â€‹Guest blog by Ryan McNaughton
So as a newbie I have to put in a good word for my new favorite activity on the ice: The sweet pass.
Statistically speaking, the better you are at hockey, the less time the puck spends on your stick. When I first read this I admit my reaction was, “No way. All I see are players going end-to-end and dipsy-doodling around the offensive zone, circling and sniping, carrying the puck the whole time.” Reality, as it often does, poured cold water all over that idea.
See, watching only the highlights will give you a warped perspective on reality — sort of like learning warthog behavior solely from “When Animals Attack” shows. The highlight moves are the ones that are rare. When I go to a game now that’s being played at a high level and actually watch what happens, I see a pass-fest that has broken out in the middle of a skating clinic. And now I’m inspired.
Being so new to hockey means there aren’t any aspects of my game that have risen above the level of “terrible.” I’m not being harsh, in fact quite the contrary. “Terrible” is a great improvement over “Non-existent” which is where all my skills were a year ago.
Skating I can work on by practicing on pond ice and trying out horrible crossovers and turns in games. Stick handling and shooting I can practice in a garage or my basement. Passing, though, requires ice and at least one other person to practice. What better place to practice passing then than a JMS game?
“Pass first” is becoming my mantra. Unless there’s no one else around me or I have a definite step on the nearest defender, I’m going to look for the pass. When I’m deep in my zone and that puck is anywhere near my stick it’s going to the nearest wing . . . or up the boards . . . or if I whiff, right into the slot (can’t win them all).
Since you can time my foot speed with a sun-dial, and since my puck-handling is about as useful as those little dangly arms on a Tyrannosaurus, I’m pretty sure that passing is about the only thing that’s going to get me and the rest of the people on my team what we want: The puck anywhere but in our zone. Now I’m not saying I’ll never try to carry a puck around somebody or that I’ll put it in traffic just for the sake of getting it off my stick, I’m just going to be looking for people ahead of me on the ice and see if I can put it on their tape.
So far my strategy is having surprisingly positive results. Turns out that a well placed, solid pass is something that even I can do. I’m not saying I’m all of a sudden “Mr. Assist” or anything, but I am saying that passing has a higher success rate for me than almost anything else.
Next time you’re warming up before a game, maybe give some thought to a few minutes of practicing some nice hard tape-to-tape passes. And next time you get the puck in your own end, put your head up and see who’s streaking down the boards from your team and fire one to them.
My hope is always that they’ll take it in and score so I don’t have to drag my fat, out of position ass all the way down the ice. Guess I’ve hit on a new angle: How to turn laziness into success. I’m smelling a self-help book deal here . . .