Archive for the ‘Insight’ Category

Frans Nielsen
My hockey career didn’t exactly result in an explosion of numbers of any sort, dollars or statistics, but I was decent enough offensively to be chosen with regularity in the shootout. I’m fairly confident that on most breakaways I’m going to find a way to get the biscuit in the basket regardless of who’s in net. That’s probably unjustified, but whatever, you have to at least start with the belief that you aren’t terrible.

So without further ado, I’m going to reveal it all, like a sellout magician (Gob Bluth?) with his tricks: here’s what I’m trying to get the goalie to do (and why) when we’re one-on-one. Other players – actually good ones, I swear – are using similar logic.

Shootout Moves

On speed

One of the least recognized tools goal scorers use in the shootout is the subtle change of speed. On a breakaway, your speed is dictated by the need to stay ahead of your pursuers. In the shootout, that’s not a thing at all. Here’s how guys use speed:

Start fast, hit the brakes: It’s all about changing the goaltender’s depth. Goalies step up to the top of the crease or beyond after the player skates in, and they try to match the player’s speed. That way if the guy shoots, they’re out cutting down the angle, if he dekes, they’re moving back at a pace that allows them to get their toe on the post. By starting fast, you’re trying to get the goaltender to match you as they usually do. When you hit the brakes, they have to as well, and that does two things: one, it freezes them for a quick second (think about stopping while skating backwards – how’s your lateral mobility?), and two, it usually leaves them deeper in the net than they want to be (reaction time and whatnot). So now you’ve got a frozen goalie who’s deep in his crease; translation, shoot. You hit your spot, it’ll go in.

Read the rest of this entry »

Michael Sdao

Michael Sdao is a defenseman trying out for the Ottawa Senators who spent the 2012-13 season playing for Princeton University. He made his first foray into pro hockey following that college season by joining the Binghamton Senators of the American League, where he dressed in 12 games, compiling a goal and 23 penalty minutes. He’s 24-years-old, 6’4″ and 220 pounds, and he’s going to have to fight a bit.

You now know everything I know about Michael Sdao, aside from his raw stats.

The picture above is of him following his “fight” from last night with Brian McGratton, arguably the toughest arguable “player” in the National Hockey League. In his other pre-season game he tussled with Anthony Peluso, which resulted in this GIF, courtesy @Wham_City: Read the rest of this entry »

nail yakupov 3

When the puck dropped to start the 2006, a major milestone had been reached. With the donning of number 84 by Guillaume Latendresse, every number from double zero to 99 had been worn by a player in the NHL.

The reason the number 84 had not been worn in over 100 years of NHL action is a dark and complex tale, but I feel comfortable saying I’m the right man to reveal the truth: it’s because 84 is a stupid number.

While I’m not sure what drove Latendresse to 84, a lot of the 80s were finally checked off thanks to trend of players selecting their birth-year as their jersey number. It’s a cute concept that young players use as a subtle bit of braggadocio, though it becomes less cute as they move towards league average age (I see you #82, Curtis Glencross). I suppose it’d be cool again if someone like Teemu Selanne rocked his (70 – one off being really cool), but for the most part, I think it’s pretty lame.

When I saw that Nathan MacKinnon has chosen to wear 29 with the Avs (Matt Hunwick wears MacKinnon’s 22, and players don’t give up “their” number easily), I thought I’d lay out my general understanding of jersey number selection for the uninformed. Read the rest of this entry »

Where I had my first junior tryout. World's Biggest Hockey Stick, Cowichan Valley

Where I had my first junior tryout. World’s Biggest Hockey Stick, Cowichan Valley

Note: I realize I’ve been writing a lot about my own experiences in hockey lately. The summer is largely devoid of hockey news, and I have some behind-the-scenes knowledge that some people seem interested in while we wait for the season. I swear I’ll dial back the “me’s” and “I’s” when puck starts to ramp up again.

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During my senior year of high school I was 16/17 years old (December birthday), and still a bit of a mamma’s boy. I lived at home while captaining our Midget AA team, a group that would eventually bring home the first (and possibly still the only) provincial championship to Westside (West Kelowna minor hockey).

That final minor hockey season was followed by a summer of uncertainty. I was given opportunities to try out with a few WHL teams, a half-dozen BCHL teams or so, and pretty much every junior B team in the province. I was going to be playing hockey somewhere the next season, it seemed, it was just a matter of finding a place that both wanted me and would help me advance.

The only goal my family had for me was to get a college scholarship. That was the carrot dangled by junior hockey for us, but when a number of different teams think you might have a little value to them down the road, you start to hear a lot of different things, and the waters get murky. Promises of carrot-delivery aren’t uncommon.

When you have some opportunities like this, nobody tells you what to do if you aren’t an NHL lock. There are no courses, information pamphlets or guidance counselors, so we were more-or-less lost from the get-go. My Dad had experience with junior, but he was essentially fast-tracked to the NHL, sooo…minor hockey, WHL, NHL. Oh, the tough decisions he must have faced.

The main question we had, was who has a freaking clue about what it means to play for Team A versus Team B in some of these leagues? And when you commit to trying out with B, you miss the chance to try out with A, meaning even though you may be good enough to play at a certain level, you just flipped to the wrong page of the Choose Your Own Adventure, got cut and screwed yourself. A huge, HUGE part of advancing in sports is luck. Finding a good person who won’t lie to you helps, but that’s kinda luck too. Read the rest of this entry »

Bobby Goepfert

Bobby Goepfert is a professional goaltender who I got to know in college (he was with St. Cloud), and our paths crossed again at a camp for the Hershey Bears in 2008-2009. He’s spent time in the American League and the ECHL, and has been a starter in the DEL (German Elite League) over the past couple seasons – he’s heading back there this year too. He’s a pretty darn good goalie, and also a great Twitter follow.

He’s written for Backhand Shelf in the past (you can still check out his post responding to my post about abusing goaltenders from the blog’s early days), so with the European season about to kick off, he needed an outlet for his energy and hit me up.

Hockey pucks hurt, I can confirm this. But I’ll let him tell you more about it below.

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-by Bobby Goepfert

The hockey puck. You elusive, deceiving, unforgiving spawn of vulcanized rubber. To the naked eye, it doesn’t look like a formidable foe. One inch thick, three inches in diameter and weighing in at 6 ounces, it hardly boasts the dimensions of a menacing adversary. However, this small, unassuming sliver of hellish frozen rubber can travel up to speeds of 100+mph. (*Sidenote* In all honesty, that’s really only during the certain occasions when a 6’7″ defenseman really gets into one, or if you’re dumb enough to wonder in front of the net during the hardest shot event at the Skills Competition while Chara is going. Most of the hardest in-game, or practice shots us goalies face would be anywhere from low 90′s to high 90′s.)

People always say that us goalies are absolutely crazy for wanting to put ourselves in front of these flying bastards, actually trying to get a body part on it. Well…maybe we are. But I say to you, we are the most protected players out on the ice (or on the bench). The defenceman or forward battling in front of the net when an incoming rocket is headed our way wear no face mask, the shoulder pads Reggie Dunlop wore, and have an exposed abdomen. Are they not crazy? Or the winger challenging a point shot by sliding into the missile as it leaves the point man’s stick, with all sorts of body parts exposed – is that not crazier than we, the masked men, the padded Michelin men of today’s hockey game? (*Sidenote* Extreme kudos to our goalie brethren of yesteryear with their shoddy equipment and mask-less faces. I think I can speak for the goalies of today in saying, “Wow, & respect”…though something a bit more articulate.) Read the rest of this entry »

Kelowna, BC

Kelowna, BC

There’s a progression to off-season training (that follows some time away from the game) in every sport. In hockey, that means rebuilding what you’ve lost from the previous season, aiming for heavier weights and more reps, and shifting from raw power to quickness towards the end of summer. Being monsterously strong is a neat concept, but not when it makes you a slug.

Part of the graduation from power to quickness involves a crazy concept: skating with hockey skates on ice.

I’ve never mentioned this in a blog post before, but I used to play hockey. And with the wealth of knowledge I gained over that time, I can bring you this insight: skating on ice is an important skill for hockey players. Read on for more.

In all seriousness, what I didn’t really get about great NHL players and the way they train is their general disdain for incorporating skating into their summer regimens. I basically skated year round, using the logic that “to be a good hockey player, I should work on my hockey game.” They did not agree with my thinking on this.

Living in Kelowna, you would see the progression of the summer hockey game slowly move from slugs to stars (May to September), and realize that there’s a direct correlation between success in hockey and how early guys would skate, I assume because raw talent is raw talent and the best could afford to take a break.

At the start of the summer it would be me and four-to-six other guys playing half-ice three-on-three. We were fringe pros and European players and desperate goalies. The game would slowly grow until there were subs, then we were 5-on-5, then we were a full-on, full-ice hockey game.

By June you’d see some lesser pros get in the mix. In July, your fringe NHLers and AHLers would start trickling in. And in August – on August 1st, as in today, specifically – all the best players in the world hit the ice. If you’re going to pick an arbitrary day to get back at ‘er, two months before opening night is as good as any. Read the rest of this entry »

5 Things Bad Hockey Coaches Do

(Not calling Iron Mike a bad coach here, his reputation just syncs up with my final thought.)

(Not calling Iron Mike a bad coach here, his reputation just syncs up with my final thought.)

If you’ve ever played a sport, you’ve had a bad coach. That doesn’t necessarily mean that coach was a bad person, in fact, it likely means you just didn’t like him or her and you didn’t get the playing time you thought you deserved, but straight up bad coaches do really exist.

For the purposes of this post, I’m not talking about a specific coach who’s done something wrong. Sure, I’ve had my head shaken with a cage-grab as a kid, I’ve had pucks shot at me in practice as a teenager, and I’ve had a stick pinning me against the glass under my neck too, but y’know, that stuff happens. I’m talking about the type of typical mistakes your average coaches make during your average seasons. Things that don’t take major corrections, but can have negative effects.

For starters, here are five things bad hockey coaches do. Feel free to add yours in the comments below.

They let the score dictate their tone and direction

We’ve all been there. Your team has gone out in the first period, put the throttle down, and hounded the opposing net. Their goalie made some great saves, and somewhere along the way, your goalie wasn’t able to come up with the same level of play (maybe you have Bryzgalov in net). Hell, maybe something really unlucky just happened (maybe you deem having Bryzgalov in net as unlucky).

Whatever the case, you’re losing 2-0 after the first period. Maybe the shots are close (even though you kept your opponent to the outside and theirs were harmless), so the scoreboard, on the whole, is not that complimentary to your group despite a pretty good period.

And here comes coach into the room during intermission. Read the rest of this entry »