Coach Nielsen's Ice Hockey Drills

America’s Showcase Day #2

Played the team from New England and lost 5-1. Score was 2-1 until middle of the third and then two goals in the last minute when we were jumping every play to try and get a goal. The NE team was strong and fast and our boys just didn’t have the same drive and intensity that NE had. A number of very talented players on NE, but that is expected with players from that area of the country.

The scouts are all over some of our players and that’s nice to see. Tomorrow we play Pittsburgh and not sure what to think. Watched them play yesterday and  beat NE 2-1 and then today they lost to the Mid-West team we beat yesterday 7-1. I guess that’s why you play the games. Game will determine our place in the playoffs on Saturday. A win will certainly get us in and a loss will likely send us home. We’ll have to have the boys ready to play.

I want to thank Greg Riddle (hope I got your name right) for stopping by and saying hello to me. He is one of the followers on this site and is coaching one of the teams in the tournament. Was pretty cool to have someone come up and say how much they like the site. Every once in a while I will meet someone at a rink that follows the site and they are always really nice to me, so thanks to Greg and all of you.

Wish us luck, I’d really like to make the playoffs on Saturday.


Filed under: General

America’s Showcase High School All-Star Tournament

I am in Pittsburgh as one of the coaches for the America’s Showcase event with team Philadelphia. Our team consists of many of the top high  school junior and senior players from the eastern Pennsylvania area. Lots of college scouts in attendance.

We arrived yesterday and played a team from the Mid-West area and won 7-1. Today we take on the team from New England and tomorrow the host Pittsburgh team. Some have suggested that our team is one of the favorites along with Pittsburgh, New Your and New England. I guess we will see if we are a true contender over the next two days.

Spending time with a number of very good coaches and really enjoying seeing different ways to approach old ideas and really enjoying the conversations with some very smart coaches.

Getting ready to head to the rink and take on a tough New England team. I’ll post results throughout the week.

Filed under: General

IceHockeyDrills.Info Viewed All Around the World

The hosting company I use for the drills site just added a new feature that shows where the hits are coming from and below is the chart from yesterday. Thank you to all the coaches that contribute to the site and now we can see that people from all over the hockey world are checking us out. Pretty cool.

Filed under: General

Millersville Advances to League Championship

I try not to use this space to promote personal issues, but tonight my son scored 4 goals, the last one in OT to beat Rutgers university and advance to the league championship tomorrow. I’m one very proud dad right now.


Filed under: General

RIP Steve Jobs – Thanks for Changing the World

Apple commercial from the late 90’s. Steve Jobs belongs in this commercial if it were made today.


Filed under: General

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

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 Article on Video Games with quotes from Some of Our Readers

A few weeks back Adam Kimelman of contacted me about the usefulness of video games in developing hockey players. I put that question to our readers and Adam contacted a few of them to discuss their opinions. Below is the article Adam posted with quotes from myself and our readers. Thanks for the help everyone.



Filed under: General

Impact of the Coach

Impact of the Coach

“I have come to a frightening conclusion;
I am a decisive element on the ice.
My personal approach creates the climate.
My mood makes the weather.
As the coach, I possess tremendous power to make my players’
lives miserable or joyous.
I can be the tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration; I
can humiliate, humor, hurt or heal.
In all situations, my response decides whether a crisis will escalate or de-escalate and a player humanized or de-humanize.”

The above adaptation from Dr. Hiam Ginott was originally written with classroom teachers in mind. Since we all agree that coaches are in fact teachers, and regardless of age classifications, we are trying to teach our players how to become better at the game of hockey. Often it is not what the coach knows; it is what the players have learned. Can coaches transfer their knowledge to their players?
Research has indicated that players retain information based on following methods:

5% of what they HEAR
25% of what they SEE
75% of what they DO
90% of what they TEACH

The most effective coaches spend a minimal time talking, allowing their players to learn and develop by doing. Obviously, we will spend time teaching fundamental skill techniques such as skating, puck handling, passing and shooting. Without a proper foundation, the players’ development will be limited. Allow the players to practice proper techniques at a slow comfortable speed to insure correctness before you ratchet up the speed. Practicing poor technique fast only insures that the player will become bad quickly.
Research has shown that those players that learned and developed by doing and experimenting have had far more success. Players that do not fear making mistakes during their development have stretched their skill level outside their comfort zone. Too often, the habits that players develop in becoming good enough (comfortable) are the same conservative habits that keep them from becoming great (paraphrased from Tiger Woods).

Practicing with a purpose should be paramount in developing your practice plans. I cannot emphasis enough the use of competitive drill situations that cause players to think and make decisions. Drills should be competitive, have outcomes and consequences. Too many practices are strictly physical; the players follow strict drill patterns as mapped out by the coach. The drills have no options and the players just follow the specific drill pattern as designed by the coach. The game is arguably 85% mental and only 15% physical, yet many of our practices are just the reverse.


Effective coaches have developed a philosophy and established objectives. These may be modified or even changed as the season progresses. It is important that your players and when appropriate the parents know your philosophy and objectives. I believe the coach does not have to be liked by his/her players. The coach is an authority figure and often must be firm and exercise that authority. However, effective coaches have their players’ respect and trust. The most effective coaches are consistent and treat all their players fairly.
Treat all your players, as you would want a coach to treat your own children. At the youth levels, you should hold a pre-season, mid-season, and an end- season parent meeting. Be transparent in your expectations, philosophy, and objectives. I have often used this phrase when talking to parents – “You love them and I will coach them”.
Have fun enjoy your season – What you see is what you coached.

Submitted by
Al Bloomer
USA Hockey Director Emeritus

Filed under: coaching, General



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