Two Key Concepts To Winning The Possession Game


Concept # 1 Outnumbering/Overloading

Hockey is a Possession Game and there are two offensive concepts every young player needs to learn to become a better offensive player. The first concept is Outnumbering also referred to as Overloading on the puck/strong side to create a player advantage. The higher the calibre or level of play the more difficult it becomes to beat a defender one against one. You need to create outnumbered situations where your team has the player advantage to support the advancement of the puck.

The Russian players from the 70’s were famous for outnumbering or overloading in space to create the player advantage to advance the puck. The players as a group possessed strong technical hockey skills and were suited to the puck support game which required them to ensure the Puck Carrier had passing options to advance the puck. As a group, the players would be patient with the puck and didn’t mind going backwards or sideways with the puck before going forward with the puck because of the passing options present at all times. Every good player is patient with the puck because they are confident in their technical skills and know they have the support of their teammates to support the puck.

Concept # 2 – Puck Support (Offensive)

Teams that support the puck (Puck Carrier) are excellent at retaining puck possession and control. These teams seldom put the puck off the glass to get the puck out of the zone (defensive zone or neutral zone) and prefer to pass the puck (direct or indirect) to retain puck possession and control. The players without the puck are responsible for finding open ice to set a quality passing lane to support the Puck Carrier. The players without the puck can be above the puck, below the puck or adjacent to the puck but they must “arrive on time” to ensure a quality passing lane option exists. The Puck Carrier is responsible for being patient with the puck and timing his/her passes to players to ensure the group retains puck possession and control to advance the puck. The advancement of the puck is the result of time and space created by the group supporting the puck to create open ice to accomplish the task.

The video below is of the Red Wings Power Play unit made up of five well known Russian players who possess strong technical hockey skills. The players demonstrate patience with the puck and the ability to find open ice, support the Puck Carrier and to create an outnumbered situation to advance the puck. The video clip is worth watching to see these concepts being executed.



The concepts of Outnumbering or Overloading and Offensive Puck Support are key to a player’s development. It is a lot more fun playing with the puck than without the puck. The learning of these concepts support the development of a young player’s technical hockey skills. Players need to have excellent technical hockey skills to execute these concepts to retain puck possession and control. Players should be given the freedom to be creative once they learn the concepts to make plays. Give and Go play is a tactic that is under coached and supports the execution of these two key concepts. Player and puck movement are essential elements of the Possession Game.

It’s not how fast you skate that is important but rather how fast you think. Our young players need to know this and understand key concepts to ensure their technical hockey skills are developed. They will make mistakes but that is how they learn.

PP|Setting Up The Net/Slot Zone Deflection

Setting Up The Net/Slot Zone Deflection Play

Every successful Power Play (PP) unit is focused in zone on trying to take the puck to the net to create quality scoring chances. There are several tactics deployed by the PP unit to force defenders to move their feet and require them to defend the puck carrier and players without the puck, which opens up passing and shooting seams/lanes & breaks down the defensive structure of the PK unit.

The tactics deployed by a PP unit to infiltrate and break down the defensive structure include but are not limited to the following:

  • Player and puck movement at different levels within the zone.
  • Movement of the puck around the perimeter of the defensive structure, side to side & up and down within the zone.
  • Players without the puck finding open ice to support the puck by creating passing lanes.
  • Outnumbering the defenders in a specific area in zone to create a player advantage.
  • Give and Go plays to take advantage of an outnumbered situation.
  • Movement of the puck strong side to weak side on the boards & cross ice.
  • Movement of the puck to a player in the Prime Scoring Area.
  • Patience with the puck to make quality puck management decisions.
  • Always moving (never stationary) to force defenders to move their feet to create time and space.

Setting up the Net Slot Zone Deflection Play is no different than setting up the cross ice “Shooter”. The PP unit utilizes the same tactics to force defenders into coverage to create time and space and break down or infiltrate the defensive structure of the Penalty Kill (PK) unit.

In the video below you see an excellent example of the tactics deployed by the PP unit to set up the Net Zone Deflection that results in a goal. The puck is moved from down low to up top to force defenders to cover the puck carrier who is a potential shooter. The player and puck movement opens up a passing and deflection lane for the PP unit player located in the PSA with his stick on the ice ready to deflect the puck from P#55.

Play Options – Bottom 3 PP Unit Group

  • Deflection by the player in middle ice or low weak side
  • Pass to strong side low F (anchor) who passes to player in middle ice or low weak side
  • All 3 low F’s positioned for rebound on a puck on net



The Net Slot Zone Deflection Play provides an option for creating scoring chances on the Power Play. It is a good option to exploit the defensive structure of the PK unit. The key is having players in roles with the skills to execute the play.

Considerations For Conducting Player Development Meetings

Player Development

The key to successful organizations are evaluating, recruiting and developing the skills and abilities of their people. Once you have recruited and signed an athlete, the development process starts immediately and is a never ending process as illustrated in the above diagram. One of the effective methods used by organizations is to conduct regular One on One Player Development Meetings to establish and build the relationship between the player and his/her coach and the members of the organization.

These meetings are used to support the athlete in the development process. The steeper the learning curve the better and for this reason the process must be efficient and effective in managing the development issues faced by the person/athlete. The goal should be self-reliance, the player should be able to manage his/her own development process with diminishing need for the meetings and support as time goes on. Every player should be supported to get to the skilled or unconscious competence stage in the hierarchy of learning in all aspects of their sport. When we teach and coach character development we are preparing the person/athlete for life because failure is inevitable and they will need to have the skills to overcome adversity.

Purpose Statement

It benefits everyone involved in the player development process to understand the ‘why’ behind the participants involvement. A clear purpose statement should identify the reasons for conducting these meetings. You want to ensure there is a commitment to the process by the participants and they recognize there is value in the meetings to achieve individual, team and organizational goals.


  1. Head Coach
  2. Player
  3. Assistant Coaches
  4. Subject Matter Experts
  5. Technical Support (as required)


The environment for conducting the meetings is important to the process. Lighting, temperature of the room, access to electrical outlets, comfortable seating, technical aids (video) and amenities to ensure an effective meeting.


An agenda for the meeting with input from the player and coach is important to keeping the meeting focused and time oriented. Setting time to address issues and a time frame to conduct the meeting demonstrates to the participants everyone’s time is important and the meetings are focused.


The frequency of the meetings should depend on the player’s needs. Keeping a record of the meeting is essential to tracking the issues addressed and following up on key work and issues in subsequent meetings. What needs to be brought forward to the next meeting must be tracked and on the next meeting agenda.


  • Player Evaluation
  • Development Plan
  • Development Issues
  • Performance Issues (current)
  • Performance Measurement
  • Health & Wellness
  • Family & Friends
  • Circle of Influence
  • Educational Issues
  • Life After Sports
  • Questions & Answers
  • Hobbies & Interests
  • Leadership & Emotional Intelligence
  • Character
  • Expectations of Player & Coach

Problem Solving

There are always going to be issues that surface that need to be addressed. Making time to listen to the player and his/her problem(s) and possible solutions is important to the development process. Coach can help by effectively listening and to help the player land on solutions.

Technical Aids/Resources

The more objective the meetings the better so being able to breakdown video and share data and statistical information is important to the development process.

Player’s Goals & Performance Objectives

It’s important for the Coach to know the player’s goals and performance objectives and the work the player is currently engaged in daily to achieve them. Every coach should be interested in learning from the player his/her daily habits and focus to achieve improved performance.


It is really important to make the player aware of the support that the team can provide to their development process. The player has to do the hard work and be self-disciplined and committed to getting better but the team and organization should ensure the player is fully supported by the resources available to them.

Record/Note Taking

Notes are helpful for reflection and tracking the development process.

Player Engagement

The player is ultimately responsible for their own development as a person and athlete. As a coach and participants to the process it is important to learn the perspectives of the player on development issues. Active listening and engaging the player as an active participant in problem solving and solutions is critical to the goals of self-reliance and their development. Asking the player open ended questions is one of the keys to learning the player’s thoughts and ideas on specific subjects. You cannot coach a player who doesn’t want to be coached so their engagement in the development process is critical to building their trust, respect and a relationship, which will be helpful to the developmental process.


Player development meetings can be a highly effective tool to the development process and in establishing a high performance environment for players.

Keys to Defending Your Blue Line & Entrance into Your Own End of the Rink

Defending Entrance into Your Own End of the Rink

Being able to defend your blue line on the attack rush to force a dump-in or create a turnover to prevent your opponent from entering your zone is one of the keys to becoming a good defensive team and a better puck possession team. Too often you see the defensive pair back up and give away entrance into the zone and a shot on net or quality scoring chance because of a failure to defend (take away time and space).

Keys to Defending Your Blue Line

  1. Forecheck in the neutral zone as a group (D pair and F’s) to force a puck turnover and change of possession.
  2. D pairing control of the GAP between the puck carrier and the defensive pairing. The D pairing must support the forechecking forwards by playing the right GAP.
  3. D pairing positioned to defend by backing up between the dots and protecting middle ice.
  4. Use of effective angling with inside out control by F’s and the D pairing. Never allow the opponent to carry the puck N-S through the neutral zone. You want to prevent your opponent from entering and exiting the neutral zone with speed and puck control.

The Art of Angling —Defending Entrance Into Your Zone (Blue Line)

Coach Laura Schuler provides an excellent analysis of the strong side Defencemen’s role angling with inside out control to pressure up on the puck carrier outside the dots to defend entrance into the defensive zone. The defending team’s forwards are forechecking their opponent in the neutral zone to pressure the puck and push their opponent outside the dots to force a pass, dump in or puck turnover. The D pairing is supporting the Forecheckers by controlling the GAP between the puck and the pairing. The D pairing is not in a defensive position to angle unless the following steps are in place:

  1. Control of the GAP (distance between puck and D pair),
  2. Positioned between the dots,
  3. Able to match the speed of the puck carrier when backward skating (just before the pivot).
  4. Back pressure support from F group in the neutral zone.

Rule of Thumb Gap Control

  • Puck at the opponent’s Blue Line – 3 stick length distance between puck carrier and the D,
  • Puck at the Red Line – 2 stick length distance between puck carrier and the D,
  • Puck at your Blue Line – 1 stick length distance between puck carrier and the D.

Video Analysis: Laura Schuler, Art of Angling

Excellent Analysis of the Art of Angling for by Coach Laura Schuler

Video Clip of Defensive Pairing Backing Up Giving Away Not Defending Entrance Into Their Zone

What Happens When The Defensive Pair Backs Up Without Angling To Defend the Blue Line


Defending entrance into your zone (blue line) as a group by protecting middle ice (between the dots) and angling with inside out control in the neutral zone is essential to taking away time and space and forcing puck turnovers.

The D pairing has to get accustomed to controlling the GAP in the neutral zone and getting out of their comfort zone. Anybody can back up and give away ice but that’s not defending.

Establishing Defensive Position

Defensive Position on Opponents

Establishing Defensive Position

Whether you’re a weak side Defenceman or back checking Forward defending the Attack Rush, getting defensive position on your opponent is critical to defending. There are good habits you should be aware of in your execution.

Good Defensive Habits

  • Swivel Head to identify arrivals into the zone supporting the puck carrier,
  • Establish defensive side of the puck (box out) to establish defensive position, keep yourself between the puck carrier and the player without the puck,
  • Track between the dots to protect middle ice & to establish defensive position,
  • Strong Hockey Position (maximum strength and balance),
  • Stick under your opponent’s, tap up, to prevent stick on puck,
  • Take your opponent to the net,
  • No gliding, full speed to get shoulder to shoulder then matching speed,
  • Communicate coverages with teammates.

Late Arrivals into the Offensive Zone

When there is a good structure defending established and no play on the net your opponent may delay and turn back for offensive puck support arriving late into the zone. It is critical late arrivals are picked up and defended. Teams are dropping their Defencemen down to support the puck offensively into open ice (lanes/seams) to support the puck so there must be constant awareness of the position of players without the puck in the zone.

TLPF_Hockey TW Shared Below

  • Weak Side D does an excellent job establishing Defensive Position on his opponent.

What Happens When You Don’t Establish Defensive Position —Video Goal Against

How You Support The Puck Offensively Key To Possession Game

Offensive Puck Support

  • One of the keys to the Puck Possession Game is the ability to effectively support the puck offensively and defensively. In the TW video below you see evidence of constant player & puck movement that is skillfully timed in execution. The players without the puck find open ice at different levels; above, below and at puck level to create passing options for the puck carrier. The team with the puck is patient in their approach to finding a teammate breaking away from coverage to get into a scoring position to make a play on net.
  • Support of the puck offensively in all three zones is one of the keys to winning the Possession Game. The Art of Supporting the Puck is essential to becoming a good offensive team. The ability to support the puck effectively is key to your ability to exit the Defensive Zone, Enter and Exit the Neutral Zone with speed and puck control and to advance the puck on net in the offensive zone at Even Strength and on the Power Play.
  • Timing of player and puck movement and the group’s technical hockey skills are essential to supporting the puck effectively.
  • Teams that have mobile skilled Defencemen should give them the green light to engage with the Forwards to create offence. So long as you have rotational coverage up top the Defencemen should be part of supporting the puck to advance the puck.

Down Low Game Below The Hash Marks

To control the puck below the hash marks you need to support the Puck Carrier offensively. Great example in the TW video below of excellent support of the puck. You see strong technical hockey skills, timing in player & puck movement to attack the net.

Interesting Article About Constant Player & Puck Movement

The Competitiveness Character Muscle – CC#04

Competition – Getting Up When You’re Knocked Down

Coach Bill Belichick coaching the character muscle with his team in the video clip below. The theme of the week was “Competition”, getting up when you get knocked down and competing to the best of your ability is the expectation. Important coaching message for the person-athlete. Character drives performance in life and sports.

Overcoming Adversity – Expect Adversity
Getting Up When You’re Get Knocked Down


Young Fighter Terri Harper broke her hand in the 4th Round and won the fight on a stoppage in the 9th. Clearly, she overcame adversity, made adjustments in the fight to find a way to win.

Focus on Today

Keep Your Feet On The Ground

One of the keys to getting better is your ability to focus on ‘today’. We are what we do every day and must be focused on the things we need to do today to get better. Can’t change the past, must be able to work through adversity and challenges, get the work that needs to get done today out of the way. Coach Saban coaching the Perseverance Character muscle with players.

Competitiveness Mindset

The point of competition is getting up after you get knocked down, expect adversity and challenges, and compete to the top level you are at and your best effort consistently is the expectation.

Defencemen — 10 Keys To Better One On One Play

One on One Attack Rush Play Defending – Defencemen

Keys for Defencemen Defending a One on One Attack Rush Play

Defending Entrance Into Your Zone – Angling Tips
Excellent TW from @TheCoachesSite and @LauraSchuler27 on the art of angling in this video clip from their latest edition of Finding the Details. Extremely important subject and relevant to the One on One Attack Rush Play for Defencemen. Laura explains the importance of inside out control, opening up and closing the gap on the puck carrier.

Every defenceman should work on controlling their neutral zone gap (distance between puck carrier and D pairing) to improve their skating skills and ability to match the speed of a puck carrier on the Attack Rush. The D in this clip plays a tight gap to support the F’s and opens up and angles effectively to strip the puck and get position on the puck carrier at the blue line 👍.

Excellent Videos Shared by Nick Neary Below on Proper Angling

Defending: The use of Gap Control and Angling to Take Away Ice (Time & Space)

Exercising Character Muscles CC#03

3 Video Clips of Coaches Exercising Muscles of Character

Coach Saban expending energy in a Football Clinic to define Character and Self-Discipline for players, parents and coaches in attendance. Players need to understand the importance of doing what they are supposed to do, when they are supposed to do it, the way they were taught to do it and that is not too much of an ask. Coach Saban setting the expectations.

Self-Discipline Character Muscle Gets Some Exercise

Truthfulness – Easy to Say, Hard to Do

The best thing a Coach can do for a player, tell them the truth. The best thing a Parent can do for their child, tell them the truth. The best thing a person/athlete can do is be honest with yourself, tell the truth. The truth matters, if you hide from the truth, you will never address the work that needs to happen to get better. So many people hide from the truth, and that’s the truth. You are not doing the person/athlete any favours by not being truthful.

Truthfulness Character Muscle Gets Some Exercise
Effort, Best Energy Effort Investment Character Muscle Gets Some Exercise

Best Effort – Energy Investment

Coaches should not have to coach your level of effort and energy at any time. In the clip the Coach is coaching the Best Effort Character Muscle even though he says “you wouldn’t be here if I had to coach that”. We are human and occasionally even the elite athletes may need their Best Effort Character Muscle exercised.

Building Character CC#02

Character Drives Performance

Building Character

Dr. Jim Loehr has studied the relationship between character and performance outcomes. There is a huge link between building character and performance outcomes. He explains, “Everyone of us know how to build a muscle, you place demands on the muscle by investing energy in it and consistent energy investment spawns growth and that metaphor of the muscle of the physical body is exactly how you build the muscle of character”. There must be an investment in energy expended to grow muscles of character, it’s no different than building a muscle in the body.


Have a listen to Dr. Loehr’s short video below, X’s & O’s OF BUILDING CHARACTER, he provides strategies to building character muscles with players.

You Don’t Need a PHD in Character to Coach Character

Strategies to Building Character X’s & O’s

  • Select a character muscle theme of the day or the week (Persistence, Positivity, Patience, Focus, Self-Discipline).
  • Have every player select a character muscle they are going to work on every day and write it down in their journal.
  • Integrate coaching character muscles into your daily coaching work with players on an individual & group basis.
  • Display articles and quotes to drive home a character muscle.
  • When character happens, highlight it.
  • Use an injury as an opportunity to exercise the resilience muscle.
  • Have former Athletes come talk to the team about how character has positively influenced their lives in and away from sports.
  • Be a Role Model for the character strengths you want your players to develop.
  • Have each player create a set of core character values they will use to guide the personal choices they make every day.
Character Muscles of High Performing People


You don’t need a PHD to coach character. The data overwhelmingly supports character drives performance on and off the playing surface. A player’s sport’s career is short, building performance character muscles will help a player’s performance development and position the player for success in life after sports.