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These are the people that will tell you that Wayne Gretzky was just born to be great and he had a natural gift to see the ice like no one else could. I think this is bull. It also came from sitting in front of the t.

Gretzky and many other players learned to be great, and so can you! Teaching Hockey Sense — What Hockey Coaches Have to Say In this article I have asked a number of reputable hockey coaches to weigh in on their thoughts about developing and teaching hockey sense.

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I have devoted a section of this article to each of the coaches so you can read what their philosophy is. I will also weigh in with my thoughts at the bottom of this post.

First lets start off with a short definition of hockey sense. In my opinion hockey sense consists of Experience — The better you understand the game the more effective you will be Habits — Recognizing cues allows your habits to kick in, allowing you to perform tasks with very little hesitation Anticipation — Anticipating the moves of your team mates and opponents allows you make better decisions Decision Making — You always have multiple options on the ice, good decision making will make you more effective Pattern Recognition — Hockey is a game of patterns and plays, when you recognize a pattern you can predict where your team mates will be according to plays you work on at practice Influence — You can influence plays with or without the puck, your position, actions, and amount of pressure will influence the opponents next move.

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In short, hockey sense means being one step ahead of the play. Now that we have a better understanding of hockey sense, lets learn how we can develop it. Good hockey sense also comes from smart hockey players so we will touch on a few smart plays as well Read the coaches feedback below for more on all of the topics I mentioned above.

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In my opinion, it can be broken down into three main areas; understanding your individual style, positional vs tactical play, and learning the patterns of the game. Understanding Your Individual Style Being a smart player starts with understanding your own strengths and weaknesses, then structuring your style of play around those.

Knowing my strengths and weaknesses also helps me understand which types of players make good line mates for me. Typically, my favorite type of line mate is one who has nice hands, good finish around the net, and is a little slower than me. Playing with guys who fit this profile are great for me, because I can be the set-up man, and they have the hands and the scoring touch to convert.

Positional vs Tactical I talk about this one a lot. This is where tactical hockey comes into play. Other examples of tactical play could be force vs contain, gap control, shot selection, etc.

Players who DO the right thing, while in the right position at the right time are much more effective! Learning the Patterns of the Game Hockey is a game of recurring patterns. For example, a defenseman breaking out of the zone sees similar forechecking pressure every time.

Either the pressure will be hard on his inside shoulder, in which case he can execute a quick turn-back or misdirection and come out the strong side; or the pressure could be directly behind him, in which case he will skate it behind the net, cut tight, and hang the forechecker up on the net; if the pressure is inside out, a D to D pass behind the net is a great option.

This idea of recognizing recurring patterns can be applied to many different areas of the game such as offensive attack options, regroups, power play and penalty kill, etc.

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What Now? Action Items to do on Your Own So, how do you actually implement these concepts into your own game?

Start by analyzing your own game. How would you describe your style? Some descriptive words could be speed, finesse, gritty, tough, smooth, hands, defensive. What would you say your typical role is on your teams?

Some possible roles could be goal scorer, playmaker, digger, enforcer, stabilizer, spark plug. What type of player do you play best with?

Describe him or her.

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Lastly, start watching game film, both of your own games, as well as the NHL games. Watch for the positional situations your coach has taught you. Watch for the recurring patterns that happen over and over.

Watch for the times when you made the right decision, and watch for the times when you messed up. Watch how the pros play certain situations. Instead of reading and reacting, the top players are constantly recognizing and reacting.

He currently coaches a Midget 16 AAA team. Coach nielsen describes the importants of playing smart hockey and discusses a few smart plays that he likes to see. Coach Nielsen is responding to an email and I mentioned teaching players to beat the defense with their speed rather than a deke.

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You already mentioned one that I tell my players all the time and that is to use your speed and stay outside instead of always trying to go between defenders legs. Every season if I can get just one of my players to change their game away from that deke to a hard outside rush I feel like I accomplished something.

Another one I drill into their heads is on the penalty kill. Too many players are trying to score a shorthanded goal instead of just trying to prevent one against us.

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Too often a five on four becomes a five on three because a player blows the zone looking for the breakaway pass instead of playing his position.

Too many players want to play when the puck is in the offensive zone and then are too tired to backcheck and cause the team to play against odd man rushes.

I work on my guys to understand how long a shift should be and when they should exit the ice no matter what area of the ice they are in.

All players need to talk while on the ice. Forwards need to talk to the defensemen when looking for a pass breaking out of the zone. Defensemen need to talk to each other and the forwards to know who to pick up on the zone entries by the opponent.

Play without the puck.

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A good player understands open ice concepts and passing lanes. Keep your feet moving and look for open areas on the ice where your teammate can get you the puck.

Be aware of the passing lanes that your teammate needs to use to get you the puck. Move to open ice and keep moving until you find the right spot to receive a pass.

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