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USA Hockey Symposium

I attended USA Hockey's "American Development Model" on Friday night, because my personal life is just that exciting. NTDP U-17 assistant and former Yale head coach Tim Taylor gave a Powerpoint presentation describing USA hockey's views on developing players. I took down some notes on what he had to say.

He started out talking about the NTDP program a little bit. He said USA Hockey's goals for the NTDP were the following: 1. Have the NTDP trickle down to other areas of USA Hockey. 2. Have alumni go on to make an impact in college and the NHL and 3. Instill a sense of pride in wearing the USA jersey.

I thought the first point was particularly interesting. One of the big complaints about the NTDP program is that so many resources go to so few players and it doesn't do much for everybody else. Taylor never really explained how the NTDP team's success trickles down to other areas of USA Hockey, and I'm not sure that it does.

After that, more description on some of the basics of the program: Housing, academics, training, and schedule. And then a slide full of stats from top players who have moved on to college and the NHL.

The next section was on "The Path to Success" with some common building blocks to athlete's success. Those were:
-Be coachable
-Focus on the process
-Training and athleticism--Play other sports, train fast, off-ice skill development
-Hockey sense
-Passion
-Character
-Be prepared
-Be selfless
-Be energy wise
-Be accountable
-Be an American for life

The next section went about defining what Taylor called "The Process". He emphasized that there is no "right" path or "perfect" timeline in terms of player development. He advised that players should never burn bridges and keep every option open. He said that player's shouldn't give up their NCAA eligibility unless they are absolutely 100% certain that they don't want to go to college, since the average pro hockey career is over at age 27 and there is a lot of life after that.

After that, he stressed "staying within the system" and not getting frustrated if you get passed over for a national camp or national team. He also went over "being an American for life" and always taking the opportunity to wear a Team USA jersey if given the opportunity.

That part is probably particularly poignant this year. Last summer, a number of players passed on opportunities to play for the NTDP, but with a very deep birth year, it was no huge deal. There were more than enough good players and they've put together a pretty nice team. The talent pool among the '93s, however, looks much shallower, and they'll probably need every good player they can find to be on the NTDP next year.

And finally, he focused on some things that he felt weren't important for players to worry about. Those included:

-Playing hockey year-round
-Agents and exposure camps
-"Entitlement culture"
-Draft lists and rankings-He mentioned players deciding to switch teams based on where they were ranked on the Red Line Report
-Personal trainers

Obviously the agents and entitlement culture have been problems for the NTDP program in the past. Overall, not terrible advice, though I'd probably disagree with lumping all agents into the bad category.

The key points to take away from the lecture was about following the path, and staying within the USA Hockey system. Pretty much what you'd expect from USA Hockey, and the merits of which can be debated. It definitely was more pro-NCAA, as you'd expect, but at least recognized that there were other options out there if that's a better fit for players.