Hockey Talk

Dare to Take the Lead and Fly

Gina Kingsbury, Team Canada, Ice Hockey
Gina Kingsbury

Coach Miller encourages players to think outside the box, to be bold and take the initiative, to not follow the trend but set a new one which may mean developing new offensive and defensive tactics

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

Podcast length: 30′ 31″

On this week’s episode Coach Shannon Miller shares her philosophy on daring to take the lead and initiate the offensive game, not to be stuck in old habits of previous match play strategies. She says: “Do your best to escape the gravitational pull of what everyone else is doing, to consider something different than what has been modeled to you in the past.” Thinking outside the box encourages creativity and promotes courage and is important to advancing the game and shifting the paradigm.  Shannon also shares her strategy on important defensive concepts while defending a 1 or 2 goal lead late in the period or game.   More notes below. 

Gina Kingsbury, Ice Hockey, Team Canada


Shannon’s guest this week is the newly appointed General Manager of the Canadian Women’s Hockey Team Gina Kingsbury. Gina was a former Assistant Coach to Shannon at UMD.


LISTEN to more episodes of Hockey Talk HERE

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




Shannon’s website

Shannon on Twitter  |  Instagram

Calgary Inferno on   Facebook  |   Twitter 

Calgary Inferno website

Gina Kingsbury bio

Gina’s Career Highlights:

World Championship Results:

Silver 2008 (Harbin, CHN)
Silver 2007 (Winnipeg/Selkirk, CAN)
Gold 2005 (Linkoping, SWE)
Silver 2004 (Halifax, CAN)
Gold 2001 (Minneapolis, USA)


A friend of mine recently said: “Old ways won’t open new doors” and I totally agree.

* How does that relate to hockey? Well, I believe in learning from old models, training off the good of old models, but CREATING new innovative ways to do things.  All things.

* The Wright brothers – Orville and Wilbur Wright — invented the airplane.

Imagine how creative their minds must have been — how they must have worked and worked and tweaked and tweaked their vision — their dream of flying.

The wind — it is invisible — but yet so powerful that it can turn over cars, knock down buildings and create Tsunamis.

IMAGINE how many “nay-sayers” there were, when the Wright brothers said they saw a new possibility, when they unleashed their creative and innovative vision of flying.  Imagine all the people that criticized it,  were jealous of it, and then all the people that maybe believed it was possible and a good thing, but didn’t have the courage to say so publicly.

  • The Wright Brothers defied the laws of gravity, discovered new laws & principles, and created a paradigm shift. 
  • Innovative, brave — changed the way we travel —  took something that was believed to be improbable and created something that became a new normal in our lives. Travel by airplane.

To relate this to hockey – I believe in Courageous and Creative Offense – a dynamic and highly offensive style of play.  The style I like has tremendous defensive pressure, which when done well, puts you on offense.

This style of play creates defensive and offensive pressure – speed and possession.

  • I coach – use the ice, use everyone. Playing this style of play is high energy, creative, allows freedom, and it’s entertaining and fun. This style of play allows flow, it cultivates players to move into space rather than play a position. 
  • This style of play is DYNAMIC and allows players to expand beyond their traditional limitations.
  • Remove limitations. Create a state of FREEDOM for players. Allow players to trust their instincts, to take calculated risks, to be creative and to have fun. Re-think the game.
  • Disciplined, strong defensive play puts you on offense. Defensive play has to be the foundation. So, create a solid foundation, BUT strive to have the most powerful offensive attack possible.
  • Overcome the inherent fear of leaving the safety of solid ground behind.
  • Move away from old, predictable patterns, and embark on a new, creative journey — a journey of defying gravity, like the Wright Brothers did – taking risks and establishing new norms.
  • It takes a little courage to be different, to veer of the path of “normal”, to create your own style of how you play the game or live your life. I encourage you to find that courage and do it.
  • When we do it, things change for the better. We changed for the better. We grow, we create growth for others, we create growth for the game, or the business.
  • What is cutting edge eventually becomes the new normal.  Everyone eventually does it.

Do your best to escape the gravitational pull of what everyone else is doing, to consider something different than what has been modeled to you in the past. 

Yes, we have learned from those that came before us — we have modeled some of what we do after them – BUT now maybe it’s time to step away from what has been modeled, to have the confidence in yourself, your knowledge and your vision to think outside the box, be innovative and create your own. 

* Sometimes, something that seems unlikely or risky to others, becomes the new reality, because one person or a few, dared to be different which eventually created the new norm.

* Start with a vision of what you want, dare to be different, and build it piece by piece until you have something remarkable. It doesn’t matter if you’re a coach or a businessperson, if you are 35 years of age or 65 — create ways to advance beyond your present wingspan.

* If you chose to operate in old ways, to adhere to gravity, to stay on the ground, there is little hope that you will advance greatly. Greatly being the key word.

I humbly encourage you to use your imagination, think outside the box, be cutting edge – it will be fun — you and all involved will out grow your present wingspan – and eventually it may become the new normal.  Like flying in an airplane is to all of us. 

Side BarParable of the Giraffe and the Turtle
The giraffe is an amazing animal – their necks are 9’ long, but yet they born short, stubby and small so they can fit through the birth canal of their mother. The Giraffe grows a lot after they are born, and they grow up eating from the tops of trees. With their long necks they stand tall, have a strong clear vision with a great view and they live their life at that level.

Now, Giraffe’s operate in the same space as the turtle. The turtle, as cute as it may be, cannot see above the grass. The turtle eats at its own level, lives at its own level, and that’s all it can see and all that it knows. The turtle creates its perspective from that level. The Giraffe creates its own perspective from a higher level with a better view. So don’t let the comments from the turtles bring your vision down – be a giraffe – stay up at the level you are supposed to be at – the level you see at and live at – hold your head high – allow the turtle to have their own view, without it affecting yours.

The giraffe has a big head and a 25 lb heart. The heart is strong to pump blood and oxygen all the way up to the giraffe’s head, so it can think at that level, see at that level and live at that height. The cute turtle has a small head and small heart, which is all that is required for it to live at its own level. When a giraffe drops its large head and long neck low to the ground, where the turtle is, it can be down there to graze for no longer than 30 seconds.  After 30 seconds, the oxygen gets cut off to the giraffe’s brain, and it passes out. The giraffe is designed to stand tall, have a great vision, eat from the tops of the trees, and live life at that level. Be a giraffe, the view is amazing.

Important Defensive Concepts while defending a 1 or 2 goal lead late in the period or game:

Defensive Zone

  • Always take the body, 2nd in quick for possession.
  • Always come off your check on defensive side, protecting the lane to the net, and boxing out.
  • Let the goalie see the shot! Tie up hands and stick of your check.
  • Get to rebounds first, and go!
  • Under pressure, an aggressive fore check or pinching defense, chip the puck and go!
  • Double chip the puck into the neutral zone, gain the red line and get the puck deep.

Neutral Zone

  • Move the puck to the outside lane for offensive zone entry.
  • Under pressure at the red line or offensive zone blue line, get the puck deep. This eliminates the threat of a turnover and is a safe, smart play.
  • Make sure you gain the red line before dumping to avoid icing calls.

Offensive Zone

  • Work the puck deep in the zone, and do not move the puck to the point unless 100% sure the passing lane is there/wide open/no high pressure.
  • Keep a high forward on the attack.
  • Defense do not pinch. Retreat and defend the rush…but stay “up” and pressure before the defensive blue line.

Play hard and smart to protect your lead.

DRILL OF THE WEEK: Since in today’s podcast I talked about being creative, this weeks drill will be a creative play in the OZ called “Decoy Give & Go”.

  • Coaches — what we do matters. Preparation — Discipline — Motivation — all details and they all matter.
  • Have high expectations for yourself, your staff and your athletes.

Push yourself out of your comfort zone. Push the athletes at times — push them out of their comfort zones — make them uncomfortable.

Athletes need to reach, to stretch, but to know what they are reaching for.

* Reminder — coaches — do a self-analysis after a competitive series and after each week. What are we doing well?  What do we do poorly?  What will our strategy be to chip away at getting better each week in all areas?

* Becoming a CHAMPION is a day-to-day grind — all for the love of the game Know what you are capable of, what you are reaching for. Hold yourself accountable. Hold your teammates accountable.

Again, I humbly encourage you to use your imagination, think outside the box, be cutting edge — it will be fun — you and all involved will out grow your present wingspan — and eventually it may become the new normal.   Just like flying in an airplane is to all of us.

Guest – Gina Kingbury – new Head of Women’s Hockey in Canada – former Olympian and World Champion.

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