I visited the local rink tonight to watch a “AAA” Major Bantam playoff game. It had been a while since I had been out to the rink to watch a competitive minor hockey game. Unfortunately the quality of the play was below average and disappointing. The game was sloppy to watch and there was a clear absence of puck skills and ability to control the puck and play by both teams.
The play in all three zones was like watching a ping pong match with neither team disciplined enough to make reasonable puck management decisions. Hockey is a game of time and space and our coaches have to “teach” young players how to create space in all three zones using the width and depth of the ice surface. Young players have to be taught what to do with and without the puck in all three zones.
Coaches have a responsibility to “teach” proper puck support to allow the transition from defence to offence and offence to defence in all three zones. I witnessed so many puck giveaways tonight I couldn’t make it to the end of the second period.
Coaches have to “teach” young players how to set passing lanes and shooting lanes when then the player doesn’t have the puck. Player movement into open ice creates time and space and allows for better passing lanes (angles) to make sound passes especially when we use the width and depth of the ice and indirect (the boards) passing when space is congested. Chipping to open ice is better than a puck giveaway and an acceptable option to create speed and maintain puck control.
Coaches have to “teach” the puck is not a hot potato and it is unacceptable to give the puck away in all three zones. The importance of players without the puck getting open with a proper passing lane is important to teach and coach.
I witnessed one player from the two teams who didn’t slap the puck when he passed the puck. This player was a skilled athlete who had obviously been taught how to pass the puck and receive a pass which was very nice to see.
We have to raise the bar in competitive minor hockey with a focus on individual hockey skills and there is clearly a need to teach zone entries and exits with speed, puck control and proper puck support. Coaches have to “teach” players the importance of slowing the game down and NOT giving the puck away. In many of the instances the puck carrier had time to make a better play with the puck but didn’t have the composure to make a good decision with the puck. The game is fun when we control the puck and play in all three zones. Players should be moving and demonstrating sound hockey skills like passing and receiving a pass and being in position to support a teammate. When teaching puck support the players must be told the puck carrier should have a minimum of two passing options at any one time on the ice surface. That’s right two passing options so we have to move our feet to get into open ice and set quality passing lane options.
Kids should be having fun out there playing. Giving the puck away like it is a hot potato has to stop and kids need to be taught how to play a puck control game with basic fundamentals. I believe we have the ability to provide these kids with better coaching.