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Hotels

Hotels on Travelsports.com

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Tournament Hotel Listing Example

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Categories
Hockey

Does Your Child Have The Right Stick?

As your child grabs their hockey stick out of the back of your vehicle, you may not be thinking about how important this piece of equipment is. Sure, you put decent consideration into their skates, helmet and the other equipment that protects them, but what about their stick?

Many parents think that buying an inexpensive stick is good enough for a youth hockey stick. After all, “A cheap stick would be good enough for any young player” you think.  In reality your player, no matter his or her level, needs a quality youth hockey stick in order develop the fundamentals of hockey.

So what does a parent look for when getting the right stick? There are several factors to consider when looking for the best youth hockey sticks. Youth players usually are players between the ages of 4 and 10, but really it depends on the size of the child.

When it comes to looking for a stick, you will need to think about the material, length, flex, weight, as well as what you need the stick to do for your young player.

Material Matters

While wood was once the only choice for hockey stick material, in the past 20 years, a lot of great technical improvements have been made. These days, best hockey sticks are not just made up of a single material, but are instead comprised of several.

The most popular, and best, material that you should choose for a youth hockey stick is composite. Composite can be made up of several different materials, from heavy plastic to titanium. Even Kevlar is used in composite sticks because it is so strong and reliable. Regardless of the exact make-up, composite is more durable and lighter than other options which is great for younger kids.

Length

The length of your youth hockey stick will affect your ability to control the puck, your reach, and your shots. The length will also affect how you receive and pass. For young players, a mid-length stick would be the most appropriate to learn good stick handling.

The average length for a junior hockey stick is 52”, but sticks can be cut down or extended to accommodate an individual player’s height. Youth players have shorter sticks at 48”, but they can also be adjusted to fit the player’s height. The length really depends on height for younger players.

Flex

The flex of a hockey stick is the amount of force that is required to make the bend. The force is measured using pounds. So this means that a stick with a flex rating of 80 would require 80 pounds of force to bend.

Looking at the flex ratings for youth sticks, younger children will usually start with a flex rating of 20. Slightly older children would opt more for a flex rating of 30. The older they get, the higher the flex rating.

Weight

Most players opt for sticks that are a lighter composite material than something that is heavier. The lighter the hockey stick, the less energy is required to move the puck. This will make it easier to control and use around the ice as well. That being said, some players still like the power that they get from a heavy stick. A heavy stick can slow you down, but the shots are harder. For a child, however, a lighter stick is a safer bet.

Overall, you want to choose a stick that helps your child develop their core fundamental skills. So the one they feel most comfortable with is the best one. Take time to buy from a store that allows your child to try out a few sticks in their shooting range so they can find one they like.

This is one piece of equipment where grow room isn’t a great idea. A stick that is too big can hinder their development and make learning more frustrating. Have it cut to size with just an inch or two of grow room.

And one last thing … have a back-up stick. Sticks can break even at the youngest levels. This can be a less expensive one that can later end up as a road hockey stick without you cringing on how much you spent.

The post Does Your Child Have The Right Stick? appeared first on Elite Level Hockey.

Categories
Hockey

How to Address A Lack of Aggression?

Ask The Mind Coach is dedicated to the “mental” part of hockey from both player and parent perspectives. Shawnee Harle takes your questions and provides feedback based on her experiences and training. If you have a question to Ask The Mind Coach, email us!

“Is there a way that you teach aggression? My son has become very tentative battling for the puck along the boards since returning to the ice after COVID. I don’t think he is worried about catching COVID, I just think that he has lost the will to engage somehow? I wouldn’t say that he was super aggressive before, but he clearly wants no part of any kind of puck battle. I am hoping you have some suggestions to help him play a little “meaner”?”

What I find more interesting than how to teach aggression, is where does lack of aggression come from?  Why isn’t your son being aggressive?  We don’t change behaviour by addressing the behaviour.  We must dig underneath the behaviour and find out what’s driving it.

With other hockey players I’ve coached, lack of aggression is usually rooted in fear.  And when we feel fear, we take action to avoid it. The athletes I’ve worked with tell me they are afraid of being aggressive due to getting injured, fear they will lose the puck battles, fear they will get knocked down, etc. So they avoid situations where these things could happen.

I suggest asking your son what he thinks: On a scale of 1-10 how aggressive do you think you are?  What number would you like to be?  What’s holding you back from being at that number? What are two things you can do, that are in your control, that would bring your number up?

I really like this question: When there is a puck battle in front of you, what would you do if you weren’t afraid?

Then ask him to set a goal for his next game/practice. Can he do one or two things that are proof and evidence of him being aggressive? What are one or two things he would do if he wasn’t afraid? And the best way to counter fear is courage. He can be afraid and brave at the same time. Afraid is a feeling, brave is an action and those two things can co-exist. If you are watching, track it so you can help him see his improvement.

Remember aggression is an adult term.  So makes sure you ask your son what aggression looks like, sounds like and feels like, so the two of you are on the same page.

Shawnee is a two-time Olympian with 26 years of elite coaching and leadership experience. Shawnee holds a Master’s Degree in Coaching Studies, and she is a Master Coach Developer and Master Learning Facilitator for the National Coaching Certification Program, where she trains and mentors both advanced and novice coaches from all sports. Learn more at shawneeharle.com

MORE FROM THE MIND COACH …

The post How to Address A Lack of Aggression? appeared first on Elite Level Hockey.

Categories
Restaurants

Favorite Detroit-Area Team Friendly Restaurants & Attractions

Let us know which restaurants and attractions are your favorites and add ones we have missed!

Categories
Hockey

Minor Hockey Memories: Kris Versteeg

The following is an excerpt from The Farm Team podcast. Host Elliott Sheen talks to CEO and Co-Founder of the Klevr App, Kris Versteeg. Kris is a two-time Stanley Cup Champion with the Chicago Blackhawks and played an incredible 643 games in the National Hockey League.

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The pride of Northside Lethbridge played his way through the Lethbridge Minor Hockey system before cracking the Lethbridge Hurricanes roster during as a 16 year old. Kris went on to play seasons in the Western Hockey League.

In 2004 Kris was drafted by the Boston Bruins in the 5th round and in 2007 Kris was traded to the Blackhawks, where he made his NHL debut on November 22nd against the Calgary Flames.

Kris has grown to be a lot more than just a hockey player from Lethbridge. He is one of the most genuine and caring people you’ll ever meet. He is constantly bringing awareness to the people and communities he has lived in. This past year Kris competed in the ‘Battle of the Blades’ with his skating partner Carlotta Edwards. Kris and Carlotta were able to raise over $15,000 for the Opokaa’sin Early Intervention Society and the Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Calgary and Area.

Kris, who currently resides in the Toronto area with his wife and three children, is an incredible role model for the next generation of athletes and serves as a reminder to always bet on yourself. He is still heavily involved with the game as the CEO of his new sports-tech platform Klevr, owner and operator of the Verset Hockey Camp, and a hockey analyst on Sirius XM.


SHEEN: I was just going to get background on you growing up playing hockey in Lethbridge. 

VERSTEEG: Minor hockey was great! I think it’s a lot different now. Kids start at three years old now. I don’t think we really started until were six. Our age group was incredible. On our Bantam AAA team, we had three players that made the NHL — Devin Setoguchi, Rob Klinkhammer and myself. We had another two that played NCAA, another couple that played in the AHL. We had seven players turn pro.

Just growing up being surrounded by all these players that were so good obviously made me a lot better. Like man, we look back on that and we’re so spoiled. It is too bad we never got to win. We lost in the semi-finals, but it was such a good group. We’re all still really close friends today. 

SHEEN: What was the jump like to junior hockey in the WHL?

VERSTEEG: Making the jump from Bantam into the WHL — especially in the early 2000’s — it’s a lot different then than it is now. You had guys like Derek Boogaard out there, Brett Scheffelmaiers, guys that are like 6-foot-7 and they are out there to basically rip you apart. The game is much different. Me — being 5-foot-6 at 16, 140 pounds  — I was scared every game . 

SHEEN: You wouldn’t have been drafted yet that first year?

VERSTEEG: I wasn’t drafted in 14 because we all played Bantam AA back then Bantam was fourteen and fifteen — now it’s 13 and 14 — so if you didn’t play Bantam AAA as a first-year, you were never getting drafted generally. And back then, the scouts didn’t look at you if you were small. The scouting now, they pick the best players. They don’t worry about size or height. Back then, at 14, they wanted you to be 6-foot with a moustache. I was like 5-foot-2 and was drinking Slurpees outside at 7-Eleven. I didn’t lift a weight until I was sixteen. I would go for runs when I was fifteen when my dad started tell me I had to do push-ups and run. We didn’t have any of that. It has just changed so much. 

Going to the WHL was a crazy experience. Scoring my first-ever goal against Moose Jaw. And just looking in the stands and seeing all my friend watch me playing the WHL. It must have been pretty cool for them, but it was it was awesome for me.

SHEEN: As a kid following in your footsteps — I was a couple of years behind you — to watch you make the jump from Bantam to the WHL was incredible. You started to put up points too. You were a small guy so did you find that transition into the WHL coming straight from Bantam.

VERSTEEG: It was hard. It was a way different game. That’s when there was hooking and that was before the 2004 lockout. There was two-line passes and the rules were different. You were out there trying not to get murdered, basically. You didn’t have to have the puck and you were still getting blown up. There were line brawls. Pretty much every game there was a fight. It was just so different. You go from being a kid wearing a cage at 15 to being in a line brawl. You are just trying not to get hit every shift by guys like Boogaard — and I’m not fighting him — but just seeing DJ King and Boogaard fight, your kind of like ‘Wow. What is going on here’. It was a complete whirlwind. But yeah, it was it was just such a different game, such a different world. I was worried about trying to come out in one piece from these games.

SHEEN: I can imagine. The two-line pass kind of traps guys in and that’s where those heavy hits come in the neutral zone.

VERSTEEG: Suicide passes were big at the red line because a guy has his head down, trying to stay onside on the red line, and guys would just tee you up the red line.  

SHEEN: And that’s what the scouts were looking for — guys who could pick up that timing.

VERSTEEG: It was so different then. I remember even in Bantam and PeeWee — we started hitting at 12, I believe — it was just full out war out there some games. If both Lethbridge Peewee AA teams are playing each other, the parents are in the stands screaming at each other, there are kids hitting each other as hard as they can from behind. 

I remember the one Pee-Wee AA team, they had this play with Rob Klinkhammer and he would tie me up on the opening faceoff and Kyle Mason would run me from the blue line and blow me up. Then you hear the fans and the parents screaming like ‘Screw You, Versteeg’. Cheering. We are 12 years old.

I don’t really care about that but I look back and it such a different game. Such a different game. The slashing and the hitting to the head. I didn’t like any of that. I believe that there should be no heading to the head at all, but back then everything was to the head. Everything was a slash or a crosscheck to the back of the neck. It was pretty vicious. Being my size, it wasn’t easy to always back it up.

SHEEN: It was a scary moment going from Atom into PeeWee and now you are hitting. I still remember that and I am 32 years old. I remember what it was like to get into the hitting thing.

VERSTEEG: Do you remember the LA Prep camps?

SHEEN: Oh, ya.

VERSTEEG: Those were a war.

SHEEN: The gauntlet!

VERSTEEG: So what would happen is you’d be 10, turning 11 and you be hitting. And you play a year up. In Ontario, they only play year by year but in Alberta and Saskatchewan, where there is not enough kids, you play a year under, year over. You’re playing against over agers at this LA Prep camp, you haven’t been hit your whole life, and you’re going in — they don’t even play hockey in these camps it’s just murdering each other for like an hour or so. It was crazy. Like you said, it was like you were a young kid going into the gauntlet.

SHEEN: And the parents cheered when you got rocked! My own parents wanted me to get hit.

VERSTEEG: That was the 90s though, man, and that is just how it was. I don’t look back on it and go ‘How could that happen?’ It’s just I’m happy that it’s not like that anymore

SHEEN: I guess you’re seeing first hand now with your kids. What has your experience been like? How has it changed?

VERSTEEG: First off they start a 3 years old. My oldest now he’s almost 6, I put him in at 3 and he didn’t like it and I put him back in at 4 and he liked it. My four-year-old, I put him in at 3 and he liked it. Kids start at 3 now and they’re on the ice two days a week at 3. Some kids will do privates now at 5. The kids are doing private session now a lot of them at a young age. 

You still want to find ways to intrigue kids to make it fun. I’m finding you don’t want to overburden with structure so generally when I’m out there with the kids it is about using your imagination and your creativity. My kids to go to the pond in the winter and they would play for like four hours and they didn’t get told what to do. But the second you bring them into a practice and you’re screaming at them and you’re giving them instruction, that’s when I think you start to see the burnout. Its a mental burnout because you’re being harped on — ‘You got to do THIS’ — and that’s why when I do a little bit of instruction with kids and I try to like teach them to make sure they stickhandle with their head up. Its about making it fun but also getting them to use their creativity and not feel like they’re being hampered by instruction because I think that’s a huge issue.

SHEEN: You are absolutely right. You let some kids go play on their own and they will play for hours but as soon as you tell them to do one thing they get bored of that really easily.

VERSTEEG:  Yeah and that’s where you can see the burn out. Especially for five-year-olds, man, you want them to learn to skate with their head up, to stickhandle. You can do skating lessons as you start to get a little bit older but the overbearingness will wear on a kid for sure, the mental part anyway,

So you need to make it fun but you also want to make them better too, but it’s a fine line in doing that. The biggest thing is, I know I said it like 50 times, but just overbearing instructions for a child is something I’m learning that they don’t want all the time.

SHEEN: What do you think in terms of multi-sport?

VERSTEEG: My kids play all sports but they love soccer, they love baseball obviously. I think soccer, for myself, was the biggest key contributor — after roller hockey — to help me out playing hockey at a higher level.

SHEEN: When did you stop playing soccer

VERSTEEG: When I was 12.

SHEEN: So you got a good six years of conditioning and running. It helps your lower body balance too.

VERSTEEG: Yeah, just making plays with my feet in the hockey and and going in the battles. Really like every player in the NHL, the biggest thing that they do, compared to a player in the AHL or the ECHL, is controlling ‘first touch’. If you’re watching an MLS game or are you watching a Premiership game you can see a ball go across the field in the MLS and the player I’ll touch it and then he will lose it. Not in the EPL. It’s the same as a cross-ice pass in the air in hockey. The player will knock it down in the NHL and control it. In the AHL or East Coast league, either they miss it or they don’t know how to create time and space to make a play.

Roller hockey and soccer gave me “NHL first touch” skills. 

SHEEN: That’s what I think about when I think of you playing in the NHL. You could lose the puck but you could get it back real quick or pushing it with your feet you were able to make play. You definitely have those little skills that separated you from everyone else. 

VERSTEEG: I think I got it from other sports. Roller hockey, while not an entirely different sport, but when you’re forced to move the puck — where as in hockey the puck slides — and that means you’re using your hands more. It’s more of a skill game. I never had a skating coach. I didn’t have a skills coach. None of us did, especially in Lethbridge. None of us could afford one. So the only way for us to get more skilled was to learn how to create space by playing sports like roller hockey. I still love it. It is my favourite sport I think.

The post Minor Hockey Memories: Kris Versteeg appeared first on Elite Level Hockey.

Categories
Gear Gifts Hockey

Best Gifts for the “Hockey” Holidays

For many of us, the holidays snuck up on us …. unless you are the type that’s been planning since summer! Well it’s not to late to get your game on and start finding some fun “Hockey” related gifts. We’ve compiled a list of hockey holiday gift ideas for all the players in your life. Now, don’t be a scrooge and forget about getting yourself something as well! Have fun and check them out below.

Training Aids

  • Hockey Net – Admit it, your net is in need of an upgrade!

  • Shooting Pad – Practice in your basement, garage or outside. These pads do a realistic job of simulating ice conditions.

Toys & Games
  • Air Hockey – Hours of fun playing air hockey with the kids.

  • Rod Hockey – You had it as a kid, may have gotten into a few fights over playing it, but it’s a classic holiday gift!

Clothes & Accessories
  • NHL Authentic Jersey – I know, you’re probably not a Blackhawks fan … but you can also buy this in your teams colors, unless you are a fan … then yeah!!

  • Warm Hat – It doesn’t get more basic or useful than a nice warm hat, which you’ll be happy you are wearing while you freezing your $^*^ off at the rink.

Hated the list … thought we didn’t put much time into it? We’ll we’ve added some additional links, just in case you aren’t feeling the holiday spirit and just want to find something else.

Looking for new hockey gear? Pure Hockey has you covered!

Want to go to a hockey game … or two! Check some great seats at Vivid Seats!

Want to trade in an old pair for a new? SidelineSwap has you covered. 

Maybe your just looking for some cool tape … or other swag. Check out Howies Hockey Tape. 

Categories
Hockey

What to Look For in a New Hockey Stick

As your child grabs their hockey stick out of the back of your vehicle, you may not be thinking about how important this piece of equipment is to their success.

Sure, you put decent consideration into their skates, helmet and the other equipment that protects them, but what about their stick?

Many parents think that buying an inexpensive stick is good enough for a youth hockey stick. After all, ‘A cheap stick would be good enough for any young player’ you think to yourself.

In reality your player, no matter his or her level, needs a quality youth hockey stick in order develop the fundamentals of hockey.

So what does a parent look for when getting the right stick? There are several factors to consider when looking for the best youth hockey sticks. Youth players usually are players between the ages of 4 and 10, but really it depends on the size of the child. When it comes to looking for a stick, you will need to think about the material, length, flex, weight, as well as what you need the stick to do for your young player.

Material Matters

While wood was once the only choice for hockey stick material, a lot of great technical improvements have been made over the past 20 years. These days, the best hockey sticks are not just made up of a single material, but are instead comprised of several.

The most popular — and best — material that you should choose for a youth hockey stick is composite. Composite can be made up of several different materials, from heavy plastic to titanium. Even Kevlar is often used in composite sticks because it is so strong and reliable. Regardless of the exact make-up, composite is more durable and lighter than other options which is great for younger kids.

Stick Length

The length of your youth hockey stick will affect your ability to control the puck, your reach, and your shots. The length will also affect how you receive and make a pass. For young players, a mid-length stick would be the most appropriate to learn good stick handling technique.

The average length for a junior hockey stick is 52”, but sticks can be cut down or extended to accommodate an individual player’s height. Youth players have shorter sticks at 48”, but they can also be adjusted to fit the player’s height. The length really depends on height for younger players.

This is one piece of equipment where grow room isn’t a great idea. A stick that is too big can hinder their development and make learning more frustrating. Have it cut to size with just an inch or two of grow room.

Flex

The flex of a hockey stick is the amount of force that is required to make it bend — which creates a whip-like action when shooting. The force is measured using pounds. So this means that a stick with a flex rating of 80 would require 80 pounds of force to bend.
Looking at the flex ratings for youth sticks, younger children will usually start with a flex rating of 20. Slightly older children would opt more for a flex rating of 30. The older they get, the higher the flex rating.

Weight

Most players opt for sticks that are a lighter. The lighter the hockey stick, the less energy is required to move the puck. This will make it easier to control and use around the ice as well. That being said, some players still like the power that they get from a heavier stick. A heavy stick can slow you down, but the shots can be harder. For a child, however, a lighter stick is a safer bet.

Overall, you want to choose a stick that helps your child develop their core fundamental skills. So the one they feel most comfortable with is the best one. Take time to buy from a place that allows your child to try out a few sticks in a shooting range so they can find one they like. 

And one last thing … have a back-up stick. Sticks can break even at the youngest levels. This stick can be a less-expensive one that will later end up as a road hockey stick without you cringing on how much you spent.

The post What to Look For in a New Hockey Stick appeared first on Elite Level Hockey.

Categories
Hockey

How Can I Help My Player’s Confidence?

Ask The Mind Coach is dedicated to the “mental” part of hockey from both player and parent perspectives. Shawnee Harle takes your questions and provides feedback based on her experiences and training. If you have a question to Ask The Mind Coach, email us!

QUESTION: “My hockey player is very good at skating and stickhandling. To me, she always stands out during practice when they are doing drills. However, as soon as she gets into a game, all of her confidence is gone and she shoots the puck away almost as soon as she touches it. Her coaches have talked to her but nothing has changed. Is this common?”

THE MIND COACH: Yes this is common. It’s a fear-based behaviour and fear is very common in sport.  We avoid things we are afraid of and my guess is, your daughter is afraid of messing up, turning the puck over, looking bad, etc., and the way she avoids it, is to get rid of the puck ASAP.

In other words, she plays it safe to avoid mistakes.

Remember, we don’t change behaviour by addressing the behaviour. Behaviour only changes when we get clarity on what’s driving the behaviour.

My guess it, the underlying fear your daughter tries to avoid is FOPO; Fear Of People’s Opinions.  She plays it safe to avoid mistakes because she believes mistakes will result in disapproval from her coaches, teammates, parents, opponents and on social media.

The irony is, unless we are making mistakes, we aren’t growing, stretching or learning.  See if you can help your daughter see that mistakes are completely normal.  Even professional players make mistakes all the time.

Can you help daughter focus on the process rather than the outcome?  Mistakes are an outcome and they are completely out of our control.  If they were in our control, we would never make mistakes!

Can you help your daughter identify two things she can do with the puck that are in her control (process)?

Her attention needs to be on what she CAN do.  Get her to set a goal of doing 1 thing/shift, that’s in her control when she has the puck. If you are watching, track these things so she can see if she’s improving.

Focus on 1-2 things and after that, the chips fall where they may.  Sport is a gamble; the outcome is always out of our control.

Shawnee is a two-time Olympian with 26 years of elite coaching and leadership experience. Shawnee holds a Master’s Degree in Coaching Studies, and she is a Master Coach Developer and Master Learning Facilitator for the National Coaching Certification Program, where she trains and mentors both advanced and novice coaches from all sports. Learn more at shawneeharle.com

MORE FROM THE MIND COACH …

The post How Can I Help My Player’s Confidence? appeared first on Elite Level Hockey.

Categories
Hockey

What is Russian Minor Hockey Like?

There will always be small differences in philosophy, training techniques and structure between organizations, leagues, regions and even cities when it comes to youth hockey. But how about other countries? Is hockey really that different outside of North America?

Elite Level Hockey asked Nikolai Salov, a 19-year-old forward currently with the GMHL’s North York Renegades, about his experiences playing minor hockey in Russia.

At what age do most kids start playing in Russia? 

SALOV: I was four years old. All the practices for that team were on roller blades in the summer and hockey skates in the winter. They would teaching us fundamental skills for hockey and physical activity.

How many hours a week are kids expected to practice/play? 

SALOV: After playing on an outdoor rink for two years, I tried out and made the only local AAA team in the whole city of Nizhny Novgorod. My team’s name was Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod and it was a part of a big organization that has teams in KHL, junior and minor hockey. From a very young age we had to compete in order to be on the team, because there were many boys who played hockey but there was only when high level team in the area. I first got to play in an organized game in 2009 and by then we had skates up to five times a week. 

What is training like in Russian youth hockey?

SALOV: Starting very young we had regular one-hour or one-and-a half-hour practises. There was a lot of off-ice physical activity, which involved stuff like pushups, squats, core work etc. We also played a bit of other sports like soccer, basketball and handball. We had mandatory acrobatics in our facility, mainly for injury prevention. 

Did you go to hockey camps?

SALOV: Starting at the age of 12, my team would go out of town for a pre-season training camp for two weeks every summer. Training there for three times a day (one skate, two off ice) and without seeing your parents or family.

Some dryland training days could involve sprints, exercises on the hill (running up, jumping up hill), long distance runs (up to 10 kms or completing an obstacle course in military style. Weather conditions were usually ignored, so we had to do it in the rain, storm and even hail.

We only could eat what given at the camp — dietary, healthy meals which weren’t as tasty as regular food at home. All unhealthy snacks brought from outside the camp were taken.

In Canada there are various levels such as AAA, AA, house league etc and kids tend to play for their hometown team. Is it similar in Russia?

SALOV: It is a pretty similar system based on levels of team for youth hockey in Russia, but first teams have to qualify for being a AAA, AA or A team. Also, teams have a chance to move up from AA to AAA or opposite if they were first or last in their division.

Sometimes there were different teams for different age groups but the teams like mine affiliated with KHL organization were usually the top team for example: Akbars Kazan, Niftehimic Nizhnekamsk were the other teams in our group.

Are tournaments part of competition in Russian youth hockey?

SALOV: Tournaments are a big part of competition in Russian hockey. In most of those tournaments I got to play against teams outside of our league such as Dynamo Moscow, Spartak Moscow, CSKA Moscow and even teams from outside of Russia. The most memorable tournament I participated in was the Tretiak Cup in Moscow where my team ended up getting bronze medal and received them by legendary goalie Vladislav Tretiak himself.

What does hockey mean to Russians, especially compared to other sports?

SALOV: Even though hockey in Russia is not a whole culture like it is in Canada, it’s a big part of life for many people. Hockey in Russia is growing as well. There are more teams and organizations and levels so more kids could participate in the sport.

Do you notice a difference between what skills are focused on in Canada vs. Russia?

SALOV: Both countries have different player development. In Canada, coaches focusing on skills separately and one at a time (skating, shooting, stickhandling). Russian hockey focuses more on physical strength at youth and minor hockey, especially that game is played on bigger ice surface. Canadian hockey is more physical and you can even find smallest guys go for hits.

The post What is Russian Minor Hockey Like? appeared first on Elite Level Hockey.

Categories
Hockey

From Russia With Love of Hockey

Hockey isn’t a one-country sport.

The universal love for the game has grown tremendously in the NHL’s 100+ years of existence, and even the furthest reaches of that love are reflected in the league’s player base.

Whether it’s Irish-born Owen Nolan, the NHL’s lone Australian Nathan Walker, or Leon Draisaitl, already the highest-scoring German to ever make The Show, beacons of the sport’s success can shine from around the world.

Despite hockey’s global exposure, however, opportunities within it have always been fairly localized. 

While the aforementioned players all come from different countries, none of them were drafted into the NHL without first appearing with a junior team in North America.

Russian Nikolai Salov, a 19-year-old forward currently with the GMHL’s North York Renegades, has taken a similar route, coming to Canada with plenty of talent and the dream of making the big leagues.

“It was a kind of sacrifice, because when I moved here I had to leave my house and most of my family behind, but it was worth pursuing my hockey career,” said Salov, who moved to Canada at just 15 years old. “The transition from Russia to Canada was definitely the biggest change in my life so far.

“I was nervous but at the same time very excited to start that new page, meet new people and career opportunities.”

Salov became enamored with the sport of hockey at age three after being taken to a World Championship game between Russia and Japan. His connection to the sport was instant, and that New Year’s Eve he was given his first pair of skates. A fan of Pavel Datsyuk and the Detroit Red Wings, a young Salov had early dreams of playing professionally for either the NHL or the KHL, but paved with hardship and constant tests the road there wouldn’t easy.

It’s true that Russian natives are no strangers to NHL stardom; with the country producing a number of elite players that could never see North American ice until they join the NHL, but these successes come off the back of rigorous competition and limited opportunities. Salov was first thrust into this competition at just six years old, battling for a spot on the only AAA team in his town of Nizhny Novgorod. 

“From a very young age we had to compete in order to be on the team, because there were many boys who played hockey but there was only one high level team in the area.”

As hard as it was to make the team, keeping up with expectations would prove to be even harder.

“The environment in Russian youth hockey is more harsh and competitive, where coaches want kids to fight for their spots on the team and ice time from a very young age,” said Salov, who played in his home country until 2017.

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He contrasts this to his experience since relocating to North America, where he’s found that while the play structure in Canada and Russia are similar, the mentality and approach to the players are worlds apart.

“The whole atmosphere in Canadian hockey is friendlier and warmer,” Salov said. “A lot of coaches, players and parents were very helpful when I was adapting to Canada my first years. I find coaches in Canada focus on a players’ development and also make it fun, which keeps it interesting for everyone.”

Canada’s warmer emotional environment and more positive-minded coaching have also led to better relationships between players, without the cloud of internal competition festering their feelings toward each other. 

“During my whole hockey career so far, I came across — or have been friends — with many players of different backgrounds and nationalities. Canadian players in youth hockey are a little more friendly, because the concept of competing for the spot and ice time is not as big up until junior hockey.”

An environment that its focussed on team success also has led to improved play. Since joining the Renegades during the 2018-19 season, Salov has blossomed, totalling 13 goals and eight assists across 37 games in his first full season (2019-20) and returning after a lost 2020-21 season to play above a point-per-game clip so far this season.

Salov’s journey to success in Canada doesn’t just involve hockey, though. The young prospect has had to put in his fair share of work outside the sport, including learning English to better adapt to North American life.

“My last few years living in Russia I was very focused on learning English, with a tutor couple times a week … 100 hours of English at high school in Canada (also) really helped me to adapt and learn about culture faster.”

Thousands of miles from home and away from most of his family, Salov has left a lot behind to chase his dream, but he’s hardly on an island.

Connecting Salov to his roots is teammate and fellow Russian Maxim Noskov, a 21-year-old defenseman also playing for the Renegades. The two didn’t meet before joining the Blyth Academy Warriors U18 team in Canada, but they became fast friends and a positive reminder of their shared origin. “

We didn’t know each other outside of Canada,” Solov said. “I moved here half a year earlier but we attended the same high school in Toronto and I helped him out to adapt a little …  me and Nos are pretty close friends.” 

The friendship between Salov and Noskov serves not only as a reminder of where both of them came from, but also how both of them got there, traveling across the world for a chance to someday set foot on hockey’s highest stage.

Like many others, Salov has dreams of playing professional hockey, and has shown he has the drive to chase that dream to the literal ends of the earth, changing his life and making sacrifice after sacrifice to make it possible.

While he isn’t alone in that dream or that drive, he’s found himself in the right place at the right time, with the right people and the right moves to achieve it.

The Renegades are off to a blistering start to their season in part thanks to Salov, and he’ll look to help them keep winning while doing his best along the way as he hopes to be the latest in a long line of nomads who tirelessly followed one path — the one to the NHL.

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