Merging Skills and Knowledge

by barbaragarn

​Guest blog by Reid Sellgren

In golf, you must constantly be alert of your surroundings–not only to duck when someone yells, “Fore!” to avoid adding a third eye, but to make sure that you aren’t standing in a fellow golfer’s line, or that you’re standing still when someone else is putting, or that you’re quiet during the other golfers’ backswing. Most golfers know exactly what I just said, but for newer golfers, it may not be so clear.

Like golf, as a newer hockey player, you aren’t expected to have mastered the skills and knowledge, but being alert to your surroundings can get you there quicker– and experienced skaters are far from being immune themselves.

Over the last two years, I’ve skated Level 4 and 5 and Community Sessions and I have learned ways to work on my game at any level. Skating next to a player who just picked up the game a few years earlier and can already hang with Level 4s, or completing a pass to a Level 1 skater and watching them slam home a goal, gives me all the reasons I need to keep coming back.

I know Barbara and the fine captain staff have been great at encouraging players to keep shots down in traffic, play hard but nice and take SHORT SHIFTS but I’d like to reference back to my golf scenario as it relates to playing hockey positions. Calling out your position is great, but it doesn’t require you have to stay there during your entire shift.

  • Positions — When you take the ice, you should already know what to do: mind the gap, fill the hole, whatever you want to call it. Don’t skate right to your assigned position and stand waiting for a pass if there is a 3 on 1 rush happening in your zone–fill the hole by taking the missing defender’s position (likewise for offense).
  • Rotation — You’ve heard of “cycling,” which is moving the puck through the offensive zone while working toward opening up a player for a shot on net. The puck is moving, the players are moving… and if you aren’t moving, you aren’t helping. If you’re standing high in the slot, flat skated with your stick in the air or pretending you’re Gretzky behind the net, you aren’t using your knowledge to be part of the play. Move to the puck, move to an open spot, be part of the momentum.
  • Covering — Sometimes as part of cycling or filling a hole, a defender will penetrate the offensive zone (or carry the puck from your zone)… Always be counting. If you see four players, look behind you for an empty D position and get your butt back there. Likewise for the defender, realize you’ve changed positions and either hustle back and communicate another switch or keep driving hard at whatever you were doing.

You may not yet have the skills, but playing with more knowledge will help get you there faster and make it more fun.

[BG note: This blog has useful information for upper level skaters, but I wanted to note here that Level 1s and 2s aren’t expected to have all this stuff down. Try, but don’t beat yourself up if you miss something. There’s a lot to learn, and like Reid says, even lifelong players are still honing their game. Don’t stress if you flub something; everybody does. The key is learning from it.]