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Page last updated at 13:58 GMT, Tuesday, 7 July 2009 14:58 UK

Stanley Cup winner passes on expertise

By Geoff Foster
BBC Coventry and Warwickshire Sport

Babcock and Foster (Mark Tredgold)
Babcock with BBC Coventry & Warwickshire's Geoff Foster

Two of the finest head coaches in ice hockey were in Warwickshire at the weekend as they attended the Paul Thompson Coaching Clinic.

Detroit Red Wings' 2008 Stanley Cup winner Mike Babcock and Kevin Constantine from the Houston Aeros were part of an impressive list of speakers.

The pair were joined by one of the best youth and junior coaches in the world, Thomas Storm.

British ice hockey legend Tony Hand MBE, Elite League senior referee Andy Carlson and Thompson, the head coach of the Coventry Blaze and the Great Britain men's team also attended.

In his introduction ahead of the two day clinic, Thompson told the 100-strong audience: "We have attracted a great mix of coaches that can benefit us all, from professional head coaches to those of us who assist with juniors."

Constantine started proceedings with an enthralling lecture on 'offensive tactics', when someone with his CV talks, you listen.

Foster and Constantine (Mark Tredgold)
Geoff Foster speaks to Aeros coach Constantine

Backed up with video clips and a wealth of amusing anecdotes he set the weekend off in fine style, the key elements were absorbed by a captivated audience before Constantine took part in a Q & A session.

On the second day, he spoke about the importance of preparation and competitive and non-competitive team building exercises.

Constantine said: "It's so much easier and quicker to learn from someone who has been there and done it, rather than trying to work through the trials and tribulations of hockey yourself, clinics like this are just a wealth of information shared amongst the coaches."

Thompson and Carson spoke about the penalty kill and refereeing respectively before Babcock took the stage for the first of his two presentations.

He began with a masterclass on the power-play, breaking it all down and explaining the thinking behind the systems he uses.

In a similar vein to his Houston Aeros counterpart, Babcock opened it up at the end to talk about his Stanley Cup exploits, the honour of being appointed head coach of Canada for the 2010 Winter Olympics and his time as player-coach at Whitley Warriors in the late 1980s.

Babcock is a huge believer of being a 'good person'.

"In any walk of life if you're a phoney, you'll get found out," he said. "If you're not pulling your weight, if you're not doing good things, or mistreating people, everybody knows."

He went on to talk about his love of hockey: "Passion and fun go together, if you find something that you're passionate about and you turn it into your career, you're usually enjoying yourself, that's what this game is about, having some fun."

Mike Babcock (Getty Images)
Babcock celebrates his Stanley Cup win in 2008

Thomas Storm ran through a whole load of training routines to improve stick handling and puck control, he also spoke at length about how his techniques and methods had helped youngsters who were now playing in the NHL.

Tony Hand gave an insight into his 26-year career, and how he is still able to produce the goods at the age of 42 and good natured banter was at the fore as Elite League referee Andy Carson passed on his experience to the coaches attending the clinic.

The final presentation was delivered by Thompson, who explained how he built and handled a dressing room, the qualities he looked for, the importance of leaders within the group, how he would plan out his seat placing within the room, empowering his players to police the room and the key roles his backroom staff play

After presiding over his second Coaching Clinic Thompson said: "I picked up three or four things that the Blaze will implement this year, it's been a great weekend, you can see why these people [Babcock and Constantine] are where they are, hard working, very dedicated, they're smart men."



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