It’s 21st Century Hockey & FUN With The Puck Is banned
Posted by Dean Holden at December 15th, 2015
by Jack Blatherwick, 10 December 2015
It started as an ordinary high school penalty kill. But the defensive forward intercepted a pass, and chipped the puck into the neutral zone, past the opposing defenseman who was just inside the blue line. The D turned toward the board first, then after stumbling a bit, pivoted to chase the PK forward who was skating at top speed – now joined by a teammate. The only one left to defend with the goaltender was a second defenseman who had been at the top of the umbrella on the power play.
As the 2-on-1 advanced – leaving others far behind – a 21st century moment occurred. The forward dumped the puck deep into the offensive zone and skated to his box, leaving his linemate no choice but to join him at the bench. I watched the two to see if a fight might break out, but no, not even an exchange of words. Business as usual, I guess.
I call it a “21st century moment” because a generation ago, dumping the puck on a 2-on-1 would never have entered anyone’s mind. Two generations ago, no one with even a faint dream of fun hockey would dump the puck … ever. But I’ve seen several dump-ins lately on 3-on-2s, and thousands of them on 3-on-3s. It’s the “in thing.” It comes from coaching to eliminate all mistakes from the game.
“Keep it simple. Get the puck deep. No turnovers.” That’s the language of modern day hockey, from TV “expert” analysis, to coaching seminars where “wisdom” is passed along from those who know all the bad things that might happen if kids are left on their own to experiment with new plays.
It’s 21st century hockey, where statistics emphasize hits, but not passes completed. Youngsters are taught to dump the puck to the other team as soon as they cross the middle red line, instead of promoting puck possession. Man-to-man defenders are taught to turn their back to the puck (that magnificent little disk that is the object of our game) and follow their “check” wherever he goes. Teams are not allowed to try anything with the puck that might raise their coach’s blood pressure.
It’s hockey BY and FOR the adults, not the kids. Cautious decision-making is what happens to the human brain after adolescence; politicians are apparently exempt from this particular neuro-transformation.
The art and fun of creative playmaking has been eliminated – replaced by “THE SYSTEM.” You know, that mega-important system. Asked recently about his team’s poor results in November, an NHL coach responded that the team wasn’t executing his system very well yet. Yet?!? You’ve been at it for 10 weeks!
Maybe his team should just play like un-coached kids. Come to think of it, maybe all teams at every age should play like kids. I know this: With no coaching, there isn’t a player in the world who would throw the puck in the corner on a 2-on-1. And to be fair, there aren’t many coaches who would tell players to do that. It’s just that THE SYSTEM has become so dominant in the cluttered minds of players, they feel like they need permission to spit, let alone try some un-rehearsed play that has a slight chance of failure.
Is this the evolution of hockey that Herb Brooks saw when he said, “Return the game to the kids?” He believed, “There’s a little kid in every hockey player, even 40-year-olds – the kid who wants to try the most creative play ever. Telling them to keep it simple is an insult to their skills. It drains the energy and passion out of the game by removing the fun.”
Of course, the better answer is to reduce turnovers by practicing creative plays over and over again to improve execution. But that’s 21st century football … not hockey.
Category: age-appropriateness, art of coaching, Ask the Experts, coaching culture, creativity, decision training, deliberate practice, education, fun, game intelligence, leadership, learning, neuroplasticity, parents, philosophy, play, play-making, possession, Skills, sporting culture of madness, tactics