The Head Decides Success

Most hockey experts agree that the best hockey players in the history of this team game were unusual because they were able to be two steps ahead of the others in the game. They had a brilliant hockey sense, which markedly separated them from the others. If you search for the most successful players in history, you will find that this element was indispensable for all of them.


The term "hockey sense" could be loosely translated as a sense of hockey or game-thinking or intelligence. And even if this term is poorly defined, it is one of the things that you will recognize immediately on the ice. For most of us, though, i tis a very difficult skill to grasp. People are convinced that players ether have or don’t have a hockey sense. They attach this skill to innate disposition. Therefore, they claims that Wayne Gretzky (the most successful hockey player of all time) was born with the art of predicting and reading the game. But… after reading his autobiography, you get the impression that his brilliant hockey sense “came” more from an obsession for every detail of the game. Rather, it was the result of a very intense and varied game that formed the basis for the genius of gaming-thinking that made “The Great One“ so captivating.


gretzkyIf a player is said to have excellent game-thinking, it means they can read the game, predict what will happen on the ice, respond to the situation and successfully solve it. Otherwise, in sports terminology, this can be called "being in the right place at the right time" or we can also say "having a natural sense of play". The basic prerequisite is excellent knowledge of hockey skills and an ability to apply them in the game. If you look at the games played by Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane (both Chicago Blackhawks), Sidney Crosby (Pittsburgh Penguins), Nicklas Bäckström Washington Capitals) or youngster Connor McDavid (Edmonton Oilers), they know they have much better game intelligence than the others . It is also multiplied by the increased development of motor skills, which reduces reaction time and makes decision making much easier. Hockey sense is incorrectly characterized as a set of abilities that cannot be influenced. However, hockey players are not born with an extraordinary hockey sense, it is a skill that can be significantly influenced. They all agree that this is a very important part of hockey. So why don't we spend more time improving this key skill? There is a simple answer: few know how to do it. But there are specialists and specialized trainers who are involved in the development of game- thinking.


In a particular game situation, a player must do several things in common: read the game (anticipate), recognize the game situation, quickly decide on a solution and implement it effectively. All of this is closely related to mental processes that must take place in a fraction of a second. This skill is influenced by game experience, peripheral vision, spatial orientation, empathy with the game situation and intuition. Creativity and the art of making the right and fast decision for a particular solution and making it happen are crucial to the game itself. It is necessary to realize that hockey is a team sport where the decision to pass significantly accelerates the game. That is why players with high game intelligence and skill in passing are appreciated as the designers and the directors of the game. The highest level of "gambling" is the ability to influence the game in such a way that the team dominates and wins.


And how do you improve your game-thinking? At the start it is necessary to know the strengths and weaknesses of a particular player, his / her game habits, to correctly identify possibilities of improvement, especially in the area of skills and the development of motor skills. Based on such an input analysis, a program for the development of the player's game-intelligence in relation to his / her capabilities is then created. Here are some simple examples: if a player is a very good and fast skater, he should try to make the most of this advantage, i.e. be straightforward, penetrate the free space, not to go through the players. Conversely, if a player has very handy hands, a perfect pass and is not that fast, his game will be based on a quick combination. There are a number of guaranteed ways to develop game-intelligence; one of the best that I have proven in practice is to gain gaming experience. It is no secret that the best players played a lot and played a large number of matches, preferably in different positions and often with different roles in different teams. Another means that is used a lot in training is playing in a small space. Hockey players are mostly formed by games with variable conditions to which players must respond.


Correction is very important which is why the best ones use specialists who provide perfect match feedback through video analysis. It carefully monitors players in all activities - especially in movement, shooting, throw-in, in one-to-one situations, in game combinations and in defensive action. Watching matches, such as on television, will also help develop game thinking. A great way to improve hockey thinking is to visit the NHL video gallery and work with the pause button. Watch and learn from the best as to how they behave in specific situations. Having a great hockey sense means being one step ahead of the others. And don't forget that the secret of a successful game of the best hockey players and goalies starts and ends in the head.


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