Inside the Mind of the Youth Hockey Player

young hockey player
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Coaches must remember that with the youth hockey player, they should not be so upset when high expectations are not always met

By Rick Traugott

If you read my blog, Twitter feed or Facebook page, by now you probably know I coach a Bantam BB boys’ team in the OMHA (Ontario Minor Hockey Association). Coaching the youth hockey player has been a fascinating journey—for everyone involved.

You probably also know that we have been employing the Torpedo System, one that has four forwards and one defenseman on the ice rather than the typical three-and-two. As I will outline in this article, this system just keeps getting better and better. In fact, not long ago we played three terrific games, losing only one (to a terrific goaltender).

But here is my quandary. Sometime ago I read two really good blog posts. The first, “Deflections: Do This Then Do That…,” by Richard Bercuson, deals with his experience coaching a Bantam Boys team and his frequent frustration with implementing systems. The second post I read was “Hockey: An Easy Game to Play … From the Stands,” by Hal Tearse, in which the author explains how difficult it really is to execute everything that needs to be done in a hockey game and how, as observers, we truly are mystified as to why our young charges appear to be so “out to lunch” sometimes. [Editor’s note: For another look at the phenomenon of hockey spectators, see this article.]

This brings me to the quintessential moment of that three-game weekend I mentioned earlier. We were on a power play mid game in our third game of the weekend, when one of my forwards was rushing the puck down the ice with a clear lane, wide on the left side of the ice and support on the rush. He made the choice to cut to the middle of the ice into traffic, just before the blueline, and lost the puck to the defenders who did a nice job of stepping up and closing the gap.

Now, I am pretty sure that there is no system (team play) that we had worked on more in practice than our offensive zone entry. The puck carrier is to go wide across the blueline—period. We’ve gone over this many times—“wide is not down the dot line!” coach is heard to say regularly. Our power play breakout is exactly the same as our regular breakout, except the puck carrier is to go wide and continue down the boards to set up the power play behind the net.

So my forward comes off and I am a little hot under the collar. I ask—nicely—“Where are you supposed to go on the power play breakout?” The answer: “I don’t know,” he replied earnestly.

Now I am thinking, I’m the worst coach in the world. Clearly I have absolutely no communication skills if players don’t know they are supposed to cross the blueline wide. Therefore, I am trying to take some sort of solace by re-reading those blogs mentioned above. And three things stand out:

1) We have to celebrate when we do things correctly, and not fret so much if things don’t go as these youth hockey players were taught in practice.

2) Keep systems simple. This is why I really like the Torpedo System a lot; it’s simple.

3) Hockey is a fast, complex game that demands skill, “read and react,” innate athletic ability (both physically and mentally), and experience to play at a high level.

Keeping in mind these are 14-year-old kids, I am going to maintain my high expectations but not be so upset when they are not always met by the young hockey player.

Rick Traugott is a frequent contributor to He has served with Hockey Canada as a camp coach, with both the National Women’s U18 and U22/Development teams. His teams have won numerous championships and medals in international competitions. For more information visit his website, Reproduced with permission of Rick Traugott. is reader supported. When you buy via the links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you. Learn more.


  1. I’ll add that I have found playing, coaching, and spectating all provide three different views of the game. It’s all too easy to be an armchair warrior, especially in a game that changes as quickly as hockey. It’s not entirely coaching. It’s what the player “sees” on the ice. We may easily teach a system. We may easily sit in the stands & see the avenue. But, the player has to make the decision.

    Play hard, have fun.

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