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Puck pedigree: Jasper Minor focusing on player development through coaching

by Evan Matthews |

Though Jasper Minor Hockey is an organization many locals are familiar with, the attention it gives to player development may surprise you.

A director with Jasper Minor Hockey, Chuck Barker says the organization will periodically bring in Mike McGinnis, a regional consultant for Hockey Alberta. The goal is for McGinnis to come in and help improve player development through coach development.

“This coaching clinic focused on small area games, and effective practice planning,” says Barker, a coach of 22 years. “The kids really like those because they touch the puck more… It’s not just me at the front telling them what to do, they have to play, read and react.”

Hockey Alberta works closely with Hockey Canada and has a small partnership with the Edmonton Oilers, according to McGinnis. Part of Hockey Alberta’s mandate is to work with minor hockey associations and provide new resources and training.

Having spent almost 15 years involved in various capacities with the Saskatchewan and Alberta Minor Hockey systems, McGinnis specializes in training coaches for hockey skills, high performance and development coaching, according to his bio. He also works with the Oilers apart from his role with Hockey Alberta.

With the resources and connections available through various roles, and his years of hockey pedigree, McGinnis has a lot to offer Jasper coaches.

“We get to see what’s happening at the highest level, and we try to show coaches at age-appropriate levels. We show video of Connor McDavid, who is arguably the best skater in the world right now. We’ll look at it at and say to Midget coaches, ‘Look at the under-push in the crossover.’ We can show coaches how to perfect those drills,” says McGinnis. “But we can break the same (film) clip down for coaches of initiation age level players, and say, ‘Here are the basics of a crossover.’ Something as simple as putting a pool noodle on the ice and having players stand stationary, stepping over it.”

Of late, McGinnis says a focus for Alberta Hockey has been to incorporate data into practices. Maximizing practice time and efficiency becomes easier when more information is available.

McGinnis has been tracking how much time individual players are skating versus standing in line or listening to the coach talk, for example.

Getting kids more repetitions shooting pucks, making passes and stickhandling will exponentially improve a player’s skills during their minor hockey years, according to McGinnis.

“What would be your guess as to how much time they spend skating versus standing?” asked McGinnis. “I haven’t found… (An individual player) skating for more than 12 minutes in a practice.”

He described Jasper Minor Hockey as a progressive association, and Barker and his staff have already picked up a lot of the teachings over the years.

“The association is in good hands here,” he says.

Barker says it’s as simple as love for the game.

“We’re not looking for future NHLers, we’re looking for kids to play hockey and play it as a lifetime sport. It isn’t just about developing players, but people,” he said, quoting Canadian coaching legend Mike Babcock.

“Even though we’re a small community, we have a lot of hockey minds.”

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