The On-Ice Program moves from the technique stage to applying this technique at top speed while shooting, passing, stick handling and checking in game simulated drills. Good skating technique is useless to hockey players unless they can apply it in game situations.
Even when players have ingrained the proper skating technique into their skating style, sometimes they will still not perform in game situations with the increased raw speed that they now possess. Usually, the problem revolves around the fact that players have not been trained to use their speed, to think, and to read the ice, all at the same time.
Focus & Reaction
Another problem is often players’ lack of focus and slow reaction time. In other words, players now have the “jump” to get to the puck first but they aren’t doing it because their response time is too slow when there is a turnover or a transition in the play. We have developed specific drills and training methods to help correct these deficiencies so that the transfer of their newly improved skating technique can be applied in game situations at high speed. A simple example is not using a whistle when we start our drills.
In a game, players react to what they see not to what they hear. In a game, the only time a whistle is used is to stop the play. Wherever practical, we start the drills with the movement of the puck so players are constantly having to focus on the loose puck, i.e., what they see not what they hear.
The approach on the ice is very structured, very disciplined, but fun even at the pro camps. We do not “bag skate” players because this does three things. It develops poor skating technique. It trains players to skate slowly, and, psychologically, it conditions players to “hate” skating or think of it only in terms of hard work. Our system teaches players to love skating and to love skating fast. The players will skate faster than they have ever skated before, well past their comfort zone. Our cordless mic system is interconnected with an extensive sound system so that we can “crank” the tunes up during the drills but shut it off or override the sound from any position on the ice when instruction takes place. Once players are conditioned to skating at an extremely high tempo while performing other hockey skills, that is the speed at which they will feel comfortable when they move to game situations.
During the ice sessions we also teach players when not to use their speed in order to delay or create open ice.
The Pursuit of Excellence Hockey Academy does not just teach hockey skills. The on-ice and class room instruction cover every aspect of the game including a wide variety of team systems and team strategies, some of which include:
Defensive team play including defensive zone coverage, backchecking and tracking through the neutral zone, forechecking in the offensive zone
Offensive team play including breakout, moving through the neutral zone, attacking the offensive zone
Special team play including powerplay, penalty killing, face-offs
Other strategies such as gap control, on-ice patience, creating open ice, situations in which to delay, on- ice discipline, use of speed and quickness, use of the neutral zone trap, stretching, etc.
Analyzing the Pros
Part of the program includes the players watching some pro games. Players are asked to analyze the game in terms of team systems and team strategies. We discuss some of these games in the class sessions addressing what was and wasn’t effective.
Every player goes through a series of on-ice and off-ice testing 3 times during the year. The testing takes place in September, December, and late May. Over the years we have narrowed our testing to approximately 25 tests which give us the most accurate and most complete assessment of a hockey player’s improved level of performance and conditioning.
The coaching staff uses the tests results to clearly identify areas that players need to work on for their individual programs. The players use the testing results to set specific goals and to measure their success in reaching those goals. As they have small successes they gain more confidence and become more highly motivated to reach their next goal. If they are not reaching their goals they make adjustments to their training plan and are motivated to work harder.
Some of on-ice testing includes wrist shot accuracy, wrist shot speed, slap shot speed, stationary stickhandling, dynamic stickhandling at top speed, lateral turns, full ice sprint speed and timing, backward skating speed and timing, wingate sprint speed and skating agility.
With many Academies or Prep Schools the focus is primarily game experience. These teams will participate in 80 games or more a season including numerous tournaments. A tremendous amount of money and time is spent on travel, hotel rooms, and tournament fees which otherwise could be spent on more ice time for skill development as well as on sports psychologists, boxing classes, and other specialists or specialized programs to help players improve. The converse is also true with many skill development programs that have no game component.
The Pursuit of Excellence offers a tremendous hockey development program teaching both skills and team concepts but combines it with game experience in tournaments and a very competitive minor hockey league. However, the game component is controlled so that the skill development ice time to game ice time ratio is still approximately 10 to 1 over the entire program.
The players acquire game experience in 2 ways:
The players will play approximately 50 games (including some spring tournaments) over the 10 months. Teams are made up from the groups in the program and they play games against each other. The level of play is extremely high because the majority of the players in the program are at a high level of play. These games are very high tempo and very competitive. However, there will be many differences from what is experienced in minor hockey.
Games are video taped and reviewed with the players in detail each week. We use state of the art software and hardware used by the NHL teams during the game, so we can mark all important aspects of the game. For example, we can mark power play, penalty kill, neutral zone forecheck, face offs, etc, so when we review the game, we can quickly bring up every teaching point we need.
Players and goaltenders can easily come in and look at their shifts or scoring chances against them.
Every game is fiercely competitive because we can adjust the teams as we need to. Therefore, no game is a blowout, which often may occur when playing organized hockey.
The coaches can control the game and the teams by using certain types of forecheck or systems and require the other team to respond to it. This makes it a much better teaching environment for the players.
Because a) the players know the games are videotaped and reviewed, and b) the players spend so much time together as a group, we find the games get very competitive.
Canadian Sports School Hockey Leauge
The Pursuit program has a Female Prep, Midget Prep, Midget Varsity, Elite 15, Bantam Prep, and a Bantam Varsity team. All of these teams participate in a very competitive academy hockey league with teams from various parts of Western Canada. We have a Showcase at the beginning of May. We select 17 players and 2 goaltenders for each team.
The academy hockey league game experience is still only one component of the overall program. The most significant improvements in each player’s development come from the other components of the program.
There can be no question that in the game today, particularly in light of the new Rules, skating is the foundation for every elite hockey player. Without being an excellent skater, a hockey player’s future at the higher levels will inevitably be short lived.
The skating program for the Pursuit of Excellence Hockey Academy has been developed over 35 years by one of the world’s most respected skating coaches, David Roy. David is the Director of the Academy and he has been the skating coach for the Philadelphia Flyers, Dallas Stars, Vancouver Canucks, Canada’s National Team, and Canada’s Women’s Olympic Team.
Every day, one portion of the on-ice session is devoted to improving some aspect of the players’ skating technique, speed, quickness, agility, and skating efficiency, and then that aspect of skating is applied to different game situations.
With the players being on the ice a total of 370 hours (not including the hours spent participating in the minor hockey league games and tournaments) you can imagine the transformation that occurs in every player’s skating over the 10 month period. It has not been uncommon for a player to increase his sprint speed to the puck by 5 mph even within the first 3 months!
Each player has his/her skating video taped 3 times during the 10 month program and a skating analysis is done and given to every player on a DVD comparing the player’s skating between September and December, and again between September and June. As soon as the first video tape of their skating is reviewed with each player in September, they set specific skating goals in their Smart Planner which they then will work on over the next several months. For example, players might concentrate on keeping the heels lower to the ice, improving the plantar flexion drive at the end of each stride, bringing the leg across the center of gravity, improving the direction of the arm swing for open ice speed.
We use on-ice video projection involving a 9′ x 11′ screen which, when using video cameras, enables the players’ to see a huge blown up image of themselves while they are skating. Through this immediate biofeedback, they are able to make corrections in their skating technique as they skate. Kinesthetically, a player is able to experience what the proper skating movement feels like, which results in rapid changes that are more permanently ingrained.
A postural analysis of every player is completed. Players participate in simulated skating classes where they work on their skating technique off-ice. In the Pursuit classroom sessions, skating technique is studied using current NHL players and other players as examples.
During the additional 370 hours of off-ice training and skills sessions, much of the time, players are working on their leg power or speed and quickness. This training itself has a huge impact on each player’s skating efficiency, speed, quickness, and agility.
The VERT computerized weight training equipment (the only one of its kind in Canada) was also purchased specifically to enhance a player’s ability to instantly recruit his maximum muscle strength when sprinting for pucks.
INDIVIDUAL HOCKEY SKILLS
Here are some of the individual skills taught in the Pursuit of Excellence Hockey Academy. Keep in mind that; 1) the program will certainly not be limited to what is outlined below, 2) most players, in the past, will have had the opportunity to practice some, if not all of these skills. The objective of this program is to master these skills at high speed in game-like situations.
Including flip pass, saucer pass, forehand, backhand, not telegraphing when or where the pass is going, quick release of pass, accuracy, speed of pass, leading passes, one touch passes, stretch passes, timing of pass, passing while moving in all directions and on cornering, receiving hard passes, receiving passes in skates and gloves, off the body, off the boards, avoiding suicide passes, taking passes from behind, while in stride, picking passes up around the boards as a winger, open area passing, give and go pass, drop pass, camouflaging the pass, communication between passer and receiver, eye contact on passing, receiver getting in position for pass, creating open ice to receive pass, taking passes at top speed without breaking stride etc.
Stationary, moving, off either foot, shooting while both feet moving when driving the net, forehand, backhand, one timers, snap shot, wrist shot, slap shot, shooting while moving laterally and moving back, tip-ins, redirects, shooting off glass to clear the zone, angles for shooting off boards on dump ins, shooting on the power play, when not to shoot, breakaways, bad angle shots, getting in position to shoot, analysis of goal scoring, in tight under the cross bar, fake shot etc. Scoring strategies would be included here, wrap arounds, scoring under pressure etc.
With a limit of 26 players per group we will be able to, not only videotape the player’s shooting but also, use video print technology we use with the professional players in skating analysis to breakdown each player’s shooting technique. These video prints along with slow motion video will be reviewed with each player.
Developing soft quick hands, stick-handling narrow, wide, separating puck from body, in front, on the side, diagonal, protecting the puck, split vision, seeing the ice, all skating movements forward, backward, laterally while handling the puck, puck in and out of skates, spin-o-rama, deception with the puck, giving and taking back the puck, dekes. We will also experiment with different lengths of sticks, curves and lies.
Poke check, stick check, stick press, stick lift, sweep check, angling, body contact, body checking, hip check, learning how to receive a check, how to use forearm to fend off opponent’s stick as well as their body, and to take checks along the boards, strategies regarding fore-checking and back-checking tracking, checking and screens in front of the net, picks, when not to park in front of the oppositions net, self-defence in contact situations etc. This area would also include strategies when battling for the puck, checking with a purpose so pucks don’t get through you, keeping your stick on the puck when making contact.
Body checking dummies are used as a regular part of our body checking program so that players can develop more confidence hitting and a better ability to get lower and drive into a player when there is physical contact.