Coach Nielsen's Ice Hockey Drills

Coach Nielsen Interviewed by Copper and Blue Writer Derek Zona (Edmonton Oilers)

Last week Derek contacted me to get my opinion on running the power play from behind the net like Gretzky used to do. If you are interested, here is the link to the article he wrote.

Behind The Net Power Play Tactics With Coach Bob Nielsen




Filed under: coaching, Power Play

Line Changes During a Game

How can you get your team to execute line changes during a game without looking like a Keystone Cops routine? Too many coaches seem to think that players inherently know how and when to make line changes when, in fact, they don’t. During a game there are going to be many times when your team has to execute an On-The-Fly line change and it is very important that they know how to accomplish that task.

At every level the entry to and exit from the bench will tell a lot about your teams cohesiveness and team chemistry. If you can execute timely line changes you can very easily catch your opponent with tired players on the ice. In hockey you want your players skating hard during their entire shift. That expenditure of energy will take a lot out of a player so a shift should be 40 to 60 seconds and no more. Getting your team to understand that concept is one of the hardest jobs any bench coach will face because every player thinks they still have something in the tank at the end of a shift. How often have you seen a player skate slow on the backcheck at the end of a shift only to have him turn on the gas when he picks up a loose puck? Now when he gets into the offensive zone he is completely out of gas and unable to backcheck and causes your team to defend an odd man rush. What about the right wing who doesn’t come to the bench when the center and left wing come? Now your lines are out of whack and the next right wing is on the bench getting angry at the player still on the ice because he is being selfish. Team cohesiveness is an essential part of hockey and the line change is a place where you can make or break that cohesiveness.

As a coach you need to set boundaries of what you feel is the appropriate length of a shift and how to exit the ice without putting your team in jeopardy. A few points to consider

  1. A shift should be 40 to 60 seconds
  2. You should change when entering the offensive zone, NOT when returning to the defensive zone.
  3. On a “Dump and Change” the far side wing and defenseman should hold their ground to make sure the opponent doesn’t have the ability to breakout up the far side. Once they know that the puck is deep and not coming right back out they should finish the change.
  4. Officials will give a team a 10 foot cushion near the bench when changing. Take advantage of that and have the players entering the ice over the boards as the players exiting the ice reach that 10 foot line. Keep in mind that this is best when the puck is deep in the opponents end, not when the puck is in the neutral zone and able to be knocked over toward your bench.
  5. When changing lines with the puck near your bench make sure your entering player waits for the exiting player to get to the boards or you could get a “Too Many Men” penalty.

Logic dictates most line changes. The more dangerous a situation appears to be for the opponent to generate a scoring chance the less likely you will begin a line change. As an example when the puck is in the neutral zone you should only change the players near the bench and the rest of the players stay out to defend against a rush from the neutral zone. If it means players stay on the ice a little longer then you would like, that is better than giving up an easy scoring chance. The best thing is to teach your players to be unselfish and get the puck deep into the opponents end when you are at the end of a shift so the team can get fresh legs on the ice.

Quality line changes can keep your team tempo at a high level and put pressure on your opponent. Don’t forget to include this often overlooked part of every game in your practice plan.

Here is a simple drill you can run at practice to work on the line change.

Change on the Fly Practice Drill

The above drill is a PDF file so it may take a little longer to open.

Filed under: General

5 Star Tips by Roger Neilson

This is Roger’s 5-star plan
for the player who wants to have a
really solid season.

1. Determination

You want to be the best player you
can be. This means being the hardest
working player at practice and in the
games. You should get to the arena
early and be one of the first players
ready to hit the ice. Everyone should
know that you play hard every shift
and never give up no matter what the

2. Leadership

To be a good leader, you must be a
good example both on and off the
ice. This means supporting your
teammates, following the game plan,
giving encouragement when
necessary, communicating to your
line-mates on the ice and respecting
the officials. Good leaders are always
alert to all that happens in a game.

3. Setting Goals

In pre-season tryouts, you should
have a clear plan on what you have to
do to make the team. Play to your
strengths. If you’re a scorer,
concentrate on scoring goals. If
you’re a skater, use your speed by
driving wide or busting hard through
the middle. If you’re a checker, do a
superb job of checking whether it is
an alert stick or a solid body check.
As the season progresses, the time
will come to work on improving your
weaker areas.

4. Team First

Be a good team player. Pass the puck
to the open man. Keep your shifts
the proper length. Listen to your
coaches. Help your teammates in
battles along the boards. Try and
encourage your goaltender. Avoid
selfish penalties. Coaches love a good
team player.

5. Have Fun

Many players who I coached in
minor hockey years later have told
me that those were the happiest years
of their lives. There’s nothing better
than playing on a team where
everyone works hard and has lots of
fun. So have fun this season!

Filed under: coaching

Important Tips for Defensemen

by Ben Levesque

Defensemen don’t have it easy. Many teams that rely on their speed and size focus their game plan on putting the puck deep into their opponent’s zone in order to use their speed to put pressure on defensemen. In other words, if you’re that defenseman that has to go get that loose puck in the corner, you have 1 and sometimes 2 big, strong, and fast forcheckers coming full steam ahead at you.

Not everyone is good under this kind of pressure, and only the best will move on to higher levels of play. Making the right play within the split second that you’re given is an art in itself. Let’s take a look at a few tips that can help you defensemen out there improve your game.

 1.  Get There Quick

We can’t stress this enough. The quicker you get to the loose puck, the more time you have to make a play. This means that the minute the puck leaves your opponent’s stick, you have to pivot quickly, get on your horse and get to that puck as soon as possible. This should give you an extra second on your opponent which is all you need to take the information and make a play. This leads us to our next point.

2. Take The Information

Once you arrive first on the puck (hopefully!), you need to make a play as quickly as possible. This is what separates a good defenseman from a bad one. On your way to the puck, you need to be looking over your shoulder to see who’s open and who’s ready to receive your pass. You need to make a decision before you get there so that when you do, you can get rid of it right away. This gives the opposing team less time to set up their forcheck and makes it easier for your team to get out of your own zone.

In the hockey world, we like to call this “keeping your head on a swivel”. In other words, you have to be actively looking around in order to find the right teammate to pass to. Once you do, get it to him quickly, and then avoid the oncoming pressure by side-stepping the check or using the net as a block.

3. The glass is your friend

You might know this already, but the glass surrounding a rink can be used as a mirror. When you’re being chased back for the puck, take a look at the glass in front of you to see where your forchecker is. Is he on your left? On your right? Is he coming straight at you? This can tell you whether you’ll be turning left or right to avoid him and make a play. During a practice, take a look and see if you can see anything through the glass. If you can, you should definitely be using this trick during a game.

You know when you see a blind pass in the NHL end up right on someone’s stick? Sometimes, more often than not, it’s the result of a player seeing his teammate through the glass. Try it!

4. Talk, Talk, Talk!

Last, but most definitely not least, is communication with your D partner. A season can be long, and knowing how your partner plays can make quite the difference between being a good defensive pairing and an average pairing. This means asking him to call out to you when you’re being pressured. Simple words such as ‘over’ meaning he’s open over on the other side, or ‘man on’ meaning you don’t have much time to make a play can make a significant difference in your success as a defensemen.

Ask your D partner to talk more out on the ice and tell him you’ll do the same. Come up with little keywords that will help you guys through any situation that arises.

With looking over your shoulder, using the glass, and taking the information your D partner is giving you, you should have everything you need to make the right play 90% of the time, given you arrive quick on the puck. These are just a few tips the pros use to become better and more complete defensemen.

Filed under: Defense, Defensemen

Coaches Tri-Fold Scorecard

Our season started this past weekend (with two wins) and after the first game a coach who was watching came over and asked me what I was holding in my hand all game long and looking at. I told him I have a customized scorecard that I keep my lines on along with pre-game notes, plus/minus info and other game day info I may need during a game. He asked if I had an extra one with me so he could copy it and unfortunately I didn’t, but I did direct him to our site and told him I would post a generic version of the document that he could print. So, here is that document. It is designed to be printed on a heavier stock of paper (I use card stock – 110lb – you can get it at Staples), with a page on both sides and then tri-folded so you can fit it in your inside jacket pocket. Maybe it’s something you find useful.

Coaches Tri-Fold Scorecard


Filed under: General

President’s Day Tournament

I really don’t like using this site for personal reasons but I am in a bit of a bind and was hoping readers could help me out. I coach a Midget 16AAA team and we need to find a tournament to play in for president’s day weekend 2012. If anyone has any info on a tournament you are attending or hosting please let me know. Thanks!


Coach Nielsen




Filed under: General



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