in the game.  One of the players is a classmate of the child with down syndrome; someone with a kind heart and a love for the game of hockey.  For this child this player is a hero.  The player will likely never play beyond the age of 16 or 17, likely never reaching a level higher than rep hockey.  When they do hang up the blades, they will see a smiling face in a small crowd in a cold rink on a Saturday.

After hearing this story, it made me realize that no matter how far you go in hockey or in life, there are always people out there counting on you, rooting for you and caring about you.  You don’t have to play in the NHL to be somebody’s hero and when you stop playing the game, it doesn’t mean you stop being the hero.


  1. Take Your Time


Most players I talk to, and this was always my biggest problem, are always worried about an imaginary clock ticking away on their window of opportunity, their career and their life.  In hockey, there is an obsession with this clock.  People put deadlines on everything.  Parents often say, “If Johnny doesn’t make AAA by minor bantam, he’ll never reach his dreams.”  There is an obsession over the OHL, WHL and QMJHL drafts.  Parents will say, “If Johnny doesn’t get drafted, he’ll never reach his dreams.”  And, when you’re done playing, there is a pressure to hurry up and be instantaneously successful in something else.  For me it was, “OK, you have your degree so go out and get a high-paying job right away.”  When it didn’t happen like that, I was devastated.  I felt like a complete failure all over again.  First, my hockey career failed and now I can’t even get a decent job.  The clock was ticking and I was a slave to it.

The reality is that the clock is a farce.  If you don’t make AAA by minor bantam, you can still reach your dreams.  If you don’t get drafted in the OHL, you can still reach your dreams.  If you don’t get a great job within a year after your playing career ends, you are normal.  Don’t rush.  Most mistakes in life are made in haste.  You probably didn’t decide to make your lifelong dream to be a hockey player in the first moments of your life and you shouldn’t expect your next step to be any different.



Filed under: coaching

What I Now Know For Sure


via What I Now Know For Sure.

Filed under: General

Team Canada 2v0 / 2v1


I really like this drill a lot. It incorporates a number of aspects of play in just one drill. The drill starts with a reverse pass between the D and then a quick outlet pass. That part then moves down the ice, while a 2v1 begins in the opposite direction. The play down the other end has a shot on goal, a quick transition to a low to high pass, with the forward getting into a good screening position, for a point shot.

Be sure everyone is working at a high tempo and that all passes are hard tape-to-tape.


Team Canada 2v0-2v1

Filed under: General

Neutral Zone Continuous Passing/Forechecking


I received this drill from Wally Kozak and thought I would share it with our readers. This is an excellent drill to work with the defensemen to handle the forecheck pressure during a NZ regroup play. It also gives you the opportunity to have your forwards work on the teams NZ forecheck system. The drill is continuous back and forth. After a few rotations you can blow the whistle and have the forwards attack the defensemen 2v2 and then swap in the other defensemen.

NZ Continuous Pass/Forecheck

Click to Download the Drill

Click to Download the Drill

Filed under: coaching, Forecheck, Passing

Wednesday Drill of the Week: 2v1 to 4v2

Originally posted on Coach Chris Hall:

2v1 to 4v2

Another transition drill, this one focuses on the offensive side of the transition game.

The drill starts with X1 and X2 (in black) crossing and attacking one D 2v1. Play out the rush.

On a whistle, X3 takes off with a puck. X1 and X2, as well as the D that played the 2v1 join him to create a 4 man rush. Two new D (in green) gap from the red line and play the rush 4v2. This rush plays out. On the whistle, two new players cross and attack 2v1. X3 provides backpressure on the 2v1 rush. The drill becomes continuous.

Areas of emphasis are quick transition from the 2v1 to 4v2. On the whistle, every player should be looking to quickly jump and attack on the change of direction. The D should activate quickly and look to get up ice to create a four man front.

View original

Filed under: General

Horacek 3 Shot Carousel Drill

Picked this one up watching former NHL player Tony Horacek running practice for our 18U AAA team. Drill runs from both ends at the same time (the video shows only one side to make it easier to see). Watch the timing and skate hard.

3 Shot Carousel



Click to Download the Drill

Click to Download the Drill

Filed under: coaching, Drills, Passing, Shooting

“The Importance Of Practice” (Williston Northampton School Head Coach – Derek Cunha)

“The Importance Of Practice” (Williston Northampton School Head Coach – Derek Cunha).

Filed under: coaching

Canadian 1 on 1 Drills

Here are two drills I received from my Canadian friends to work on 1 on 1 skills. Typically 1 on 1 drills are run with the defensemen defending the rush, but you can also have the forwards defend the rush to work on their defensive skills, because at some point in a game you will need a forward to pick up for a pinching or rushing defenseman and that forward may need to defend the counter attack.

Canadian 1on1 BO-Regroup


Canadian 1on1 Both Ends

Filed under: 1 x 1 - 2 x 1 - 3 x 1, coaching, Defensemen, Drills, Forwards

Drills for Defensemen

While looking at the stats for views on the site, I noticed a lot of action every day in the Defensemen section. To give you more choices, I’ve added 16 new drills, that my defensive coach runs throughout the season when we split up by group. Hopefully you find these useful in building the skills of your defensemen.

Defenseman Shooting Sequence
D Lateral Skate With Shot
D Puck Movement
D Rim Pass Shoot
Full Circle Pivot With Pass
Swedish Shooting
Puck Protection
Off The Wall Dump
Lewis D2D Support
Horseshoe Skating

Breakout Simulation Drills

Right Up
Quick Up Option
D Over
Breakout Simulation



Filed under: Breakout, coaching, Defensemen, Drills, Skating


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