I am going to focus on how to use games to teach the game over the next while. There has been a movement in places like the USA to play cross ice like they do in most parts of Europe. Sometimes it seems like it is simply playing games for the sake of playing games. That isn't a bad idea but games can be a very effective tool for practicing specific hockey skills for individual, team and game understanding.
The first part is to have an understanding how games can be used to: TEACH THE GAME
It would be good if other coaches contribute ideas.
Understanding the Game
SMALL AND MODIFIED GAMES:
A TOOL TO LEARN TO PLAY ICE HOCKEY
The small games method signifies an alternative approach to the traditional way of running a class or practice in goal centered games. The teaching style is a tool in learning to play. This method is based on the traditional and natural methods of pick-up games and shinny. Lining players up is avoided, and the different modified games take care of teaching the rules and skills of the sport. The instructor or coach organizes the process through a progression of games. The leagues and playoffs generate the situations that cause the players themselves to analyze ways to win the games.
The game situations put the players into challenging situations they find difficult to handle, and encourages them to learn how to succeed. When the players "need to know," it’s the time for skill drills. The techniques that are learned in the drills are now relevant to the players’ needs and are eagerly performed by the players.
Through the use of small games players can learn the various “playing roles” while they practice essential skills and improve their stamina. Players enjoy learning the game by playing small games. This method of practice makes sense to the players and most importantly, the team gets better. The clear goal of a hockey practice is "to learn to play better."
Small games can be played using eight (and many more possible ways) basic methods of utilizing the ice. All of these methods can use two or more goals and one or more balls or pucks.
Use one zone play in a small area of the rink to practice movement and the use of space. Add rules to practice individual and team thinking (playing roles) skills. In another zone, have another game or a skill drill.
When players play on two nets either cross-ice or full-ice, they automatically learn to position themselves both in offense and defense, and react to the transition from defense to offense and visa versa.
Understanding the Game
THE FOUR PLAYER ROLES
Both in offensive and defensive games, the moves of the players are determined by what role they are playing. The roles are determined by their closeness to the puck and whether they are on defense, offence or in transition. During any of these situations each player will be fulfilling one of the four playing roles.
Role One: the puckcarrier, or for loose puck situations it is the offensive player closest to the puck.
Role Two: the other offensive players who support the puckcarrier by getting open for a pass, screening or giving width
and depth to the attack.
Role Three: the checker (defensive player) closest to the puck or puckcarrier.
Role Four: the other defensive players who cover man-to-man or an area of the ice. All maintain the defensive side and deflect the
attack to the outside. Depending on the distance from the puck and whether he is the third, fourth, or fifth player closest to the
puck, the player in the fourth playing role must support by covering an opponent, switching, or double-teaming.
When each player assumes the proper playing role, the team can think in the same way. There is never a question of the goalie's role, and the same clarity of role and responsibility should apply for every player on the ice. Player roles constantly change in the game, and the players must be able to instantly react in the appropriate manner in all game situations.
The puckcarrier must always move into open ice, but it is too difficult to be effective if his teammates don't also move into open ice. One defensive player always tries to force the puckcarrier wide out of the danger areas, and the other defenders support and eventually gain possession of the puck.
By Juhani Wahlsten and Tom Molloy