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Jr. Ducks, Lady Ducks host Finland coaches, USA Hockey’s Martel, showcase growing clubs

 
KEN MARTEL

KEN MARTEL

It turns out the exchange rate with Finland is a positive one.

The Anaheim Jr. Ducks and Lady Ducks played host to two regional coaches from the Finland International Hockey Association (FIHA) and Ken Martel, USA Hockey’s technical director for the American Development Model, on Oct. 28-30.

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USA Hockey and FIHA have engaged such coaching exchanges since 2014, Martel said. He reached out to Craig Johnson, the Jr. Ducks’ director of coaches, about the visit, which included longtime Finnish coaches Sami Nuutinen, a one-time Edmonton Oilers draft pick, Jukka Wallis, who has worked for FIHA for more than 20 years after getting a degree in coaching and working as a local hockey director.

Martel and the Fins met with Jr. Ducks and Lady Ducks coaches, as well as Rick Hutchinson, the director of hockey for THE RINKS. They observed practices and provided feedback.

“It was great having them here,” Johnson said. “Our coaches learned a lot.”

The Finns have won gold at the World Junior Championship three times since 2014 and the World Championship twice since 2011. Not bad for a country with roughly the same amount of hockey players as Michigan.

“They do true player development,” Martel said. “They’re so much more patient with their players. They’re one of the best hockey-playing countries in the world, and we share the same goal of growing the sport.

The visit to Orange County was an eye-opener for the Finns, Martel said.

“There are no clubs in Finland that are that size,” he said. “It’s really four clubs – the high school league, a massive in-house program, the Jr. Ducks and the Lady Ducks.

“They noted some strengths because of the size of the club, and they saw some good players,” he said.

The visit was designed to give the Finns an idea of how a larger U.S. club operates.

“The Ducks are doing a really good job for the scale they have,” Martel said. “Rick Hutchinson does an unbelievable job with the in-house program. They were very impressed with the people leading each of the programs.”

— Chris Bayee

(Dec. 3, 2019)