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Hockey coach Alain Vigneault with the Vancouver Canucks

Four Characteristics of Successful Hockey Coaches (At Every Level)

05/02/2014, 11:00am PDT
By Kelvin Cech

The best coaches span generations...

It's 7:30 in the morning.

The warmth of the coffee is fighting with the coldness of the hockey rink.

Brave, right?

Alright, picture this:

It's 9:45 at night, your son's midget hockey team is down by a goal with three minutes to play in a provincial championship game in late April.

Brave? Or Stressful?

Whichever scenario you identify with, there's one thread common to both hockey games.

Behind the Bench

Without coaches at the early levels of minor hockey as well as the teenage years and the graduation to junior hockey, our game would be mostly chaos. Sure, sometimes it looks like chaos anyways, but with qualified people behind the bench, at leat someone is responsible for that chaos.

Here's four characteristics of successful hockey coaches.

1. Patience

Teaching skills and drills to 5, 6, 7 and 8 year-olds requires not only a firm understanding of those skills (and how to properly deliver them), but the ability to allow young players to learn at their own pace. It's also true that teaching more advanced game concepts to teenagers whose brains are often very far away from the ice they're skating on requires some a lot all of the patience.

2. Encouragement

Above all else, coaches are on the bench at games and on the ice at practice to A) encourage the good habits they see in their players and B) when those players demonstrate poor habits, they still encourage the good habits. Coaches are there to bring out the best in players at every age. 

3. Lifelong Learning

For hockey coaches at every level, coaching is a passion, a craft. The day the mind closes to the ideas and tactics of a nation filled with passionate hockey people, courses and networking opportunities is the first day of that coach's retirement. That may sound harsh, but it's true - successful coaches seek knowledge at the first day of cookie monsters and the day after they win the Stanley Cup.

4. Knowing When (& How) to ... Snap

Let's understand something first. Coaches who bark at their players better be right about their own explanations of a drill, an in-game tactic or a specific habit. Players want to succeed, they want to improve themselves. This is how hockey players are wired (most of the time). However, there comes a time when it's the responsibility of the hockey coach to instill accountability, regardless of a player's age.

Here are 3 circumstances when it's alright for a coach to "passionately" lay down the law.

  1. 8 years old: rude to grandma
    Coach's Consequence: a stern talkin' to
  2. 12 years old: late for practice due to dressing room shenanigans
    Coach's Consequence: 5 minute bag-skate for first offense
  3. 19 years old: slept through a meeting in the Stanley Cup Playoffs
    ​Coach's Consequence: trade to Dallas

Will coaches make mistakes? Sure, and they're better off when they admit to them. That being said, coaches are people we're trusting to help guide our kids through the often choppy waters of the journey through hockey. Sticking close to the tenants of patience, encouragement, lifelong learning and knowng when to lay down the law is a creed our game's most successful coaches live by every day. 

On and off the ice.

Interested in coaching at the North Shore Winter Club? We're hiring coaches at every level for the 2014/2015 season. Download an application form here and email to

photo credit: VancityAllie via photopin cc

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Tag(s): Home  Hockey  Minor Hockey  Sr Men's