If I Hear Another Coach Or Reporter

Junior Hockey News – If I hear another coach or reporter talk about "size"….. #top .wrapper .container h1 { color: #004080; }

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Coach’s and reporter’s obsession with "size"…..

Editors Opinion

Not too long ago I wrote an opinion piece about discrimination in our sport when it comes to "size". The saying "you cant teach size" was one thing I focussed on, and I feel is such an over used term that some people need to open their eyes.

Yesterday I read an article talking about the NHL trade deadline. Who could be on the move, where, and why. In nearly every example the reporter talked about the size of the player as being a major factor in the players ability or value. To me, this is so laughable I simply had to write again.

Hal Gill of Montreal is one of those players being mentioned as trade bait. His size at 6’7" inches and his experience are all that people seem to talk about. Forget the fact that he is not mobile, can get walked by fast or crafty forwards, or that he is a minus 8 this season.

Compare with Ian White in Detroit. At 5’10" he has bounced around the NHL since 2005, landing in Detroit this season. In seven years White was only on the minus side twice. This season he leads all NHL defensemen at plus 28, and has already matched career best point production. Too bad he is only 5’10" right?

Erik Karlsson in Ottawa at 5"11" is leading all NHL defensemen in points. Oh and Nicklas Lidstrom, who is considered one of the best defensemen, if not the best in history is listed as 6’1". I can tell you though he is not that tall after standing next to him.

So when I hear Junior, Midget and High School Coaches talking about "size" and not actually understanding who the best players are on the ice, forgive me if I wonder how these people are in their positions when the clearly shouldnt be.

I recently watched a game where the players with "size" kept on turning the puck over, making poor decisions, costing its team goals and scoring chances the entire night. All the time though, one player who was smaller, getting fewer shifts, made nearly every play and won nearly every battle he was involved with. Smaller yes, but clearly a smarter hockey player who made up for size with his compete level. Did this player play a perfect game? No, but this player was clearly the smartest and one that would not make nearly as many mistakes as the "bigger" players.

As a former coach, current scout, Agent and Adviser it is so hard for me to stand aside and not question any coach on this type of coaching. Since when does the height of any play determine the skill, compete, or hockey sense of that player? Since when does being tall entitle players to be able to make more mistakes than anyone else at the expense of a player who doesnt make mistakes?

Size mattered in the clutch and grab days of hockey. Size matters in football if you are a lineman, last time I checked Wes Welker was one of the best players in the NFL, oh yeah he’s under 6′ tall. Size no longer matters in hockey. Fans are impressed by tall players, but if they cant play, they simply cant play. Coaches outside of the NHL, NCAA and the higher levels of hockey have figured this out, why havent the rest?

I have worked with junior players who were drafted because of their size, and when I watched them play I coldnt believe teams drafted them. I have worked with players who went undrafted because of size, and have had teams beg me to send them their way.

Boston University, the nations top ranked NCAA team has 25 players on its roster, 9 of them are under 6′ tall and 7 are listed at 6′ tall. University of Michigan has 25 players on the roster, ten are under 6 feet tall. Western Michigan has 29 players on the roster, 19 of them are under 6 feet tall. All of these teams are pretty damn good right? So someone please explain to me if Red Berenson and Andy Murray can build these very good NCAA D-1 Teams without having every player hulking around the ice, why cant the rest of the hockey world?

The answer is simple. Coaches let their egos get in the way. They think they can teach a player with "size" how to become as smart as a player without "size". The truth is that they cant. You can not teach hockey sense and awareness. Unless your last name is Bowman, you arent going to be able to take a tall person and make them smarter, just like you cant take a short person and make them a foot taller.

How do we fix the problem?

Chara, Gill, Myers, Malkin, Jagr, and other NHL giants are the exception to the height and skill combination rules. They are the one in 10 million players and we need to remember that. It is the St. Louis, Kane, Whitney, and Giroux’s of the world that make up the majority of players in the world.

Remove height and weight from stats in recruiting. Let the actual numbers that count determine who moves on and up. Coaches take the responsibility to stop getting caught up in a "height" competition that ended with the elimination of the red line. Coaches get honest, simply take the best players and play the best players.

Finally Coaches, stop thinking youre smarter than you actually are. The best team regardless of size will win championships, and in order to win championships, the best players play.

So the next time your tall defenseman throws the puck up the center of the ice creating a turnover, the next time your defense pinches at the wrong time, or the next time your tall center doesnt battle down low, how about you bench them and let the kid who wants it and deserves it play, no matter how tall he is. If he was good enough to make the team, he is good enough to play. You chose him for a reason, remember that.

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