Skip to main content Blog: Coaching strategies I’d employ, if I was employed

The Hockey News

The Hockey News

Having never coached at any level of hockey, the chances of me getting an NHL job running the bench and stunning the world with these unorthodox strategies is diminishing every day.

So I may as well share them with the world now. If you’re an NHL coach reading these, feel free to use them and make them your own. I’d be flattered. No doubt they’re fraught with dangers and flaws that I’m not foreseeing. But I’d try them anyway.

Wood versus graphite sticks: Graphite sticks were supposed to give scorers an edge, but now that virtually every player uses them, goalies have easily adjusted to the increased velocity the puck travels after the shot is taken.

To compensate, I’d have all my players constantly switch from graphite sticks back to wood – shift to shift - over the course of the game. The opposing goalie wouldn’t know what’s coming. The howitzers he’s been used to the past few seasons or the slightly off-speed drives from the wood sticks.

Goalies are so good now (and still bulky), it may not make a difference. But maybe every once in a while the stopper overplays a shot coming his way, resulting in a goal.

Hug your opponent: My team is up by a goal and the game clock is down to 10 seconds or so with the play getting harried in our end. My team really, really needs this win. This strategy involves grabbing your nearest opponent and hugging him like you haven’t seen him in years.

The visual on this looks pretty ridiculous. Five guys bear-hugging the opponents. Ideally, the puck goes untouched, the seconds wind down and we win the game.

Worst-case scenario, the opponents struggle to free themselves of the hug, a couple seconds go by and the referees call us for a holding penalty. With the game clock at seven or eight seconds now, the puck drops to begin play in our zone. My center hugs his faceoff rival or grabs his stick. The puck sits there and my wingers are grabbing hold of their partners.

Maybe we get called for another penalty and the clock is now down to four or five seconds. Do the same thing again on the next faceoff. And again. What’s another penalty when we already have two men in the box?

Admittedly, this ploy is not in the spirit of fair play or sportsmanship. But if this is a critical game for my team and we’re scrambling in the final seconds, why not resort to desperate measures?

Rush the net: It’s the final five seconds of the first or second period and my team is pressing for a goal before the buzzer. As coach, I make sure my on-ice defensemen do a mental countdown and encourage them to charge towards the net at the count of five.

Best-case scenario, the puck squirts loose or there’s a rebound and a charging defenseman is there for a last-second scoring chance.

Worst-case scenario, with all five of my skaters hovering near the crease, the puck is dumped or skated out on a counter-attack. But with just seconds left, the breakaway or 2-on-none or 3-on-none is halted by the buzzer before a reasonable shot is made.

Too often – all the time, in fact – you’ll see the attacking defensemen patrolling their spots on the point out of duty with the clock dying. Why not make them forwards for the final few seconds of the period?

Brian Costello is The Hockey News’s senior special editions editor and a regular contributor to You can read his Top 10 list on Wednesdays and his blog each weekend.

For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.


Matthew Savoie

THN On The 'Dub': Sabres Prospects in the WHL and WJC Camp

Carol Schram and Lizz Child discuss Canada's world juniors camp roster, Buffalo Sabres prospects, big WHL trades, Connor Bedard and more.

Marie-Philip Poulin

'Pretty Special': Marie-Philip Poulin Named Canada’s Top Athlete

Marie-Philip Poulin is the first women's hockey player to win the Northern Star Award as Canada's athlete of the year.

Sam Poulin

Penguins' Sam Poulin Taking Leave of Absence for Personal Reasons

The Pittsburgh Penguins announced that forward prospect Sam Poulin will be taking a leave of absence from the organization for personal reasons.