Can Hockey Skills Be Taught – Continued
As I wrote in the last Blog the success of Yasha Smuskin’s “Russian Skills” hockey spawned a new growth industry. Smuskin opened his school in Toronto in 1975. There was huge demand from parents to find a way to improve the skills of their children to give them an advantage. I was there during that time and watched new hockey schools spring up on a weekly basis. There are so many hockey training schools in the Toronto Area today; it’s truly amazing.
It’s generally accepted that Canadians invented the inception of the game that is recognized as ice hockey today. Probably as a result of our “frozen north” winter climate. The popularity of hockey took off and to this day it is one of the ways that Canadians define themselves. Since Canadians don’t have all that much to hang on to in order to define what we’re all about; I think we cling to hockey with a maniacal fervor for fear of losing an important part of our identity.
For decades Canadians were dominant in hockey and considered the best in the world. In the early days Canadian teams could not be beaten. I believe also that you have to understand early origins of life in Canada. Canada had fishing on the east and west coasts, mining in Ontario, Quebec and Manitoba. Forestry in Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia and farming in the prairie provinces as well as southern Ontario and Quebec. These are tough lifestyles where only the strong survive and without determination and a strong will; you just won’t make it. Now take young men with a background rooted in these lifestyles and with a bit of hockey skill; good luck trying to beat them.
For the vast majority of the history of hockey in Canada there was no such thing as technical skills development. It was just the natural process of the cream rising to the top. Developing hockey skills was just by osmosis and as in any competitive endeavor; some will develop and progress while those that cannot fall by the wayside.
Remember also; as I wrote in a previous blog about hockey in Canada, from the highest professional levels of the game to the rudimentary house league level, the emphasis has never really been on the creation of excellence with the specific goal of developing the best hockey players as well as the best hockey coaches, but more about personal selfish goals of the people in control.
So Who Was Initially Responsible For Technical Hockey Skills Development?
Well it was the Soviet Union. After World War Two; while Canadians still were dominating winning in the hockey world and those in control were lining their pockets, the Soviet began to look for a way to prove the superiority of their political / economic system. This, by the way, was not a novel idea. Just think about Hitler and Germany in the 1936 Munich Olympics.
The Way I See It
Not long after the end of World War II, the “Cold War” era began between the western democratic countries and the new Soviet Union. In that struggle to secure greater world dominance and influence the Soviet Union initiated a specific plan to show the world the “superiority” of their system by winning at the Olympics.
To accomplish this their focus was singular on winning gold medals. With that goal in mind they set out to do what ever it took to develop the most highly skilled hockey players as well as the most highly skilled trainers and coaches. They even included a comprehensive sports program into their school system with significant time and coaching resources devoted to this program. They went to the extent to have so-called experts put young students though a series of physical exercises and based on the evaluation of their performance the students were streamed into specific sporting activities in order that the students would be trained in those activities in which they could experience the best results.
In those days, participation in the Olympics were open to “amateur” athletes only. To get around this Soviet hockey players were interestingly somehow all in the army. This made them professional soldiers but still amateur hockey players. This resulted in considerable success for the Soviet hockey team with the following results starting from 1956 through to 2002 during which time there were 10 winter Olympics held: 5 gold medals, 2 silver medals and 2 bronze medals. Now remember that the winter Olympics are held every 4 years so this is a very dominant and impressive record. Professional hockey players were not fully allow to participate in Olympic hockey until 1988. Since that time Russia has won only 1 silver medal and 1 bronze medal.
So it was the former Soviet Union (Russians) that pioneered the development of the science and art of the specific body movements and skills related to skating and handling a puck while skating and the training methods to produce the best hockey players. The goal was very specific; to win at the Olympics. Also, with that in mind they there’s now question they worked to develop the best hockey coaches and strategies of the play of the game.
Meanwhile in Canada and The United States the goal was the fulfillment of the personal goals of those in power which for the most part was the making of money.
Yes – Hockey Skills Can Be Taught
The Soviets Led The Way
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