How Can I Become a Professional Hockey Coach?

Research what it takes to become a professional hockey coach. Learn about the job duties, training, job outlook and salary to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Athletic Coaching degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Professional Hockey Coach?

Professional hockey coaches lead, manage and organize paid players of a hockey team. In the United States, professional hockey coaches can coach a major league professional team in the National Hockey League or the National Women's Hockey League, or a minor professional team in the American Hockey League, East Coast Hockey League, Southern Professional Hockey League or Federal Hockey League. Professional hockey coaches use their knowledge of the rules and regulations of professional hockey in conjunction with their own experience playing or coaching the sport to train athletes and plan game strategies. In addition to getting a job as a head coach, it is also possible to work as an assistant coach or a coach who specializes in a particular position, such as goaltending. The table below lists the general requirements to become a professional hockey coach.

General RequirementsThorough knowledge of the game
Coaching experience at a lower level
Key ResponsibilitiesSupervise assistant coaches and managers
Plan winning strategies for players and games
Work with players individually and in groups
Prepare the team for each game
Job Growth (2014-2024)6% for all coaches and scouts*
Median Salary (2015)$31,000 for all coaches and scouts*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Training, Experience or Education Do I Need?

In professional sports, your experience and performance record play a major influence in getting hired. To be a professional hockey coach, you need experience and knowledge of your game. According to coach biographies from the National Hockey League (NHL), coaches typically have years of experience playing the game of hockey plus experience in assistant coaching positions. They've also typically accrued winning records in their previous positions (www.nhl.com). Coaching experience may be built through college coaching positions or working with minor league hockey teams.

What Are the Duties of a Professional Hockey Coach?

As a professional hockey coach, you manage the staff and the players, ensuring the team runs smoothly and performs to the highest standards. This includes supervising assistant coaches and specialized coaches who work with players to improve skills or to run specific plays. It is your job to create plays, determine game strategies and direct the other coaches. You may also work with players in groups or individually to assess their skills and to define areas that need improvement.

You'll be responsible for ensuring that your team is ready for each game. This may involve researching the opposing team through looking over their statistics, watching games they've played or sending scouts to games to report on their performance. You may have to adjust your plays, hold extra practices or help players learn new techniques to prepare for games. During games, you help players keep focused, call plays and make decisions to help your team win.

How Do I Find a Job?

Typically, open positions for head hockey coaches are announced through the media or through the NHL. It helps to have connections within the industry to learn of openings in advance of their public advertisement. The NHL also has job boards where you can find job openings within the organization. Head coaching positions may not be posted there, but you may be able to find volunteer positions or assistant coaching opportunities.

You may be hired into a head coach position through the draft in the same manner in which players are chosen for teams. In some cases, you may be appointed as a coach to fill in for a coach that leaves. It is also common for someone serving as an interim coach to later be formally hired into the head coach position.

What Is the Job Outlook and Salary for a Professional Hockey Coach?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) doesn't list statistics for professional hockey coaches, but the median salary of coaches and scouts in general was $31,000 in 2015. Certainly, winning coaches of well-known teams earn much greater salaries. The job growth for 2014-2024 for coaches and scouts is predicted to be an increase of 6%, according to the BLS.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

If you are interested in coaching hockey, you could choose to coach at a lower level. For instance, you could coach a high school team, a college team or a team in one of the junior hockey leagues, such as the United States Hockey League or North American Hockey League. You might also be interested in a job as a hockey referee at the professional or amateur level. Referees work right on the ice alongside the players, watching for rule violations and calling penalties. In some cases, they may also be required to break up fights. The minimum educational requirement for this job is a high school diploma, but you need to have comprehensive knowledge of the game of hockey to work as a referee.

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