USA Hockey’s Dave Starman presenting at our Hockey Coaches Conference in 2019 (The Coaches Site)

You can teach hockey sense with small area games in practice

In Coaching Hockey, Skills by Kelvin CechLeave a Comment

Every coach is looking for that perfect mixture of hockey sense and raw skill.

Forwards who can skate like the wind and shoot the puck through the net but lack the vision to see open teammates will only get so far. Same goes for your defence – a defender who can’t skate with the fastest players in your league can still earn ice time if they can freeze forecheckers with deception and move the puck to open outlets.

And while hockey sense might be an intangible skill, for USA Hockey’s Dave Starman, it’s certainly not a skill that’s impossible to teach. Enter the age of the small area game at every level of our sport. At our Hockey Coaches Conference this past summer, Starman presented several small area games ranging from simple passing sequences to more in-depth situations involving multiple rules.

Starman, who has 33 years of coaching experience at various levels, from mites to professionals, is also a pro scout for the Montreal Canadiens. For Dave, the best small area games borrow from the skills required when the puck drops for real and the lights are on – competition, creativity, and mistakes. After all, if both teams are working hard and competing and there are no mistakes, then you’ll have a pretty boring practice on your hands.

Incorporate small area games as a regular part of your practices. Switch up the rules. Make it competitive. When players are comfortable with a high pace in practice, they’ll play the game with the same pace because their technical skills – stickhandling, passing, and shooting, will come as second nature. This is the sweet spot where hockey players don’t think, they just read and react. They just play.

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About the Author
Kelvin Cech

Kelvin Cech

Former editor in chief of The Coaches Site, current head coach of the Winkler Flyers of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League.


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