23 Apr Atom to PeeWee
Atom to Peewee: Top 5 Important Game Changers
When going from atom to peewee hockey, every parent must be aware that:
1) Heads up hockey is a top priority- The main way to assure a healthy and long playing career in hockey is to assure that your head is always up. I remember Wayne Gretzky saying that the key to playing the game safely is to always have your head up and back to the boards. Too often we see minor hockey to pro players with careers cut short due to a blind sided collision with an opposing player that results in a major injury like a concussion. It is a small window, but somewhere along the Atom season a player must set out to make puck handling without looking down at the puck automatic. Feeling the puck by becoming a master wrist roller is one way to be able to carry the puck while continuously scanning the ice. Another way is to train yourself to only look at the puck with the bottom periphery of the eyes, keeping the chin up and neck straight. At some point parents must set out to responsibly seek out instructors that will teach these skills.
2) Anticipation can be taught- When going from atom to peewee, one of the biggest differences is that there doesn’t seem to be as much time to think. Gretzky was so effective because he always seemed to know where the puck was going. Actually, every successful hockey player seems to never waste valuable seconds following the puck, but instead find the most direct routes to where the puck is headed. Anticipation is not a 6th sense or something that a child is born with or without, it is something that is taught and learned. Legend has it that Walter used to sit Wayne in front of the T.V. during Hockey Night in Canada and make him trace where the puck went on a rink diagram. At the end of each period he would make him analyze what spots on the ice had the darkest pencil marks… no wonder he always knew what the puck’s tendencies were! Anticipating the puck lets a player get to it first and gives them more time to think once they get it. More time, more vision…less mistakes!
3) Most of hockey is played without the puck– Parents are addicted to watching their kids score goals. There is no hiding it. Just watch a parent in the stands who’s kid hasn’t scored in a while, they aren’t far off from a person who hasn’t had a cigarette or a coffee! This irritability can be instantly cured if they focused on what their kids are doing without the puck. Driving the net, busting hard into passing lanes, shoulder checking to pick up a backchecker in the neutral zone; all little things that far out-rank putting the puck in the net when it comes to playing a great game. Parents that emphasize and understand the importance of play without the puck are a great foundation for a long relaxed minor hockey career for any player.
4) Skating low is a must for power, preparation and safety– Here’s the equation: Knees bent + Back straight = Speed + Power + Balance= Safety and Success! Everybody thinks of knee bend as a mandatory prerequisite to a great stride, but as body contact approaches in minor peewee, knee bend is important to being prepared to withstand the force and pressure of a body check. A player with bent knees is harder to move and knock off the puck because they will be more likely to be “in” the ice while they skate. Once again, knee bend is not genetic! It takes work and focus both on an off the ice for a body to be comfortable with the isometric contractions of postural muscles (say that five times fast) necessary to keep a near 90 degree knee bend.
5) Mastering space is the name of the game: Using the stick to take away space and time becomes the most important tool approaching body contact! If a player can’t use their stick to actively guide an opponent to a desired space, they have zero probability of ever delivering a successful body check. Most parents are more concerned with spending hundreds on weekly lessons learning to shoot, but fall short of understanding in the true power of stick and body position. It causes turnovers that often lead to assists and goals. A lot of guys play professional hockey for years without scoring many goals because like Bob Isuzu, they are professional anglers!