Hockey season has started.
No doubt, this is a special time of year across the state of Illinois.
For all involved there’s excitement about the fun of hockey season, and, for many, an accompanying desire to get better on the ice.
One way to do this is to improve hockey sense – the mental side of the game that is sometime overlooked but through which a player can make significant gains. This can result in scoring more goals, completing more passes or going from being on the third line to the second. Illinois born players like Chris Chelios and Eddie Olczyk epitomized great hockey sense in their playing days.
Hockey sense is often misunderstood, but has 3 main component parts:
Whether on the ice, or just walking across the street, success requires knowing what’s happening in the immediate environment. Spatial awareness is the ability to read your environment by taking in the multitude of events occurring at any particular moment (other players, one’s own on-ice position, location of puck, etc.), processing this information, and then placing oneself in an ideal situation to exploit opportunities and mitigate risks.
Anticipation of play:
Hand-in-hand with spatial awareness stands anticipation of play, which is based on being conscious of what both your teammates and opponents intend on doing by anticipating their next move.
When a player recognizes patterns in the game well enough to systematically predict what is going to happen, success is usually close at hand.
“He just knows where to be,” is phrase often used to describe great goalscorers. It speaks directly to the cognitive functions that permit great anticipation of on ice play. It’s a trait that can make a third line player, with average skating and puck skills, into a first liner.
The two aforementioned components directly impact the third, decision making. It involves a variety of cognitive tasks including planning and sequencing activities, focusing attention, selecting between environmental aspects, switching and dividing attention between different actions, and more.
Decision making is the “executive branch” of hockey sense, and it’s why Gretzky broke goal and assist records, and Niklas Lidstrom played at an elite level for 20 years.
Regardless of what level a player is at, and what their aspirations with hockey are, this is the time of year to commit to training hockey sense. For if done right, the gains will accrue this season.
How to go about this?
One way is train with a program called Hockey IntelliGym. It’s a software program used by USA Hockey to help players develop anticipation, hone decision making and improve spatial awareness. It’s helped the National Team Development Program (NTDP) gain worldwide acclaim. Since adopting IntelliGym, team USA has medaled in 42 of the last 44 international tournaments, winning 28 gold medals, and 7 IIHF U18 World Championship titles.
Thousands of young players from across the state and country have seen real gains from Intelligym.
It doesn’t have to take long. In just two sessions a week a player will typically see gains on ice after 6 to 8 weeks of training.
“Kids I was working with started using IntelliGym early last season. It led to significant improvement and quickly,” said Coach Sean Goldsworthy, who is IntelliGym’s Director of Outreach for the US Midwest.
“IntelliGym had our guys seeing the ice better. It played a real role in our success and we’ve stressed its importance again this year,” continued Goldsworthy.
In a hockey mad state like Illinois players and coaches are always looking for a leg up. The mental side of the game is too often overlooked. There is proven tech out there that works.