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What Bob McKenzie Loved About Coaching Minor Hockey

By Dan Pollard, 12/18/19, 1:30PM EST


TSN Hockey Insider reflects on his time behind the bench

Bob McKenzie has seen and done it all in the hockey world. Now a respected TSN Hockey Insider with over 35 years of experience, McKenzie rewound the clock and took a look back at how the game has changed since he was a minor hockey parent and coach in the OMHA.

“I loved everything about coaching. I loved preparing for the practices and running the practices. I loved the camaraderie of the coaching staff. Working with the kids. Anyone will tell you, next to playing, coaching is the best thing because you’re at ice level,” said McKenzie, speaking at The Coaches Site Conference. “There’s wins, there’s losses, it’s competitive. It gets the adrenaline going. There’s so many ways to measure your success. You can see the improvement in the kids. It is so challenging and so rewarding yet it is so frustrating but that’s part of the challenge of it and I loved all of it.”

McKenzie believes the game has changed for the better since then. Coaches have positively adjusted their styles to match how kids learn in today’s world. However, the focus still remains on creating programs that are community based. Many of the players on McKenzie’s teams played lacrosse together in the summer and spent the majority of their time in minor hockey on the same team.

The best thing McKenzie said he ever did as a coach was take the advice to start the practice with something fun. Players had two instructions in these small area games or stations – be creative and have fun.

“What it made me realize was that there’s no better warmup. These kids would get in an absolute lather - physically, emotionally, mentally after four or five minutes of playing this game, they were totally engaged in what you were going to do. They were thrilled to be at practice and ready to work hard. We always have to keep finding ways where there is a little more fun.”

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There are some OHL coaches who play music during game-day skates where players don’t need to be listening to instruction. He compares it to exercising. Would you rather run or ride a bike without your headphones? It may be okay for the first few minutes but the music can keep you engaged and moving.

He stresses remembering why the kids play. As a coach, you need to take a hard look and see if you are part of the problem or the solution. You can still teach and develop players but finding ways to have it be fun is what matters most to the players.


Dan Pollard is the host of Breakaway, The Minor Hockey Podcast. His passion for hockey led him to volunteer as a coach and administrator while his professional career has allowed him to cover the game at various levels with CBC, Sportsnet, the NHL Network and TSN. You can currently hear Dan every morning on 105.5 Hits FM in Uxbridge.

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