Flames timeout

We were losing badly, and the sound wouldn’t stop.


It was a home game in playoffs, and it wasn’t supposed to be going like this. Somehow the opposing team’s mascot had acquired a ticket directly behind our bench, and though he wasn’t in full garb, Chief Wannawin had managed to get his drum in the building. Our coach was about to boil over.

I’m not gonna say if he ordered the Code Red or not because it’s now a legal issue and the police were involved, but he called timeout to get the boys to regroup. As the man with the drum stood up to make hearing hard for our team during the break, he was promptly grabbed by our stocky equipment manager, who ended up on the other side of the glass on top of him going Ralphie from A Christmas Story on his face. Meanwhile we’re all in the timeout half-trying to listen to our coach, who is somehow not looking at the commotion directly behind him. Cool guys don’t look at explosions.

Needless to say, if the purpose of the timeout was to get the boys to settle down, this did not get the job done. That’s not how timeouts are supposed to go.


Of course, they don’t usually go like that (though maybe more should, it was pretty entertaining).

Timeouts are usually called for one of a handful of reasons: a team is getting shelled and needs to regroup, a coach wants to draw up a specific play late in the game because the team is behind, or a group of players is stuck on the ice after an icing asnd need some rest. There are a couple other reasons, but those are the most common.

What takes place inside those timeouts varies, so for our purposes today I thought I’d highlight a typical play that coaches draw up at the end of the game in the offensive zone to try to get that one big shot off.

You’ve only got 30 seconds (well, 30 seconds is really worth 45 or whatever. It’s not like you’ve ever seen a team get called for delay of game for not coming out of a timeout quick enough), so you’ve got to get to the good stuff pretty quick. Often to stretch out that time a coach will send a line of players out to alllmost take the draw. This allows a coach to see who the opposition is sending out, and draw up what he needs to draw up before the actual T-signal gets given.

The first thing you address is personnel – you don’t necessarily just trot out your best scorers. In the formation below, here’s what a coach will be thinking. (Oh, and by the way, I know this is a fairly unimpressive “goalie pulled” play – I thought about drawing up one of the more ridiculous ones, but this will help you more when you watch on a day to day basis.)


The first difference between my drawing and a real coach scribblings are identification – coaches use numbers. So if you’re the St. Louis Blues, maybe Ken Hitchcock has something like 42, 74 and 20 in place of some of those X’s. Regardless, he’s hollering out the numbers so everyone in the huddle makes sure those guys have a view of the whiteboard.

Now, all of these plays have been practiced a number of times, but you know how hockey teams go – you practice one day with certain players in certain roles, and two weeks later the lines are shuffled, some players are hurt, and some guys have to slot into a role they’ve never played, so the coach will once again draw up the play and highlight everybody’s role. It’s funny, because you look at the whiteboard after a coach gives his explanation, and for a fan it looks like pure chaos. For players, they only have to know one thing, really – your job. So as the lines start to add up and form a scribble, players aren’t flustered because to a man it’s pretty simple.

When the puck drops, here’s what’s gonna happen:


The two gents closest to the face-off have one job: make sure their team wins the draw. Their centerman might be trying to go back with it, but his real priority not losing it clean because he’s going to have help there in a split-second. Either way, their first job is to help with the draw. The puck goes back to the point, and their jobs become getting to the front of the net – one guy is likely looking to provide a low screen, the other a high screen with a nose for rebounds (high tips have a better chance of going in).

Now the fun stuff – the idea, obviously, is that you want to get a puck through to the net. That’s it. So, you have to make it tough for the defenders so they can’t just camp in obvious shooting lanes. Oh, also, one-timers are really fun and effective, sooo…


The d-man drags the puck into the middle, while the right handed shot in front of the net pops out to the top of the left circle, with the left-handed shot heads to the top of the right circle. I’ve drawn them in that order because that’s what most of my coaches preferred to do to hopefully make it slightly less obvious about who’s headed where, but they can be flip-flopped for convinience.

So now you’re in this position:


The center is headed to the net for rebounds and/or to help with regaining possession after the shot, two forwards are in front of the net, and two players have popped out, so the d-man has the choice to pass to the top of either circle for a one-timer, or shoot if he has a clear lane. Pretty simple.


There are a few plays that involve trying to set up backdoor tap-ins, but they success rate of those versus just getting a puck on net and battling for rebounds ain’t pretty.

So in that timeout, the coach will specify the numbers, their roles, and he’ll make a few reminders (usually about setting subtle picks to buy time for the players involved in the shot).

If the timeout is about team things in the middle of a game – need more energy, need less penalties, need to make a systemic change – you’ll have the whole team huddled around semi-listening, and you’ll usually have a good amount of emotion from the coach. In cases like the one I’ve illustrated above, you’ve usually got the attention of about half the guys.

If you want the attention of none of the guys, there’s one really great way to guarantee it – set up a trainer-on-mascot brawl for the backdrop. It can be a little distracting.