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NAHL concludes coaches meetings

August 15, 2014

Dallas Stars General Manager speaks to the NAHL head coaches on August 11th as NAHL Commissioner Mark Frankenfeld looks on.

The North American Hockey League (NAHL) recently hosted a two-day event in which the league’s head coaches came down to league headquarters in Frisco, Texas for a gathering, which included meetings to officially launch the 2014-15 season. The event was one of two times a year that the league’s head coaches get together for meetings, with the other coming at the NAHL Top Prospects Tournament in February of 2015.
“This was a very beneficial event for our coaches,” said NAHL Commissioner and President Mark Frankenfeld. “It was an opportunity to get them all together before the new season starts and make sure everyone was on the same page. Too many times our interaction only extends to the hockey-based events during the season, so we feel it necessary to get them all together in a setting that promoted some interaction, both at the beginning of the regular season and also towards the end. We had some unique sharing of ideas and some healthy discussion about what is in the best interest of our player’s development.”
“I thought our two guest speakers were tremendous, not only because of the delivery and relevance of their presentations, but because each has an extensive and impressive background in hockey,” continued Frankenfeld. “Their message spoke directly to our coaches and made everyone reevaluate the way they present themselves and the way they interact with their players.” 
The meetings began with a presentation from former hockey coach Scott Muscutt. Muscutt, now a motivational speaker with his company, Learn Lead Win, served for 10 years as Head Coach and Director of Hockey Operations for the Bossier-Shreveport Mudbugs, a former Central Hockey League team. Over the past decade in the Central Hockey League, Muscutt’s name has become synonymous with two things above all: hard-working dedication and winning performance and attitude.
Muscutt brought that energy into the coaches meetings, which energized the group from the beginning of the morning. “I wanted to take something that made a difference in hockey players lives and translate that to the coaching and business world, and make this guys understand how teamwork is supposed to work,” said Muscutt to open the presentation.  “You can’t lead your players by your strengths, you lead them by their strengths.” 
His examples included some very moving videos and included some of his own personal stories when he was a coach. “Checkers and Chess use the exact same board, but the game is completely different.  The same applies to hockey and how you motivate and utilize your players,” Muscutt said. “The X’s and O’s and drills are just the checker board, but the chess part comes in being able to get the most from your players and it all starts with the manner in which you are able to motivate them.” Muscutt then challenged the coaches to move forward based on three main points: Am I prepared for relationships? Can I change the way I look at things? Can we build mutual trust?
Dallas Stars General Manager Jim Nill, who was the featured speaker, highlighted the first of several guest speakers. Nill is entering his second season as GM for the Stars and spent a total of 19 seasons as a member of the Detroit Red Wings management team, the last 15 of those as the team’s Assistant General Manager. He joined the Red Wings’ front office in the summer of 1994 following three seasons with the Ottawa Senators. Previously, Nill enjoyed a nine-season NHL career as a right wing with the Boston Bruins, Vancouver Canucks, St. Louis Blues, Winnipeg Jets and Red Wings.
“What the NAHL has created is a great footprint and every one of you should be proud to be a head coach in this league,” Nill stated.  “You guys (the coaches) are the lifeblood of the next generation coming up the coaching ranks. The job you do is so important in the development and nurturing of players. Our game is in a great spot right now. There is so much skill and speed and the players in the NAHL are a reflection of that.”
Nill’s primary focus of his talk to the coaches was about lifestyle. “It is a common theme with our hockey club and should be one with yours, but it all starts with you. You have to ask yourself… are you leading the right lifestyle? Are you leading by example? What you do on and off the ice is a reflection of you, not only to your players, but to everyone around you. Your team has to have a mindset that they are going to wake up everyday and do things the right way and it all starts with the head coach. There has to be a culture and a lifestyle that is built around being a professional on and off the ice.  It’s about treating people right and it’s about doing things in manner that is going to make the team successful.”
The coaches also heard from Director of Player Personnel Craig Barnett, who spoke about the importance of making sure coaches were educated about all of the compliance rules regarding the NCAA. Barnett oversees league-wide scouting efforts in the NAHL, NA3HL and NAPHL, including directing the Event Scouting System. In addition, Barnett's experience and relationships in the NCAA provide a unique and valuable resource to the players, coaches and parents, to ensure that any concerns are addressed and players remain in compliance.
Newly named Department of Player Safety Director Mark Faucette and Director of Officiating Chris Allman also spoke to the group of coaches. Faucette emphasized some of the new rules and policies in place this season. Some of the new initiatives included overseeing the Department of Player Safety in very much the same manner of that of the NHL, which will also include a mandatory video review of all major penalties. It also included emphasis on a safer on ice environment, letting the players show their skills without the fear of being unprotected by injurious plays and making the NAHL an even more respected and safer league to play in.
“I think the league-wide meetings are very valuable for the coaches,” said Topeka head coach Scott Langer, who is the most tenured coach in the league. “The presentations from the guest speakers were tremendous, they got me fired up and were right on the money.”
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