Perry Pearn has been an NHL coach since 1995 with Winnipeg (twice), Ottawa, New York (Rangers) and Montreal. He’s also coached the Canadian World Junior team to three gold medals.
Perry runs an elite conditioning camp for bantam, midget, junior, college and pro players. Called Perry Pearn’s 3-on-3, it runs out of Edmonton, Alberta every summer. Over 100 NHLers have attended this camp alone. I was fortunate enough to catch Perry during the off-season and ask him about:
- How To Chose An Elite Conditioning Camp Before Your Son’s First Junior Training Camp
- What Coaches Look For In A Player During A Training Camp
- What “Shape” A Junior Team Expects Your Son To Be In Before He Can Play With Them
- How to Become A “Coachable” Player Who Coaches Want To Play On Their Top Line
- The #1 Thing Rookies Must Be Aware Of In Order To Have A Successful Training Camp
- Real Secrets Used By Jaromir Jagr, Daniel Alfredsson, Zdeno Chara, Carey Price And Others Who Have Played Under Him
Find the live interview and its transcription below…
Nick [0:28]: Hey guys. It’s Nick with the Junior Hockey Truth. Today I’ve got a great guest for you, for today’s interview. The man’s name is Perry Pearn. It’s going to take a little bit to give him an introduction here because he’s done some pretty amazing stuff in the hockey world. He’s been a coach with Montreal, the New York Rangers, Ottawa and twice for the Winnipeg Jets. He’s also won World Junior gold medals.
And today what we’re going to talk about is the three-on-three hockey camp that he offers. It’s a conditioning camp, so what this camp does is it helps get you ready for your junior try-outs and gets you back into shape. And the reason why I endorse it and I wanted to get Perry on is because it’s the camp that I used to attend back when I played junior and the level of guys that attended is truly elite.
I’m just going to read you a couple of names that I got from Perry’s website. And I have to keep this short because there’s like a hundred names on there, but some of these you might recognize: Jarome Iginla, Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall, Chris Phillips, Jay Bouwmeester, Tyler Bozak, Dion Phaneuf, Brooks Laich, Chris Pronger. I mean, these are the quality of guys that attend these conditioning camps.
So today what we’re going to do is talk a little bit about conditioning camps and why you should attend one before you head off to your Junior camp this fall. So I’m going to introduce Perry.
Perry, how you doing today?
Perry Pearn [1:50]: I am doing well. Thank you very much for having me.
Nick [1:51]: Well, thank you for sitting down and being willing to talk to us about your conditioning camp. You know, most of the guys that listen to these interviews I do, they’re in bantam, midget or it’s their parents that are listening and want more information to get them ready for junior hockey. And at that age, you know, you’re fifteen or sixteen, you’re going into your first junior camps.
I remember when I was that age going in, the speed of a junior camp is so much faster, the players are so much bigger. Maybe we could start off by telling guys, you know, what a conditioning camp does and why it’s important to attend before they go to those big junior camps.
Perry Pearn [2:28]: Well, you know, I think, first and foremost, like you, you hit something that’s really important is the tempo of a junior camp is probably going to be much higher than the tempo of hockey that the kids that are attending have seen in the past. And so the quicker people make the adjustment to that tempo and that speed, the more likely they are to impress the coaches, and the more they impress the coaches, the longer the opportunity is going to be available for them to continue to impress. So I think it’s very, very important to try to get yourself into some situations prior to going to camp, where you find that kind of tempo and I think one of the things we think about our camp is that that’s the type of tempo we try to create. And we’re fortunate that we’ve been around long enough that we do attract the elite athletes and so as a result, you know, the tempo at the Three On Three is very, very high and I think that’s what players want to look for, you know, in a conditioning camp.
Nick [3:39]: Yeah, absolutely, Perry. And, you know, you’ve been doing conditioning camps now for well over twenty years, since you started back when you were coaching junior and moved on up, obviously, NHL levels now. You know, you’ve seen changes happen over the years and how players are conditioned when they come into camp and how the training is. Did you see a need at one point in time that sparked you to start these conditioning camps?
Perry Pearn [4:05]: Well, I’ve been involved in traditional hockey schools for a long, long time and at the time that, you know, we decided to go with the three-on-three idea, it was a spin-off from my coaching at NAIT [Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (ACAC)]. And the thought process was, you know, we weren’t doing anything for the elite bantams and the elite midgets in the hockey schools that we run at NAIT, which were very successful also, but we wanted to do something for those players. And so, you know, we felt that it should be less of a hockey school and more of a conditioning camp, but, you know, still have elements of teaching in it, still have elements of coaching in it. And so that’s how we headed off on the idea.
Nick [4:52]: Sounds good. You know, obviously you’ve been doing this now for a while. Maybe you could tell people out there – I mean, obviously, your camp’s one of the best ones out there, but not everybody is able to reach it geographically. So what do you think goes into a good conditioning camp? What should parents and players look for?
Perry Pearn [5:10]: Well, I think, first and foremost, you need to have a good practice element to it. There should be good, high tempo drills that, you know, involve high-speed skill. And then I think, you know, there should be, you know, if there’s going to be any kind of scrimmage or competition, it has to have, you know, a strong element of competitiveness. There has to be something that gets the players juices running and has them competing at the kind of a level that they’re going to be expected to compete at once they get a camp. There has to be and, I guess, part of that is a type of tempo has to be maintained.
Nick [6:06]: Right. That sounds good. And I know, you know, recently I was reading articles, actually, just doing some research from the past and I was looking at how hockey players used to prepare for training camps back in the fifties ad sixties, even the seventies, and just how much things have changed. And if there’s, you know, young players or first time hockey parents out there, you know, their son is reaching fourteen, fifteen years old and he’s considering going off to some try-outs and camps – things have changed a lot over the decades. Players used to come into camp and it was kind of like training camp was the time to get into shape for the team.
Maybe you could talk a little bit about now, especially because you’ve coached at the NHL level, what kind of condition are players coming into training camp in? Where are they at when the puck drops?
Perry Pearn [6:56]: Well, I think now at the National Hockey League level, the players are in absolute elite physical condition when they arrive. The players that are probably the most likely to be behind a little bit and trying to catch up are the youngest players. I think the older players have figured out, you know, how hard you have to work to get there and how hard you have to work to stay so they’re coming ready to play.
And it’s younger players who are having to figure out how much higher the tempo is and how much harder they have to work. So I think the way the game is now is there is no waiting to get in shape, you know, or playing your way into shape. You’re in shape to begin with and you’re going to make your impression on the coaches who are evaluating you based on starting off at as close to game tempo as possible as you head into the start of your season.
Nick [7:58]: You know, you made a good point there, Perry. I like hearing how you compared younger players to older players and how they both come into camp with different kind of mindsets. When you’re looking, as a coach, at a young player that’s coming into camp and he’s about at that age or range of his development where he can make a team, what are some of the things that you’re looking for when your eye is on him?
Perry Pearn [8:21]: I think, certainly,still the most important thing for any player at any level is the skill that he brings with him. You’re looking for his puck skills, his, I think, hockey IQ and also, you know, the level of speed that he can execute at. And there is a little bit of give and take for those exceptionally skilled players that maybe aren’t in as good a shape as they should be because, certainly, the conditioning is something you can improve.
But by the same token, if you’re looking at two players that are of equal skill and one is already more prepared than the other one, I think you’re going to lean towards taking, you know, the player that’s more prepared at that particular moment. And, again, I’m saying that’s given that they have the same skill levels.
Nick [9:21]: Yeah, I know I remember in Junior, one thing that kind of took me aside a bit was looking at some of the guys who were stars on our team or stars in the league and they weren’t necessarily, like, the fittest or strongest players – and some were, some definitely were – but whenever the puck dropped, they were the guys on the ice who could always bring it. And then there were guys who were more kind of like me, who were borderline guys or middle of the pack, who they really had to work twice as hard. And I think it goes to show, like you say, how the preparedness can put you on a different level.
Perry, you’ve seen a lot of kids that come into either your conditioning camps and, you know, obviously through Junior moving up to the NHL. Can you talk maybe a little bit about the mental preparedness players need to have for camp and what you guys, as coaches, look for mentally in a player?
Perry Pearn [10:16]: Well, I think there’s the compete, I think, is probably the best way to describe is the willingness and the ability to be competitive in every situation. You know, to fight for pucks, you know, to challenge and go to the net hard, to, you know, to win physical battles. But also to be able to win mental battles, you know, to be able to fight through when things aren’t going as well as a player would like them to, to keep going, keep playing and keep pushing and not give up. You know, that probably is the single most important thing and the best players in the world are probably the most competitive players.
And, you know, that’s one of the things I like about what we do with the three-on-three, is that the three-on-three game is a competitive game and it’s a hard game to hide in and, you know, as a result, I think players, you know, who come and do compete really put themselves on another level heading into the next step of their season, you know, whether it’s, you know, training camp with their own team or if it’s training camp at another level, hoping to make that jump up to that new level.
Nick [11:38]: Yeah. What made you guys want to go to the three-on-three in the first place, outside of the, obviously, that there’s more space on the ice for skating?
Perry Pearn [11:48]: Well, you know, well, you’ve seen how we run, you know. We’re able to use both ends of the rink. So, in actual fact, we can have more people playing at one time than if we played five-on-five. We’ve got, you know, six guys going at one end of the rink, six guys going at the other end of the rink and we’ve got two goalies who are facing a situation where the puck is never out of their hand. And I think what the three on three does is it’s got elements of the five on five game that are critical elements, both from a defensive standpoint, from an offensive standpoint, you’ve got, you know, the low part of your defensive zone coverage from a defensive standpoint and then you’re forced, as a defending team, to defend when you’re tired and, on top of that, you have the responsibility of not only getting possession of the puck but you have to get it across your blue line with possession.
So those are all key elements of, you know, understanding and playing the defensive game. From an offensive standpoint, you know, you are trying to attack the offence blue line with speed. You know, you have the responsibility of staying on side, because off sides are called. And then you basically have all the elements of the attack triangle of cycling with three players versus three down low. And so, you know, you have to learn to work to get open in order to create offence once you’re established in the zone, you know. You don’t have, very often, the advantage of creating an odd mans rush. So, again, offensively, you’re forced to work harder to find space to create opportunities for yourself. Maybe you have to win more one on one battles. And as a result, I think, you know, you learn a little bit about playing the offensive game by being in a three on three environment like the one we have.
Nick [13:47]: Yeah, absolutely. I remember when I attended camp, me being a goalie, you talk about, you know, how you’re always basically playing. Whether it’s defence or offence, the puck is right near. And I remember just the legs burning and always having to be ready, because that puck is always moving in so close. And I like how you’re talking about things like cycling, the attack triangle and all that. It might be foreign to some parents out there, but, for the player that are listening, you guys are going to realise as you move up, hockey gets a lot more technical, the higher levels you go up and systems become a very important thing.
So when you go to a camp like this and you get to play against the most elite players in your age group or you get to see those guys who are in the Junior and pro levels and start going against these guys, you’ll see how everyone really moves in a coordinated matter and how everything is systematised. I love that you’re touching on that kind of stuff, Perry.
We’ve talked about guys who are moving up from bantam and midget, going into junior. They’re preparing for their first Junior run. Let’s talk a little bit into the future now. Obviously, you’ve coached at high levels, coached some very high level players. What are you noticing makes the difference between the guys who were stars in junior and even some of the guys you may have coached with the World Junior team, but makes the difference that they can actually still bring that same dominance to the NHL level?
Perry Pearn [15:12]: I think, obviously, you know, the skill part of it is the biggest element. I mean, if a player doesn’t have, you know, a certain degree of skill, like, he’ll never be a dominant player at the NHL level. But, you know, having that still isn’t a guarantee that you’re going to be dominant at the NHL level. I think, you know, then it becomes, you know, a matter of your willingness to work, to compete and to push yourself into situations that are uncomfortable on a continuous basis so that you can grow and get better. And, you know, the players I’ve been around, the elite players that I’ve coached, they’ve always been players who do a little bit extra.
I coached Jaromir Jagr in New York and everybody kind of thought that, you know, at one point in his career that, you know, he didn’t work very hard at it, but when I worked with him in New York I think he’d come to a realisation in his career. He wanted to accomplish a lot more before he finished. And he used to come back in the afternoon, after we practised in the morning, and he’d do a second skate alone with me and he would push himself very, very hard. You know, I was there to provide some things but, certainly, some of the stuff that he did, you know, didn’t require me to be there. He just was pushing himself.
I’m told by [former Ottawa Senators coach] Jacques Martin, who I coached with for a long time, that there was no question in his mind this year, coaching in Pittsburgh, that Malkin and Crosby were the two hardest working guys of the Pittsburgh Penguins. They were the first guys on the ice, they were often the last guys off the ice and, of course, those were the two best players on the Penguins. So, you know, it’s a matter of having talent and ability, but then doing the work on a day-to-day basis to make sure that you maximise that talent and ability that’s so important.
Nick [17:29]: Yeah, that’s terrific. It’s great to hear stories like that, Perry. Kind of before we close out, maybe you could just talk about a little bit about some of your favourite players that you have coached and what made them such a pleasure to coach, for guys out there that are wondering, you know, how you can be a coachable player?
Perry Pearn [17:51]: Certainly, you know, going back to my Ottawa days, I worked with some terrific people there. Marián Hossa was an absolute joy to coach. And one of the reasons he was such a joy to coach is he really bought into the idea that, you know, if you were good at defending, you were going to have the puck more and as a result you’re going to get more opportunities offensively and, you know, I think that, you know, our coaching staff can take credit for helping teach him that, but, you know, he deserves full credit for embracing it and taking it to the level he has because that’s a big part of, you know, his success at the National Hockey League level over a long period of time now.
Daniel Alfredsson was another terrific guy who was skilled, but a very intelligent player and one of the most coachable players I ever worked with, and because of his leadership helped made other people more coachable. And then I worked with Zdeno Chara, who took training to a whole new level, in terms of the things that he did to be prepared, particularly with the body type he had because he’s such a unique guy, relative to size in the National Hockey League. And he really had to work at things in order to, you know, become as mobile as he is and be able to take advantage of the special skills that he has in terms of his size and strength.
So those are three guys that stick out in my mind from Ottawa. Certainly, in New York there were some good guys, Jaromir Jagr being one of them. Another guy that I had a lot of respect for was Michael Nylander and he had some of the most unique individual drills I had ever seen and he did some terrific stuff. And now he’s got a son who used to do some of those drills with us on the ice, he would come out after practice. Michael would be working extra and his son would be there with him and the son would do the skating drills exactly like Michael did them. And now Michael’s son is a first-rounder with the Toronto Maple Leafs so, obviously, some of that stuff was terrific stuff.
I always worked with some terrific people from a character stand point. Guys like Jason Strudwick, who, very limited from a skill standpoint, but had a long and very successful career in the NHL because he came and worked so hard every day and brought so much character that he made the people around him better players. And there were a lot of people like that that I ran into my first year in Winnipeg. Kris King was the captain of the Jets and he was a fourth line tough guy, but it was his attitude and his compete every day that made him special and made other players into great players like Keith Tkachuk. He fell right in behind him and led him. So I think that’s kind of changed a little bit in the National Hockey League and I think it’s to the detriment of the game that, you know, players like Kris King are no longer front and centre as leaders sometimes. But those are certainly special people.
And then I worked with some terrific people, Tomáš Plekanec, Brian Gionta in Montreal, who were just top quality people, top quality competitors and top quality workers, in terms of what they brought to practice. You know, I think that Carey Price is a guy that I saw start to learn that he needed to be even more like that than he was, not that he wasn’t a hard working guy, but I think he realized he had to be even more hard working in order to maximise his skill and I think now he’s starting to realise some of the rewards from that extra work that he’s done. A gold medal in the Olympics and a great this year with Montreal.
Nick [22:19]: Yeah. I remember, actually, it’s funny you mention Carey Price because I was his back-up when I was in Junior. And I remember when he came back from Montreal’s camp the first year, and that’s when we had Olaf Kolzig as our goalie coach during the lock-out. The drills – I mean, we’re talking like one of the most elite goalies in the NHL now, back then, you know, he was always working on the fundamental stuff and really getting it down. And, just like you mentioned with all the other elite players, putting in the extra time and I think that’s something that the young guys can learn from out there.
You talked about, Perry, about how, you know, character guys, it’s maybe a little tougher for them now in the game. And, obviously, the game’s changed a bit, changed a lot in the last ten years. What kind of players do you see coming into the NHL in the future that are young guys right now? As far as, like, the type of player they are.
Perry Pearn [23:13]: Well, I think there’s still room for character guys, but, like, the speed of the game is probably the biggest change. So there isn’t room, or very little room, anymore for guys who don’t have a fairly high degree of mobility. So one of the things that I would encourage young players to think about is doing everything they can to improve their skating and to become as good in that area as they possibly can because mobility, you know, buys you time and, you know, if you have character, that time will lead to people recognising that you can play at, you know, at the elite level, whether it’s, you know, the step up from bantam to Midget AAA, from Midget AAA to Major Junior, from Major Junior to the NHL.
At each level the difference has become smaller and smaller, but one of the things that is always, I think, you know, from here forward is always going to be a big factor, is mobility. Like, the speed of the game is not going to get slower, it’s only going to continue to get faster. So being able to skate and get around the rink is going to be very, very important and if you’re a little light, you know, in your skating skills, you know, the character has to be there to will your way through some of those situations. And there’s certainly guys who play that aren’t as fast as some of the other players that are very successful, but, you know, they have to work very, very hard at their game and they have to bring some other elements to make that difference.
Nick [25:06]: Terrific. As a final closing thought, Perry, could you maybe give some advice to parents out there? I mean, I think every hockey dad, every hockey mom out there, you know, they want their son to make the NHL if he can. Not everyone can make it, but some do. Is there any advice that you can give to the parents out there?
Perry Pearn [25:25]: Well, hockey’s a terrific game to, you know, I think, to build life skills from. I think that, you know, and even NHL players—a guy can make the National Hockey League, but his career may only last two or three years. But if you learn life skills through the game, if you’ve been encouraged to understand, you know, the importance of work ethic, if you’ve learned the importance of being prepared and, you know, putting in the effort to have all your ducks lined up so that, you know, so that you give yourself a reasonable opportunity to be successful, all that stuff applies to life in general.
I coached at the college level for fourteen years and maybe some of the most satisfactory things I’ve accomplished as a coach is what was accomplished with that group of players at NAIT, none of whom ever played in the National Hockey League, but many of whom have become tremendously successful, you know, in business and, you know, the satisfying thing, for me, is many of them have come back to me and said “You know, what we did as a team, how we operated as a team, how we competed, you know, the things that you taught us about winning and losing and being prepared, those are all things that we applied to what we did in business and they were just as successful there”. So, to me, understanding that, you know, the game is more than just a means to an end, it’s a way of creating, I think, the kind of elements in character that you want to have moving forward into any walk of life.
Nick [27:24]: Yeah, absolutely. And then, for me, you know, it’s been about eight or nine years since I’ve been out of junior and I can totally vouch for everything you said. You know, just the way it’s helped my life, to be prepared for things and to always try to be a winner at what you do and really, really give it your all and not much more to say than that.
Perry, if guys want to go out, they want to attend one of your camps, I know you’ve got camps in various locations. Maybe you could tell them where they could get more info and where you’re going to be putting on camps this summer.
Perry Pearn [27:57]: Well, we have a Perry Pearn’s Three-On-Three website that you can go to. That will get you Zane’s phone number, it will also you get a registration form, which I think, the first thing you need to do is phone Zane and then the second thing you’ll do is send in the registration form, but we’ve narrowed things down a bit. We’re not as wide-spread as we once were, we just felt that we wanted to stay on top of the quality.
We run eight groups out of Edmonton, starting August the fifth this year and that runs for two weeks. And then after that two weeks with the eight groups, which, you know, goes right up to what we would call our pro-prep group, which is our Major Junior and college guys, then the following two weeks we do our Pro group which runs every morning at 9:30 at the KC Arena, just off 137th Avenue in Edmonton, on the north end there. And that two weeks, you know, we go every morning from 9:30 to 11:30 with a group of about thirty pros.
Nick [29:08]: Terrific. Well, thanks a lot for taking the time to talk today, Perry. I really enjoyed it and I wish you nothing but success in the future.
Perry Pearn [29:16]: Well, thanks for having me. I appreciate you making the effort to get a hold of me.
For more information on Perry Pearn’s 3-on-3 Camp, go to www.pearnpearns.com
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