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9 “Little Things” that Win Hockey Games

I read a terrific quote on Twitter yesterday and it has stuck with me. Legendary basketball coach John Wooden said "Pay attention to the little things. Little things make big things happen."

We also had a playoff game last night and sometimes I am dismayed by how many times we don’t do the "little things" to be successful as a hockey team. Doing the little things is crucial to team success (and personal success). Here are 9 little things that all players should do and all coaches should remind them to do:

1) Shoot with purpose. Don’t just shoot "at the net". Shoot to score or shoot to create a secondary chance. Players need to understand that shooting at the goalie’s belly button or at the goalie’s glove doesn’t produce any goals.

2) Go to the net with your stick on the ice. The puck moves quickly on rebounds and shot passes. Players have to be ready to react to the puck in order to score.

3) Don’t stop until the puck is in the net or the referee’s whistle is blown. Be relentless on the puck.

4) Don’t skate by the puck. Stops and starts.

5) Don’t give up on bad passes.

6) "Get the puck out. Get the puck in. Take the defensive side." This was our team mantra late in a close game when I played at university. Players have to get the puck out over the blue line when they have a chance and they have to get the puck into the offensive zone. There is no worse place to give up a puck than at either blue line. It almost always ends up in a scoring chance for the other team. And, players must always check from the defensive side and stay on the defensive side of the player they are covering.

7) Take the puck wide over the offensive zone blue line. Unless a player is on a breakaway or a clear one on one they should cross the blue line near the boards to allow engagement of teammates in the offensive play.

8) Short shifts. It is not just about not getting tired, A team’s flow, tempo and rhythm of the game is all dictated by short shifts and good line changes.

9) Skate, skate, skate. Players have to always be mindful that they keep their feet moving all the time. Not much happens when players stop skating and start watching. Make things happen when you are on the ice.

Little things make a difference – often the difference between winning and losing. 

Rick Traugott

More about Rick Traugott

Rick Traugott is a lifelong coach who has been working with young athletes in many sports for the past 38 years. Since the 2010-11 season, Coach Traugott has been working with Canada's National Women's Team hockey program serving in a number of roles including camp coach with the U18 and development teams, and Video Coach with the U18, Development and National Women's Teams. Rick was a member of the staff that won a gold medal with the U18 team at the IIHF World Championship in Budapest, Hungary in 2014 and a silver medal with the NWT at Worlds in Malmo, Sweden in 2015 and bronze with the U18 team in 2018 in Dmitrov, Russia. Coach Traugott's resumé includes coaching the Varsity boys and girls programs at Trinity College School, Ryerson University men's team, Wexford Raiders Tier 2 Junior A, Wexford Raiders Minor Bantam and Midget AAA, as well as the Brampton Thunder of the CWHL. He also served as Video Coach and Team Leader for the uSports Women's Team that competed at the 2017 Winter Universiade in Almaty, Kazakhstan where the team won a silver medal. This season, Coach Traugott is back behind the bench with the Trinity College School Bigside boys' team as they move back to the top division in the CISAA (Conference of Independent Schools Athletic Association).