All us hockey players grew up on the ice trying to better our skills (skating, stickhandling, shooting, etc.), however, there’s an important part of the game that is often neglected, it’s what we call “Hockey Sense” or “Hockey Smarts” .
Hockey smart's is one of the toughest abilities to acquire and improve upon, some even believe that you either have it or you don't. But wait, doesn't skill trump all? In short “No”. We all have seen it, players that just kill it in practice, they can dangle, snipe, and wheel with the best of them, yet when game time comes around they disappear, make the wrong plays or try to do it all themselves. On the other hand there are players that don’t look all that impressive; yet they put up the points, make the best plays, and make it seem effortless. These players are much more effective, these players demonstrate high hockey sense.
What exactly is Hockey Sense? It’s tough, maybe impossible to exactly define, however, there are some clear signs of a player with hockey sense. Such a player sees the game differently instead of reacting to what's happening they react to what's going to happen, they can instinctively envision plays before they happen, and therefore seem to react instantly.
“I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.” Wayne Gretzky
These players know what pass to make before they even have the puck, and equally important when to pass! These players make their moves rather simple, such as a perfect pass for a tap in goal or giving that initial pass that sets up the next pass which leads to a goal, they always put themselves in a position to create or score the easy goal. In short a smart player is not only individually effective putting up points but more importantly makes the players around them better. In the NHL a clear-cut example of that kind player is Sidney Crosby, he’s not the strongest, fastest, biggest, or most skilled player, however he always ends up being one of the most effective point scorer, and his linemates often times have career games and career seasons.
“they always put themselves in a position to create or score the easy goal.”
Hockey Smarts can propel someone to a higher level and a lack of hockey smarts can hold someone with a ton of skill back from reaching their full potential. Understanding the game can take a long time and mastering it even longer. Can you acquire Hockey Smarts? It all depends on what type of person you are. It is something you have to work on and improve not just on the ice, but also at home, try watching as much hockey on TV as you can, see how plays develop, learn to predict where the passes are going and where the other players are going to be. Keep a close eye on smart players like Crosby, Datsyuk, Kane, etc. and learn how they play and the decisions they make on the ice. Practice with teammates as much as possible and learn their playing styles and tendencies to help you find them quicker and react to their plays instinctively. Most of all focus more on making smart plays, good passes, and finding the right spot on the ice at the right time, and don't try and do it all yourself.
The players that can combine hockey sense with hockey skill (Shameless plug: and a good tape job) are the ones that go far. Comment underneath with your team name and position, we’d love to learn more about our fans, while you are at it, share this post and tag a teammate on Facebook. #Staytaped
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