Like a spider, be in the right place at the right time
We’ve all seen those players who skate around at a million miles an hour. The ones who spend a lot of energy covering every inch of the ice, but never seem to get a lot done out there.
Typically, we think of them as hard workers and they tend to catch our eye. Sometimes they get noticed more than the players who don’t expend quite as much energy, but always seem to be in the right place at the right time.
Sometimes those less energetic players get labeled as lazy or at least a scout might put a question mark next to their name and wonder if they have the work ethic to be effective at the next level.
As a player who probably would have been in the “run around like a chicken with your head cut off” category, I was praised for my work ethic and intensity. But I often wonder if I would have been an even more effective player if someone had taken a bit more time to teach me where to be and when to be there.
Playing great hockey is all about creating time and space.
When you’re F1 on the forecheck, you need to take away the defenseman’s time and space. When you’re D1 picking the puck up in your own end, you need to move pucks away from pressure quickly to make the most of what little time and space you have on the breakout. Hockey has to be played with a certain sense of urgency. But it seems that there is too much focus on going hard all the time and not enough teaching of how to open up time and space.
When watching the World Cup of Hockey before the NHL regular season began, one NHL player who stood out for their ability to find time and space was Patrice Bergeron of Team Canada and the Boston Bruins.
He wasn’t running around like crazy on every inch of the rink, but he always seemed to be in the right place at the right time to make the big play. Don’t get me wrong – he obviously has the intensity, speed and grit to be an elite hockey player, but where he really separates himself is in his ability to think the game.
Do you think Canada coach Mike Babcock was screaming his head off on the bench for Bergeron to cover every inch of the ice?
Some players don’t have the highest level hockey IQ and so the ability to go full out all the time becomes a critical part of their game and maybe even their only chance of success. Creating chaos with speed and tenacity can take you pretty far in hockey. But we definitely shouldn’t be comparing those players directly to the ones who may play with a little less intensity but are always in the right place at the right time.
I have coached some great D who never seem to be in a rush to make a play. Some scouts may look at those types of players and think that they’re lazy. I watch those players and get excited because they’re the ones who aren’t likely to panic when they need to make a play under pressure when the game is on the line. Similarly with forwards, not everyone was born to be F1 on the forecheck.
There are plenty of players who I refer to as “spiders.”
They always seem to be at the center of play and the game runs through them just like a spider’s legs.They don’t look like they’re in a hurry and quite frankly, they don’t need to be – because they’re smarter than those of us who are running around at a million miles an hour trying to cause chaos.
Both types of players are very valuable to a successful hockey team, but I think it’s about time that we recognize that looking like you’re working the hardest of anyone on the ice may not be at the top of the list of player attributes.
Work Hard. Dream BIG. Be Smarter.
Your friend and coach,
Kim McCullough, MSc, YCS, is director and founder of Total Female Hockey. Visit www.TotalFemaleHockey.com.