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DAILY DISH: Get Stronger Between the Ears Junior Hockey News

Published: Monday, 6 Apr 2020  
By: Stephen Heisler,

“How did he do?” That’s the question being asked by one parent or another after the son has completed a prospects or open camp. As a result, I find myself asking that exact same question to the coaches and general managers.

There are two common responses that I hear from the coaches.

“He needs to work on his skating.” Yes, outside the top 100 National Hockey League veterans, I think every player wants to enhance skating.

The other is hockey intelligence. “He needs to make better decisions,” is something I’m hearing in a consistent basis.

That’s going to be an ongoing theme during the offseason and something we are constantly addressing with the players and coaches that I work with.

Today I’m going to run down some of the practices shared with players needing to address the intelligence part of their individual game.

-     Identify a high level NHL player that plays the same position and spend time breaking down that player’s game film. Note both successful and unsuccessful plays while analyzing the decision. Pay extra attention to the player’s positioning and breakouts. Think about where the puck should be two or three passes ahead of play. Hockey sense is built with the experience of trial and error; video work is one of the best ways to enhance that development without being on the ice.

-        Each player should spend adequate time breaking down their own game film in the same manner as above. Note just why some decisions were successful and why others were not. Don’t fall into the trap of blaming teammates for certain failures and focus on what could have been done to make each failure a success.

-   Lack of vision is one of the most common causes of mistakes on the ice. Work on stickhandling drills with the head up. This can be accomplished anywhere with a tennis ball and stick. It’s important to know what the options are before getting the puck in the game. Having the skills to play heads up will dramatically improve the successful decision making process.

-        Visualize success. Yes, a player can work on his game while lounging around at the pool or beach. Think about the various options available while in all three zones. Consider the exact time of a game, the score, and how the scenario changes with the score. Change idle time into a productive opportunity to grow.

-       Natural Born Talent is a big fat lie. There is a reason Wayne Gretzky is the game’s best ever; it’s because he worked the hardest. How did the Great One know? Nobody was a more dedicated student of the game. Gretzky often knew what his teammates and opponents were going to do with the puck before they even touched it. He studied not only each player’s tendencies, but even how the dasher boards reacted in each arena. Gretzky was by far the greatest student of the game.

Hard work pays. Some of the smartest hockey players I’ve ever known were also amazing students in the classroom. The same good study habits needed for academic success are easily carried over to hockey. Those that dedicate themselves to doing what it takes to be a professional between the ears will find that investment paying huge dividends on the ice.

Author: Stephen Heisler from
Stephen Heisler has spent a lifetime in the game of hockey. Stephen is also working with individual teams, coaches, and players as a director with Victorious Hockey Company. Stephen, his wife Deysi, and four children reside in Orlando, Florida.

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