If you were around the rink this week in Lake Placid, New York, at the recently completed USA Hockey Women’s National Festival, you would have noticed that it had a very distinct NHL flavor to it’s coaching roster.
Ken Klee, Robb Stauber, Chris Tamer, Mike Grier and Scott Bjugstad are former NHL players who served in a variety of coaching roles at the festival. The five players combined for more than 51 years in the NHL and 3,000 career games.
Stauber has worked with the women’s program the longest and Klee has served as the head coach of the women’s national team for several events over the last few seasons. Each member brought different attributes and experience to the group and provided the women with instruction that translated to improved play on the ice.
USA Hockey prioritizes the use of a diverse mix of coaches and hockey backgrounds to include those who have trained and developed their own skills at the highest levels, which is where the NHL infusion brings a unique ability and perspective to the coaching staff.
"Every time we come together as a group or tournament, we look to improve and challenge our players to be the best they can be and we need to provide the resources to help them meet that goal,” said Reagan Carey, director of women’s hockey at USA Hockey. “We build our coaching staffs through a variety of highly capable resources but there is a definite benefit to including individuals with former NHL experience.”
The national festival is an annual development camp that gives the players a variety of skill-specific instruction during practice sessions and is supplemented with the use of video, where the coaches help enhance player habits.
Alex Carpenter’s father, Bobby, played and coached in the NHL as well and as she can attest that there is a definite benefit to having these individuals on hand to fine-tune their game. Growing up around the NHL taught her how to respect the game and how to manage and improve the little things that will help a player reach their fullest potential.
“It’s definitely great to have a lot of NHL coaches in practice and on our bench," said Carpenter. "They know so much about the game and they had the highest level coaches that they played for. I think they’re able to help us with the little things that we’re not able to pick up on our own.”
As women’s hockey continues to grow and the competition for elite level spots increases, there are many nuances and techniques that these coaches give the athletes as ammunition to improve the little things in their game
The advantage of coaches with NHL experience isn’t always measurable immediately, but the gains are noticeable in improved play over time from players striving to make any small advancements that could ultimately make them a valuable member of the national team program and potentially a future Olympian.
The U.S. Women's National Festival was used to help select two 22-player rosters for a pair of upcoming series against Canada. The Under-22 Select Team starts play on August 17 and the Under-18 Select Team begins on August 18.
The 2023 IIHF Under-18 Women's World Championship will take place January 8-15, 2023, in Östersund, Sweden. Scroll for an inside look at Team USA's journey.