Towards the end of October last year, I wrote a column for USA Today on bag skates. Please note that we’re basically at the same part of the schedule.

This is the time of the year is where we start to see a lull – everybody comes out of the gates like gangbusters to start the year. You’re jockeying for position on the depth chart, you want to get off to a good start, and you don’t want your team to dig a big hole.


But as stats and standings start to take shape, you come to find out you just can’t keep up that pace. You’ve been playing your hardest, accumulating bruises and accruing travel miles for awhile, which means that some days it’s all-too-easy to not mentally prepare like you did early in the season.

Your coach sees this in your effort or focus, and bam, it’s punishment time.

So, the bag skate: does it actually do anything?

….I really have no idea. How helpful was that?! (Read Tarik El-Bashir and Katie Carrera of the Washington Post if you want to read more about that idea.)

But, there are two reason they’re always going to be a thing that happens, and why this debate will repeatedly resurface around this time of year:

1) The timing. Late in the season, you can’t bag skate the boys, even if their focus and effort are off. You’re moving closer to playoffs. There are more injured guys, so the healthy guys are playing more minutes. You need your healthy bodies to not get run down.

2) You need the team to know that if need be, you will discipline, and that you are in charge. You need to set the tone early in the season that you notice when they slack off even a little bit, so hey – “everybody on the line.”

That’s the “open those lungs up” pose.

You can’t just sit back as a coach and get run over, let your team take nights off and hope to get ‘em next time, so at least a bag skate is taking action.

For the guys in the room, it doesn’t seem to have much effect one way or the other. It always feels good to have put in the work once practice is over, and it’s just one more thing you’ve been through as a team. No individual holds grudges, since you all went through it.

Guys might be bitter at the time, but there’s just no way out of it. You pull up your bootstraps, listen to the man in charge, and get that extra cardio in.

Then again, there is the possibility I’m wrong, and they have a raging negative effect - if you read the previous article I wrote on bag skating, note one thing: the two coaches who were putting their team through the paces at this time last year? Todd Richards of the Minnesota Wild, and Ken Hitchcock of the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Maybe Boudreau should’ve given them the day off instead.

Comments (8)

  1. when i was playing in high school we were up 12-0 on a team midway through the second.
    they decided to forfeit, so we had the ice for the remainder of the time.
    our coach bag skated us.

    i understand the bag skate when the team isn’t putting in the effort…
    i guess its a good discipline tool.

    thankfully bag skates aren’t part of beer league.

    • andy, I have never understood the concept of a team quitting in the middle of a game. It happened to me once (adult beer league roller, we were ahead 8-0 in the 2nd) and I thought maybe there were several injured players or something. So I went over to talk to them but Nope, just a team of quitters. Only 2 guys were pissed about their team quitting. I mean who hasnt ever taken a butt whuppin at some point in his life? But I noted who those guys were and resolved to never have them on any team I ever played on.

      • oh, i hear ya.
        I’ve been on both sides of those scores and hate, absolutely hate, when players quit.
        i also hate the running clock mercy rule thing that both beer leagues i play in have.
        especially when I’m on the team getting smoked.

  2. The link to the USA column goes to the worst shot blog post…

  3. Sometimes guys need to be taken down a notch, or grabbed by the shoulders and shaken. But only in retrospect can you judge if it was effective. It’s like any other tool available to the coach. Sometimes they work. Sometimes they don’t. The good coaches know when and where to use the right tool and generally see the more favorable result.

    I think its easy to make the argument that bag skates can’t and shouldn’t be used regularly, but I think it’s just as easy to make the the argument that they do work some times. And if they work SOME times, then coaches will continue to use them if they feel it’s warranted.

  4. BeCanucks, thanks fixed.

  5. Here’s a concept you Canadians and Yankees probably haven’t ever heard of:
    I LOVE bag skates. Actually, the entire league I grew up in Loved bag skates.

    When you grow up in an area that has zero hockey culture and a single ice rink (no such thing as roller hockey back then), you value every single second that you can get on the ice. And yes, that includes the bagskates or whatever drills a coach can dream up. We loved them and wished they’d never end because it meant we were on our beloved ice. We firmly believed (and I for one still do) that there is no such thing as bad ice time. I love the ice, I love the game + everything about the game.

    So how did our coaches punish us? After practice, they’d take us outside and make us run- windsprints and distance. There is no greater hatre drill to a southern hockey player than running.

  6. I think what you meant to say in that second to last sentence was:

    “Todd Richards, FORMERLY of the Minnesota Wild, and Ken Hitchcock, FORMERLY of the Columbus Blue Jackets.”

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