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Clinic

Ian Clark's On Hockey: Monarchs' Mark Morris coaches the coaches


MANCHESTER -- CLASS was in session at Verizon Wireless Arena Monday night.

Manchester Monarchs head coach Mark Morris, assistant coach Freddy Meyer, director of hockey operations Hubie McDonough, video coordinator Matt Lane and a handful of Monarchs players teamed up for a coaches clinic.

Approximately 50 coaches turned out for the clinic, which featured an hour of tips from Morris and 45 minutes of on-ice demonstrations of drills. Coaches also received a 70-page book detailing drills and words of wisdom coach Morris has picked up through the years.

“It’s good to come in and see what the pros are doing in practice and see if there is anything useful that we can bring back and use with the kids,” said Jim LaRiviere, who coaches an Intro to Mites class. “They work on a lot of fundamentals still and it was nice to see the drills in action.”

For Morris, who has coached at the prep school, college and professional levels, it’s an opportunity to pass along what he’s picked up over his career.

“I just like to share the things I’ve learned over time and things that are meaningful to me as a coach,” Morris said. “All those things we discussed here make the game fun and if we can get guys to appreciate and understand that hockey does not need to be a real complicated thing. If you come in prepared as a coach, the players are going to know it and it’s going to make the game more enjoyable. We really want to simplify things so players, coaches and parents all enjoy the game and help grow the game for future generations.”

The coaches in attendance ran the gamut from mite to the high school level. Fundamentals are still stressed at the pro level and another aspect that doesn’t change no matter the age is learning how to reach the modern player.

Distractions such as smart phones and video games are there for young players and the pros alike.

“Coach Morris mentioned that kids are quieter and you have to find different ways to reach them and motivate them. It was nice to hear that because you wonder how as a coach to handle that,” said Dan Belliveau, head coach of NHIAA Division III state champion Souhegan. “There are more distractions out there now with the social media and the different tech things they can do. They’re not rocking the bus on the way to the game like it used to be. Back in our (playing) days we’d be singing songs and rocking the bus all the way to the arena.”

How to prepare for practices and games has also changed with the advancement of technology and the approach to conditioning.

“It’s grown immensely,” Morris said. “Our workouts were laughable when I started. We barely had enough room to work out and guys were more concerned about where they were going after practice. Now, it’s a way of life. Our guys are well-schooled in all the little routines you have to do in order to reach the highest levels. Practices, we used to make up by using our imagination. There’s a lot more technical aspects to the game now with video and scouting.”

At the end of the day, no matter the age level, hockey is hockey and many of the coaches at the clinic found that watching the on-ice drills performed by Monarchs players was a nice bonus.

“I had gone to a UMass-Lowell event similar to this, but they didn’t have any on-ice instruction,” said Alan Hamer, an assistant with Belliveau at Souhegan. “So it was nice to see the players actually conducting the drills they were going over. The visual aid was great.”

Morris went over offensive and defensive philosophies as well, but the main message was that coaching at all levels remains about motivating the players and keeping them focused on learning good habits.

Even with his Monarchs, Morris is preaching the same things as coaches at the other levels. Stay in an athletic posture, skate hard and keep your stick on the ice.

“We’re listening to coach Morris in the AHL and some of the concepts and basics of the game that he’s talking about hits home with us in high school and even at the younger levels,” Belliveau said. “It’s nice to have that association with it. It’s nice for them to reach out to the coaches in the community.”

Ian Clark covers pro hockey for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. His email address is iclark@unionleader.com.

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