“How did he do?” That’s the question being asked by one parent or
another after the son has completed a prospects or open camp.
As a result, I find myself asking that exact same question to the coaches and
There are two common responses that I hear from the coaches.
“He needs to work on his skating.” Yes, outside the top 100 National
Hockey League veterans, I think every player wants to enhance skating.
The other is hockey intelligence. “He needs to make better decisions,”
is something I’m hearing in a consistent basis.
That’s going to be an ongoing theme during the offseason and something we are constantly addressing with the players and coaches that I work with.
Today I’m going to run down some of the practices shared with players needing
to address the intelligence part of their individual game.
- Identify a high level NHL player that plays the same position and spend
time breaking down that player’s game film. Note both successful and
unsuccessful plays while analyzing the decision. Pay extra attention to the
player’s positioning and breakouts. Think about where the puck should be two or
three passes ahead of play. Hockey sense is built with the experience of trial
and error; video work is one of the best ways to enhance that development
without being on the ice.
Each player should spend adequate time breaking down their own game
film in the same manner as above. Note just why some decisions were successful
and why others were not. Don’t fall into the trap of blaming teammates for
certain failures and focus on what could have been done to make each failure a
- Lack of vision is one of the most common causes of mistakes on the ice.
Work on stickhandling drills with the head up. This can be accomplished
anywhere with a tennis ball and stick. It’s important to know what the options
are before getting the puck in the game. Having the skills to play heads up
will dramatically improve the successful decision making process.
Visualize success. Yes, a player can work on his game while lounging
around at the pool or beach. Think about the various options available while in
all three zones. Consider the exact time of a game, the score, and how the
scenario changes with the score. Change idle time into a productive opportunity
- Natural Born Talent is a big fat lie. There is a reason Wayne Gretzky
is the game’s best ever; it’s because he worked the hardest. How did the Great
One know? Nobody was a more dedicated student of the game. Gretzky often knew
what his teammates and opponents were going to do with the puck before they even
touched it. He studied not only each player’s tendencies, but even how the dasher
boards reacted in each arena. Gretzky was by far the greatest student of the
Hard work pays. Some of the smartest hockey players I’ve ever known were also amazing students in the classroom. The same good study habits needed
for academic success are easily carried over to hockey. Those that dedicate
themselves to doing what it takes to be a professional between the ears will
find that investment paying huge dividends on the ice.
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