From The Gazette

Kirkland

With the Coach: Joe Arena

Joe Arena, who still plays 3-on-3 seniors hockey every Wednesday morning in Kirkland, says a love of the game and the chance to encourage his son led him to begin coaching, starting at the novice level.

How did you start coaching?

Arena: When (my son) first started, he didn’t want to play too much hockey. So, when he actually decided to do it, I thought it would motivate him to actually have me as a coach to push him and guide him. We’ve picked it up and we’ve been together ever since.

At first, what was the toughest part of coaching?

Arena: It’s very time consuming in terms of ice time, games, practices and all that stuff. And dealing with parents at novice. That’s when they start playing and a lot of parents think their kid is Sidney Crosby and that’s when you start having to deal with different characters. As a head coach, it’s tough at the beginning because you have to try to accommodate everyone but also understand each one’s character. It takes time, but once you get to know them, it works out accordingly. Kids at that age, novice, everything you say they absorb. The kids are very easy going. They’re very excited to do it.

What is your coaching philosophy?

Arena: One is they have to have fun. They should want to be there. The second thing is to develop certain skills and to understand the game more. Not to just drop the puck and try to score. It’s really starting to understand certain structures; how to get the puck out of the zone, playing offensively, defensively. To establish their position and not running around the ice.

Take us through a typical practice.

Arena: Practices are about an hour. We warm up for a few minutes, stop-and-gos to get the heart rate going. Then we start setting up our drills. Most drills are set up from past games. So we look at what happened in prior games and we try to correct things. For example, if we notice the passing game is not that accurate, we’ll work on the passing aspect of it.

Best part of coaching?

Arena: Win or lose, it doesn’t matter. When you teach something at practice and you see it develop and they start doing it in a game, that’s the best reward.

When should body checking be introduced in minor hockey?

Arena: In single letters (bantam) they are allowed to use their bodies to stop the progress of an opponent, rub against him to slow him down, but they can’t actually hit. In double letters they are allowed to hit.

Honestly, I don’t mind the checking, whether it’s peewee or bantam, it doesn’t change the aspect of the game. Basically, what Hockey Quebec should do is to mandate that prior to the season starting, get everyone involved and give them a two-week clinic for every level. You bring the kids in and you start teaching them this is what is correct, how to hit, this is not the correct way to hit. In first-year bantam they don’t know checking except what they see in the NHL.

To see photos from Sunday’s game between the Knights and Marquis, click here.

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