Two Kanata hockey teams are taking a big brother approach to the sport.
The Kanata Kapitals peewee A team is partnering with the Kanata Bolts novice C team to hone their on-ice skills.
Rob Nino, assistant coach for the Kapitals and head coach for the Bolts, came up with the concept after a few months working the benches for the two teams. The two teams were set to come together on Friday, Dec. 21 at the Goulbourn Recreation Complex in Stittsville.
“We’re going to have each novice kid assigned a peewee player,” he said. “Now you have to take ownership on teaching a drill to a younger player … They’re going to be motivated, hanging on every word.”
Eighteen peewee players, ages 11 and 12, and 18 novices, ages 7 and 8, were set to participate.
Aside from the experience the players will receive, it’s also a chance for the coaches to mingle and learn from each other.
“In novice C, or in the less experienced or less talent levels, it’s really hard to find parents to volunteer,” said Nino.
Many of the parents know hockey; they understand the game, but coaching is different. Coaches have to be able to break down the drills into steps, he added.
“They may not understand coaching,” said Nino. “Quite often, we put our best of the best coaching (at) higher levels when really they should be coaching at the lower levels where (the players) need the experience and encouragement,” said Nino.
This year, six veteran coaches have been assigned to novice teams to instruct the players and mentor the parents.
“We’ve taken the initiative this year,” said Nino. “Not only to coach the novice kids but make it fun and easy for the new parent coaches.
“Moms and dads and coaches get to meet other people. And it’s Christmas too; it’s perfect. I feel like Santa Claus.”
Every peewee player was assigned a novice skater and to one of two teams, either Team White or Team Blue, on Dec. 21. The teams were given a separate locker room, with pre-assigned stalls for each buddy team.
“The novice kids are going to get to experience what the big guys do,” said Nino.
From there, the practice will include lane skating and about four drills. Peewee players will be responsible for teaching their novice buddy how to complete each skill.
“One of the challenges in novice is swarm hockey … they swarm to the puck,” said Nino. “The theme of the practice plan is He Shoots, He Scores. Every drill we’re putting together (has) a shooting theme and a puck-handling theme.”
Players will practice their puck-weaving skills and shooting on the goalie, how to “push” the puck up open ice, stick-handling around tightly-placed cones, and how to effectively pass the puck back and forth.
“The fun stuff for the kids is when they get a puck on their stick,” said Nino.
After that, the teams will break for two half-ice scrimmages where they can put the drills into action.
“I’m looking forward to it as a coach. These guys are going to have a better understanding of just how challenging it is to break down a skill,” said Nino about the peewee players.
Every novice player will be presented with a hockey pin during a blue-line presentation after the scrimmage.
“Each novice will get a badge of honour,” said Nino.
Representatives from the Kanata Minor Hockey Association were set to attend the practice to watch how the buddy system worked for the two teams.
“We’re thinking this could become a regular program,” said Nino. “The whole mentoring program could take off.
“I'm really confident that it’s going to work.”