I think if most coaches went around their locker room and asked how many player watch NHL games, a good number of kids (generally speaking) would raise their hands. I would venture to guess if you asked who watches a game without texting their friends, updating Facebook, or Tweeting – the number of hands raised would be drastically decreased. Players (and coaches) who watch professional hockey have tons of opportunities to learn from the best in the game every time a game is televised.
I’m a firm believer every player and coach should try to take time to watch hockey games. I don’t mean vegging out, I mean really watching the game and paying attention. Here are some keys to getting the most out of the game:
Watch a game you’re interested in. This may sound obvious, but you’re much more likely to have your attention-span last if it’s a game you want to be watching. If you have a favorite team, try to watch a few of their games. You will get to recognize player patterns and habits – and if you’re watching closely you can pick up on systems, line matchups, and line combinations.
Watch a player who plays your position. Make the best player of your position on one of the teams your main focus. See what he does in different scenarios. See what sort of positions he plays. Watch how he moves the puck. By just focusing on a single player, you can pick up lots of small nuances that make the player great.
Look at more than the puck. Instead of just focusing on the puck, make a habit to look around at the players away from the puck to see how (and where) they move to get open. This is especially fun to watch on power plays since you can see the rotations teams use to open up passing lanes. Penalty kills offer a great opportunity to see how professionals defend various offensive power play systems. Pay particular attention to the rotation as the offense moves the puck around.
Listen to the commentary breakdowns. When the commentators break a play down, listen to them and analyze what they’re saying. In my opinion, there are a lot of great commentators out there right now who are providing more and more in-depth analysis of plays.
Take notes. If something sticks out to you, make a note of it. If you’re not sure you comprehend a play or comment, make a note of it. Use DVR if you can so you can rewind plays at your leisure.
Understand the mistakes the pros make. One thing you’ll begin to realize if you watch enough games is the pros make the same mistakes youth teams make – they just happen at a much quicker pace and higher skill-level. Bad passes, not getting the puck deep, poor positioning – they all lead to goals against…even in the NHL!
Take advantage of all the great learning opportunities presented to you every time a professional game is aired! Enjoy the Stanley Cup playoffs!