Hockey Talk

Hilary Knight’s Light Shines On and Off the Ice

Hilary Knight, Team USA, Ice Hockey, Forward, Olympic Gold Medalist
Hilary Knight

Hilary Knight led the fight for equality when Team USA threatened to boycott the 2018 Olympic Games and that victory means more to her than medals

Hockey Talk, hosted by Shannon Miller, is sponsored by IN STAT.

Podcast length: 57′ 33″

On this episode Shannon discusses team leadership, the purpose of team rules, creating a championship culture, recruiting tips and her Drill of the Week – Constant motion in the OZ.  Her sidebar this week is a shout-out to:  Billie Jean King for her Battle of the Sexes – Courage – Role Modeling – Title IX – Equality/Fair Treatment.  Shannon’s guest is Hilary Knight, a member of the 2018 gold medal winning hockey team, Team USA, a long time member of Team USA and leader of the boycott against USA hockey for equal pay and fair treatment before the 2017 World Championships being hosted in the USA which was a historical standoff in which the women won….which means we all win.

LISTEN to more episodes of Hockey Talk HERE

Visit Shannon’s Facebook page for the Drill of the Week.

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Calgary Inferno website

Hilary Knight on FacebookTwitter  |  Instagram

Notes about this episode:

  • On my last episode I talked about after ‘team selection’, taking your time, allowing the team to settle in and gel, before deciding on the C and AC.
  • I recommend assigning different tasks to different people early in the season – let many people step up and lead in minor day to day situations – allow the group to get used to different people stepping up at different times.
  • This approach creates an environment for leaders to emerge, but also for the players to see different people in that role.
  • Each season brings changes. Each season there are changes within the team that may change the team dynamic and leadership situation.
  • Be patient in the process, encourage many to lead, and take your time before starting the process of selecting the C & AC.
  • It’s a real honor to be chosen as C, and a lot of responsibility.
  • I also believe that if you have a group of strong leaders – say 5 or 6 – you can put together a leadership group. This group may be the 3 people chosen as C & AC , plus 2 or 3 others.
  • Not always, but some years I identity a group of 6 leaders within the team, and we call this group the “6 pack.”
  • Fun tag name – or you can be more formal and call it the “leadership council”
  • This group discusses team issues, and often handles them internally – they discuss team rules and are very involved in setting team rules with the team and coaches.
  • This group has real decision-making power and responsibility.
  • As coaches, we want leaders to lead.

Team Rules

  • Make team rules together
  • Rules should be tough but sensible
  • Rules should help establish discipline within the team, help set the tone and expectations for the team.
  • This structure will help a team stay focused, create a more professional environment, and hold people accountable.
  • Tough rules are a good way to quickly find out who is committed and who is not.
  • We set rules, we follow them – and then our focus can be on self-development, team development and the opponent –  vs team problems and team drama.

Through the course of this season, and on my show, I will weave in pieces of how to build a Championship Team. For today, I’d like to share these points with you:

  • Create the environment you want and provide the necessary direction for players to be the best they can be.
  • Very important to establish team culture and accountability.
  • While establishing the team culture, it’s important for coaches to be firm, but also to be fair.
  • Each day you prepare for a practice, a video session, a team meeting or a game….you are attempting to build champions.
  • You methodically lay out a foundation, and you responsibly build on it. It’s a long and patient process that you take one step at a time.
  • Coaches and players must be INTERCONNECTED, must push each other to be the best we can be and must be able to count on each other. This takes time and trust.
  • Trust can develop if everyone is authentic – honest and real.
  • Coaches & players – Be authentic – authenticity takes courage, but is necessary to build a championship team.
  • Authenticity leads to strong relationships – truth and honor – respect and support.
  • For years, my foundation with my team was simply – Open, Honest and Accepting. Open and accepting to all that are on the team, of everyone – our differences – our diversity – our team rules – team goals – and accepting of our assigned roles. Honest – be authentic, speak honestly, be true to self, be true to your teammates. This was our foundation to build on.  This approach most often created an atmosphere of growth and trust.
  • Excellence is key – high expectations, clear expectations, and insistence on excellence.
  • Coaches must challenge the players daily. Players want to be challenged – they want to rise up and be the best they can be.  
  • And for those that do not – eliminate those players that are not motivated or buying in to what’s best for the team – and the best motivation is the bench.

SIDE BAR – Shout Out to Billie Jean King….

RECRUITING (listener request)

  • Will touch on recruiting today – but like all topics we will discuss on this podcast, we will weave them in throughout the course of the season.
  • Important tip – recruit skill and offense – teach defense.
  • Do your best to get to know the recruits at the human level, so you can recruit the people that will best suit your team culture and team goals.
  • This requires extensive conversations in person and/or over the phone (not email). Ask the hard questions. Design questions that get through one layer at a time so you can truly get to know them as a person and an athlete.
  • Once you recruit someone, it’s a long relationship, and you want it to be a good one. Unfortunately, no matter how hard we work at it, and having good intentions, it doesn’t always work out.
  • It’s very important to understand the athlete’s goals as you recruit them. If their goals are unrealistic, their expectations of playing time, their role on your team, etc….may be unrealistic too…..leads to long term problems and often separation.
  • Be honest with recruits – your laying a foundation for your relationship – your also role modeling for them – this makes for a potentially long and strong relationship.

Now let’s talk some more X’s & O’s of hockey. On episode 1 I talked about Offensive Team Play – being creative, eliminating limitations on players – letting them be interchangeable, use the ice and use everybody.  Encouraging confidence – possession of the puck vs dump and chase. Let’s expand on that offensive conversation…..

OZ Team Play

  • I love 4 attackers.
  • I love allowing players to be interchangeable, to use each other and to use all of the ice
  • I encourage players to play with confidence, trust their instincts and erase limitations that they have been taught.
  • Offensively – attack w speed, and attempt  to score on the direct attack…but if you cannot take the puck to the net, delay, keep possession, feet moving, eyes up and make a good play.
  • Once you delay, and still have possession, find the second wave of the attack and make a good pass to set up a potential scoring opportunity. Take pride in that patience and pass.
  • You can potentially hit the third wave of the attack (X5).
  • Start with simply attacking w speed and using 4 attackers if you can.
  • It may be 3 driving the net, a 4th attacker as the second wave, and the 5th attacker high middle for support.
  • It might be 2 attacking the net, 2 more coming in behind as the second wave, and X5 coming in last, high middle.
  • Players can attack the net, or delay and hit the second wave, or delay, cycle and change the point of attack.
  • By cycling and changing the point of attack, you are using the width of the ice (E to W). Now you can go low to high, D jumping in for a quick strike (N to S)
  • A quality offensive attack requires speed, confidence with the puck and good decision making – feet moving, eyes, up and using the width and depth of the ice.


  • I MADE UP A DRILL and called it CM – it’s simply 5 v 3 in the OZ with lots of good “rules to play by”
  • CM is posted as my DRILL OF THE WEEK – go to my FB page, to check it out.
  • CM is about keeping your feet moving, keeping the puck alive, not getting pinned, being interchangeable, sharing the puck, playing with confidence, using the ice and using everybody.
  • Keep the puck moving, and move the puck quicker than the goalie and defensive team can adjust.
  • This style of play creates intense offensive pressure and it’s fun.







Photo: Hilary Knight, Team USA

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