We all want our players to talk more out on the ice. Communication
makes the game easier to play for everyone.
We like it when the goalies give the Ds instruction on the breakout.
It helps when the Ds are standing at the points in the offensive zone
telling the forwards on the wall whether to pass it up or cycle it back down low.
It makes the breakout easier when the wingers are yelling for pucks while
they are flying through the defensive zone.
Calling for pucks is a simple way to communicate that most teams and players
need to improve on in order to get to the next level.
But I want you to think about it from the other side of the coin for a second here.
What if instead of waiting for the instructions of our teammates, we took
the lead and called out the name of the player we wanted to pass to?
How many times have you been sitting in the stands, watching a game on TV
or standing behind the bench and you see the perfect passing play unfold?
The D passes it over to her partner to release pressure and her partner jumps up
the ice to generate speed behind the puck. Maybe the centre and the winger
swing with each other on the far side, creating even more speed behind the puck.
Lots of movement, lots of speed, lots of options.
But let’s say for the purposes of this example, the strong side winger is actually
the best option in this play. She has stretched it out against their defenseman and
simply chipping it past that D or redirecting the puck in deep gets our team clear
possession with a ton of speed in the offensive zone.
The challenge is that the winger isn’t looking at our D when the D wants to pass it.
So she can’t really call for it and she can’t really see exactly how the play is
unfolding. Ideally, she’d be calling for the puck, but she isn’t really in a position to.
So what usually happens?
One of two things.
First, the D passes it to the winger, which is actually the best option, but without
any communication happening first, it goes down the ice for icing, or it gets turned
over or it results in a 50/50 battle for the puck. Not great.
The other option is for the D to pick one of the lesser options. She could try to
force it through the middle or the far side. She could also dump the puck in
but let’s say she’s under pressure and can’t realistically get to the red line.
What usually doesn’t happen – but is the key to success in this play – is the
D calls out the strong side winger’s name as she moves it up to her.
But it doesn’t happen nearly enough.
If you say my name while you’re passing it to me, I am expecting the puck.
Of course I should be expecting the puck at all times, and in an ideal world,
I’d have my stick on the ice, we’d make eye contact and it would be a
majestic tape to tape pass.
But in the real world, there usually isn’t the time and space for all that.
You’re going to have to move pucks quickly into traffic and sometimes
your teammates won’t be looking at you when you pass it.
So yell their name out when you’re passing them the puck.
Instead of waiting for her to ask for it, just tell her you’re giving
it to her.
Feel free to pass this message along to any teammates, players or coaches
who you think might benefit from reading it.
Your friend and coach,
Kim McCullough, MSc, YCS
Director & Founder, Total Female Hockey