Representatives from the Finnish Ice Hockey Association (FIHA) recently visited the U.S. to meet with USA Hockey ADM regional managers and teams in several states. The purpose of this visit was to exchange information and ideas between coaches in each country to further the development of youth hockey. The Washington Little Caps were thrilled to be selected for that honor.
FIHA Representatives Vesa Lehtonen and Jari Routtinen, alongside with USA regional managers, Scott Paluch and Rich Hansen, spent several days interacting with Little Caps coaches and players as part of that exchange. They spent time on the ice with multiple age groups, observed off-ice training and classroom sessions, and hosted a coaches meeting to share insights on their development techniques with Little Caps and other coaches from the area. The FIHA representatives also shared their development model, a cooperative, umbrella system focused on player development in a community context.
Little Caps players were fortunate to have FIHA coaches jump on the ice to run a few drills and discuss some concepts of the modern game.
“Before we took the ice with the Finnish coaches, I wasn't sure what to expect because I had never skated with coaches from Europe before,” said 18u forward Declan Martin. “But once we got into the drills it was a great experience, the coaches showed us the importance of moving the puck quick and how to be effective when the puck isn't on your stick. The Finnish coaches gave us a different viewpoint on the mechanics of the game and helped us implement it into our own play.”
Hockey Director Matt Thomas saw a coaching style noticeably different than the North American model. “Given some unique challenges— the language barrier and a new group of players for starters— I was really impressed with Vesa and Jari. They were extremely patient, willing to wait for players to figure it out, and challenged our guys to make harder plays than they might ordinarily try themselves. I thought it was a terrific microcosm of their overall development approach.”
“We are grateful to USA Hockey and FIHA for making this opportunity possible,” said Executive Director Doug Plocki. “Both organizations are committed to exchanging development ideas, and as a result coaches in both organizations are getting better. This was a fantastic opportunity for our players and coaches to learn the latest development concepts from some of the top minds in the game today. It will have a lasting effect.”