The Initiation Seasonal Structure can take on many forms. This section identifies a set of minimum standards that Hockey Canada membership must adhere to. Keep in mind, there is some flexibility because the framework below (see Figures 1 and 2) provides a set of recommended timeframes when minor hockey associations build their seasonal plan. If the season starts in October or even as late as November, the minor hockey association should still follow the guidelines of a balanced season approach. Some of the dates and timeframes are guidelines while others are fixed. The number of games and practices are also recommendations based on what Hockey Canada has set out in the Long-Term Player Development Model and Initiation Player Pathway documents.
During the development phase, coaches should be focused on skill development. The ideal practice to game ratio has been identified as 3:1, or three practice sessions to one game played. The start of the season for Initiation players is not a fixed time. Therefore, the guidelines outlined in the Initiation Seasonal Structure are just that – guidelines.
The goal for every minor hockey association should be to set aside a window of time where young players have more practices than games. The Hockey Canada Initiation Skills Manual provides coaches with a series of well-crafted practice plans (ice sessions) that focus on developing fundamental movement skills like striding, turning and stopping, manipulation skills like shooting, passing, puck control and the very important motor skills of agility, balance and coordination. All of these components should be a part of player-centred skill development in a fun and safe environment that promotes self-confidence.
The regular season phase represents the bulk of the season in the Initiation Seasonal Structure. The practice to game ratio shifts to 2:1 or two practices for every game played.
It is important that coaches continue to focus on skill development during practice sessions. Once again, the Hockey Canada Initiation Skills Manual provides a wide variety of resources in the form of practice sessions as well as drills that will assist in the delivery of practices that will meet the skills development needs of young players. Hockey Canada has developed additional resources to support coaches in their efforts to deliver practice plans. The Hockey Canada Network, Drill Hub and the Initiation Program all contain age-appropriate and skill-specific resources to meet the needs of young Novice hockey players.
Even though the regular season phase has a lower practice to game ratio (2:1) through the months of November, December and January, there are still up to 24 possible practice sessions to support and encourage young players through this skill acquisition phase of the season.
The approved Hockey Canada policy for Initiation hockey permits the introduction of half-ice game play in the later part of the season for second-year Initiation players. In the event there is a desire to introduce second-year Initiation players to the half-ice game model, membership is required to wait until after January 15 to allow Initiation teams to participate in half-ice games.
The transition phase has a practice-to-game ratio of 1:1, or one practice to one game played. It is important to ensure practice sessions continue through the Transition Phase. This will provide coaches with the opportunity to continue to reinforce individual skill development elements in practices in addition to introducing players to concepts attached to the full-ice game.