Due to my coaching duties in the AIHL for the past few years, I have not had the opportunity to attend a Ginsberg tournament for some time. So, I was thrilled to be able to attend this past weekend and see first hand how our pee wee aged players were tracking from a development perspective. What a great weekend!
First of all, it was wonderful to connect once again with kids, coaches and parents who have been to development camp or the McCrae jamboree. For the most part, hockey people really are the best people in the world. It was also wonderful to watch some fantastic hockey.
My recollection from previous Ginsberg tournaments was that 1 or 2 kids dominated because they were simply better skaters than the rest of the kids. Passing was not required, just dangle your way down the ice and score. I was pleased to see that this is no longer the case. This year, the skill level, skating ability and positional play (well done coaches) was such that the end to end rush did not work. Team play was required to win at this tournament and team play was what I witnessed. There was no question that the teams in the medal round this year were the 4 best teams in terms of team tactics and passing – and any one of the 4 could have won the gold medal. It has been quite a while since I have seen a pee wee player pass a puck BACK to a defenceman to maintain puck control (in fact, I rarely see this in the AIHL), but this tactic occurred frequently this past weekend. It has also been some time since I saw pee wee aged players support the puck vertically and horizontally to provide the puck carrier multiple options – again a frequent occurrence. I was thrilled to see excellent forechecking, backchecking with a purpose, defensive zone coverage, regroups and counter attacks. I made the comment to numerous people this weekend that we could have just as easily been watching a pee wee tournament in Calgary or Helsinki – the hockey was just that good.
As IHA Director for Player Development, I am ecstatic with what I saw this weekend. Congratulations to WA for taking home the gold this weekend, but thank you to ALL the players and coaches for the grin on my face.
Yours in Hockey
Ryan O’Handley, National Player Development Director