When Peter DeBoer stands at the front of the Golden Knights’ film room, with rows of players watching closely as he breaks down video from the game prior, he occasionally digs into his bag of tricks and uses his formal education.
DeBoer holds law degrees from both the University of Windsor and the University of Detroit, and while his path as a professional hockey coach has strayed dramatically from where DeBoer thought he’d be when he earned those degrees, his law background is still a tool.
Explaining to a room full of NHL players why they need to employ the 1-1-3 neutral zone forecheck isn’t exactly the same as presenting a case to a jury in court, but there are similarities.
“In law school you’re presenting a case in front of a person, and you’ve got to convince them that you’re right and the other person is wrong,” DeBoer said. “We do that daily with players. They have their thoughts on what they see or how the game should be played. We have to explain why we want them to do certain things, or go to uncomfortable places on the ice. You have to make that case every day to today’s athlete, because they’re not just going to go there unless they know why.”
Much of DeBoer’s success as a coach is driven by his deep understanding of the game, allowing him to quickly diagnose problems for his team. But what separates him from his peers is his ability to relay that information to his players in a way that motivates them to execute in the heat of battle.