Q: As of now, the biggest difference between the men's and women's game is the lack of body checking in the women’s game. Do you feel that the women's game would change substantially if the rules were changed to allow body checking in the women's game? Joe Laframboise – Lawrence, KS, USA
MD:Certainly the game would change, as is the case any time there is a change in the rules of any game. For many countries, it might mean the end of female hockey in their country as women playing hockey is not yet widely accepted. Teaching a hockey player how to properly deliver a body check is done in progressions with the final step of that progression being the actual body check. The female game involves all those progressions, except for the final step. Even without that step, a typical Canada-USA game is an extremely physical contest. For the fan who feels that body checking is needed for the women’s game to be entertaining, they need to go to a typical Canada-USA game where there is plenty of physical play and contact – they may wonder when the game is over if in fact there was a rule that prohibited body checking.
Q: Are physical skills – such as skating, shooting and passing – just as important as the mental skills – such as positional play and anticipation of the play? What is your philosophy from an elite-level coaching point of view? Jenifer Giles – Burlington, ON
MD:In our program fitness and skating skills are top priority. If a player has those skills, then we move on to puck skills and hockey sense. Then the key is how a player maximizes their skills in the team game. Observations of this may allow them to be invited to one of our camps, and then we introduce ‘intangibles’, which include mental toughness, as well as other areas as simple as saying please and thank you. In the end we want good people that have above average hockey skills and fitness. If the intangibles (including mental skills) are lacking, the player most likely will not go far in our program.
Q: When dealing with uninformed and/or ignorant people, how do you combat stereotypes people have regarding female hockey players, and is it more or less prevalent than in the past? Kyle Benn – Langley, BC
MD:The world is filled with people whose view of everything around them is based on stereotypes. Fortunately in Canada girls and women of all ages are joining the game in increasing numbers every year because they have those opportunities. They don’t really care what people think – they are hockey players and they just want to play. There will always be those who have an uninformed opinion, but they are generally the same people who view the world that way, so there is very little that can be done to change their view – that is until they have a daughter who insists on playing hockey … that is the most powerful attitude adjuster.
Q: How do you plan to keep your team focused on the goal at hand in Vancouver – namely, an Olympic gold medal – but still allow the players to enjoy the Olympic experience? George Thompson – Strathroy,ON
MD:As a staff we will do our best to create a positive, fun, growing environment. We will create a full season for them to enjoy and compete. We will strive to achieve this by playing up to 62 games including the Olympics, ensuring lots of rest and planning off-ice team activities. We will also provide some professional development opportunities for our players so they can grow not only as hockey players but as people. The key will be for us all to enjoy the season – we know what is expected and we will do our very best to meet those expectations.
Q: What, if anything, is different about coaching a team with the pressures of playing in such a huge event at home as opposed to being "on the road" (i.e. Turin)? How do the players deal with the pressure, and how does the coaching staff work with (or around) that pressure to get the best possible effort out of each of the players? J.P. Gaston – Calgary, AB
MD:No one puts more pressure on the players to perform than themselves. By creating a full season we will experience the ups and downs of life every day. This experience will aid us in celebrating successes and dealing with adversity – never too high and never too low in our emotions. Through our day-to-day schedule we will be striving to help our players consistently perform at their best – the reality of it is some will struggle while others will thrive. Preparation for all of us will allow us to enter the Olympics knowing there was no stone unturned and we will compete without any regrets. In the end we will select our team based on what they have shown us, knowing how they will perform and not hoping they will show up.