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Redefining Modern Hockey Tactics

By Dan Pollard, 03/06/19, 2:15PM EST


Building a style of play around the skillsets of players

Photo Credit: Picture Day Photography

Coaches dedicate a lot of time into creating practice plans and game strategy. They look to get the most out of their players in a limited amount of ice time. Drills and exercises should have a purpose, ultimately tying into how they want their team to play. This is the best way to teach concepts like constant movement and puck support.

“Every team wants to win. To win you have to score goals. For players to succeed, they have to be challenged and they have to be continually developing and refining their skill set as they move up through the ranks in youth hockey,” said Ryan Stimson. “I think a way to combine this approach is to use analytics. We want to play this way because it will make our team more likely to win. These are the skills and traits we need to have in our players so we need to focus on developing these skills and traits and that will feed into these events occurring, these preferred outcomes and that should lead to success.”

Stimson is the author of Tape to Space: Redefining Modern Hockey Tactics and a Buffalo Sabres contributor at the Athletic Buffalo. He has written extensively on hockey analytics since 2013 and has contributed on analytics and published new research at Hockey Graphs and on using data to better evaluate hockey systems at The Coaches Site. He has consulted for RIT Men’s Hockey Team since 2015 and coached his first Bantam team in 2017-2018.

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The concept of Stimson's book is a revitalized approach in understanding the effective ways to play hockey. It details how to build a style of play around the skillsets of your players in order to maximize team efficiency. By examining the patterns of players, coaches can see that it’s not about a rigid system but rather how the team moves together in supporting one another.

Coaches can use data they find on skills that not only develop players but make them comfortable in trying new things. Emphasizing ‘tape to space’ as opposed to ‘tape to tape’ keeps playing moving and less stagnant.

“The theme throughout the book is all movement and spacing and support. I very much frown upon static players, stationary play among players. I was always encouraging our players ‘You made a pass. The longer you stay in this area, the more the defender is going to key in on you and the less of an option you’re going to be with every fraction of a second you stay here. So you need to make a pass and you need to find more new space to occupy.’ That constant movement makes even the simple plays more likely to be completed.”

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Dan Pollard is the host of Breakaway, The Minor Hockey Podcast. His passion for hockey led him to volunteer as a coach and administrator while his professional career has allowed him to cover the game at various levels with CBC, Sportsnet, the NHL Network and TSN. You can currently hear Dan every morning on 105.5 Hits FM in Uxbridge.

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