Coach Nielsen's Ice Hockey Drills

Coaching Documents

I noticed that after I published the tri-fold scorecard that on Friday’s there were over 500 views of that document, so I assumed that coaches were printing it out for the weekend games. Since that was such a hit I thought I would pass along two other documents I use all the time. The first is what I prepare my practice plans on and the second is the game day scoresheet we use on the bench to track shots, goals and face-off wins/losses. I typically have the backup goaltender keep the stats on the bench while I keep track of plus/minus on the tri-fold card. I think it’s important to monitor the face-offs and plus/minus information during a game to see who is performing well that game.

Like the tri-fold card these are better suited to be printed on heavier stock paper. I use 110 lb card stock that can be purchased at any office supply type store.

The practice plan document has four pages, but I only use two of them. The first page is always used and then depending on the type of practice I am running I may change the second page to any of the three additional pages in the PDF file. Once you look at it you will understand better. The document is designed to be printed on the front and back of a single sheet of paper/card stock.

Anyway, here are the two documents, I hope you find them helpful.

Practice Plan
Game Day Scoresheet






Filed under: coaching, Drills, Practice, statistics

Accountability on the Ice

The New Plus/Minus

Hockey is the ultimate team sport. The only thing that matters at the end of sixty minutes is adding two points in the standings. But you know as well as I do that as a player you analyze every shift after every game in your mind to gauge how well you played. Goals and assists are a good measure of a players offensive contributions to the team. Hits and face-off wins can be a good measure of a player/teams energy. And taking too many penalties may be a sign of undisciplined play.

However coaches, parents, and players reference the plus/minus stat for accountability on the ice which I think is very misleading. Yeah Bobby Orr’s +124 signifies that he had a godlike season. But how many times have you stepped on the ice right when a goal is scored. Might as well jump back over the boards before the statistician can get your number.

Baseball has adopted the complicated sabermetrics system to get an objective measure of a players talent. Bare with me here. If a ballplayer hits the cover off the ball but a defensive player makes a great diving catch, then it’s essentially considered a hit. If a ball player strikes out a lot then it’s counted against him more then putting the ball in play. 

I had the great priveledge to play under Coach Jeff Jackson now at the University of Notre Dame. He adopted a similar system of plus/minus to provide accountability and measure progress for players. You can choose your own scoring system but here are some examples that I have used in the past:

Plus + Minus –

–Player scores a goal

–Player sets up a goal

–Player has a great shot from the slot area/ good scoring chance

–Player takes the puck wide and drives to the net for a scoring opportunity

–Player provides pressure on the forecheck that leads to a turnover and a scoring chance

–Player takes a big hit 5 feet inside his/her own blueline to get the puck out which creates a scoring chance

–Defenseman provides a great outlet pass that leads to a scoring chance

–Defenseman on the point gets the puck through a bunch of bodies for a screen/rebound chance

–Player provides a big hit that changes the momentum of the game

–Player wins a draw that leads to a goal or great scoring opporutnity.

–Player fails to tie up his man’s stick and they get a good shot off

–Player doesn’t tie up his man on the face-off and they score or get a good chance.

–Player is on the wrong side of his man down low and they walk out of the corner for a good chance/goal

–Player pulls a flamingo on a point shot

–Player is lazy backchecking which results in a goal/scoring chance

–Player takes too long of a shift that results in a goal or scoring chance

–Player makes a bad change that results in a goal/scoring chance

–Player takes a bad penalty

****The main thing is that it directly leads to a goal, great scoring chance, or game changing play. The top player on your team will usually have about 5 pluses in a competitive game.****

**There are a number of lapses that can be considered a minus in this scoring system but the main thing is consistency of the scoring.***


As a coach you may want your assistant coach to keep track of this in a notebook on the bench. If you’re lucky enough to have quality game film then you can break it down for the players so they can actually see the plus or minus.


As a parent it may be hard to provide objective judgement. Your son/daughter will undoubtedly feel you’re being too tough on them. I would suggest using the pluses as a positive reinforcement when your son/daughter explains every detail that went wrong after the game.


As a player you can use this to chunk down your game. What I mean by this is that every player measures themselves by goals and assists. This can be a tough yardstick when things aren’t going your way. A slump is compounded when your name doesn’t appear on the score sheet game after game. But you could be playing well/working hard and just not getting the bounces. If you look at your game in this perspective you can pull positives out to build off of.

The great part about this system is that it provides something players can measure their on ice progress. Coach Jackson would have a score sheet the next day during video that would list each player by number and their true plus/minus. Good game or bad game you wanted to see your "grade." It was kind of like the beginning scene in Tommy Boy when Chris Farley is scanning for his name outside the classroom.

Good luck in the upcoming games and stay positive.

courtesy of Brett Henning

Filed under: Defense, General, statistics, , , ,



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