Recently, I had coffee with friend to catch up and discuss his most recent submission to the local governing body of hockey. Russell has been in the minor hockey game for going on 40 years. Minor hockey is stuck in a fixed mindset and nothing of any significance has emerged during that time. Russell brought up some great ideas on how to improve costs, development of players, development of coaches, and reduce the amount of time hockey takes up. As we discussed the document we exchanged ideas and concepts. I suggested to him that a couple of times a year teams play meaningful league games that are four on four and three on three. Get away from the traditional five on five. Can you hear the hockey purists going nuts over this concept but hear Russell and me out.
The benefits to this idea far out weight the negative. Every Association says they are about player development. Drills are run in practice in a controlled environment with a controlled outcome. What I am not seeing is the transference from the practice environment to the game. The creativity, speed, and skill are being lost. Playing four on four, three on three, a premium would be put on the ability to skate. Not just in straight line, but laterally and backwards. It would also develop the athlete’s ability to think 360 degrees. Athletes need to understand what is behind them, to the side of them, and what is ahead of them. We need to stop thinking that hockey is only about the body, it more about the mind than people think. Playing four on four and three on three improves player anticipation. The brain needs to be challenged. Hockey like most sports is a game of angles. If you attack offensively and defensively with angles you are playing with speed. If you play with speed, space is taken away and acquired, which makes play for your opponent very challenging.
Up until this time we have only talked about the players, but let’s talk about Coaching. Coaches, at least the good ones, talk about getting players out of their comfort zone. This concept will get Coaches out of their comfort zone. Devising new ways to play offense, defense, manage your bench, and player minutes are just some of the benefits. It will expose who can Coach and who cannot. There is a failure in the game to understand what is really happening. Coaches need to ask the right questions, they can open up endless opportunities to grow themselves and their players.
To wrap things up do I think an Association will try this, probably not. Should they try it, absolutely! What do they have to lose, nothing really. Fifty years ago we laughed at Star Trek and their Communicators, and what do carry today….cell phones!
Prediction is difficult, particularly in the future. Yogi Berra