Jr. Comets Improved by Coach Heenan
By Keith VeronesiDec 17, 2015
Skill development has remained a constant goal for the Utica Jr. Comets Elite program. When creating the Elite organization in the Summer of 2015, we continued to ask the question of how we can implement a program that allows for our organization’s players to develop at the quickest rate possible. Implementing a strength and conditioning program, comprising a competitive game schedule and allotting for enough practice time have been key focal points throughout the season. One of the greatest impacts, however, on the 2004 and 2006 team’s development has come from Gary Heenan and his weekly power skating clinics.
Every Monday night, Coach Heenan dedicates an hour practice session that focuses solely on power skating and the correct technique and fundamentals for the perfect skating stride. Already in his 15th season as the Head Coach of the Utica College Men’s Hockey team, Gary can provide a wealth of knowledge not only to the Elite players, but to the Elite Coaches as well. Coach Heenan teaches the same drills, fundamentals and techniques to the Elite teams as he does with his own collegiate team. He said, “The younger you learn the fundamentals of edgework and power skating, the better off you will be. Skating well with proper technique is essential if you desire to play college hockey and beyond.” Teaching the Elite players the proper skating stride at such a young age will surely benefit each player now and for years to come. “The casual fan might think that the bigger the player is, the stronger he or she is on the ice,” Heenan explained. “There is a reason, however, that Sydney Crosby can routinely beat a 6’4” defenseman night in and night out; it’s due to the strength in his skating and edgework.” All it takes is a spectator to watch ten or fifteen minutes of Coach Heenan’s power skating practice to know how attentive he is to each player’s stride, pointing out the littlest of flaws to ultimately achieve the perfect stride.
As Heenan continues to work with each player, their development has become more and more noticeable. The Elite players have been able to improve on-ice testing times by multiple seconds and are visibly faster when competing in practices and games. One of the most beneficial parts of Coach Heenan’s power skating clinic is that it allows for the 2004 and 2006 coaches to focus on developing other skills during their team practices. Instead of spending fifteen minutes trying to teach the proper skating techniques, the Elite coaching staff can implement drills that reiterate the teaching techniques Gary has already taught each player. The hard work by each team has not gone unnoticed, either. “Working with the the two Jr. Comet Elite teams has been enjoyable,” Heenan said. “The group is focused and eager to learn. Eight weeks into our specialized training program, we have seen substantial growth in a vast majority of players. If they put in the work, we will continue to make them better.” The Jr. Elite organization is excited to continue to train under the watchful eyes of Coach Heenan and looks forward to developing and taking their game to the next level.