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Playing Hockey Like Chess, Not Checkers
Chess not checkers
In the game of chess, each piece has a “relative value.”
This is a system that assigns a point value to each piece given how valuable a piece is strategical. This allows players to quickly do an assessment when thinking about exchanges.
Exchange = Opponents both eliminate/capture each other's piece(s) in succession.
If a player gains material superiority in a game where their pieces are worth more than the opponents, they can then continually make even exchanges to eliminate the opponent’s other pieces to make the superiority more decisive.
Hockey Mental Framework
Hockey is normally played 5v5. This means we need to pull the game in our favor due to skill or an opponent’s mistake. Our goal is to get a material advantage.
An example would be a defender beating the F1 forechecker. Now we have a 5v4 situation.
Next, that defender draws F2 in close before passing beyond them to a teammate. Now we have a 4v3 advantage.
Our teammate then draws another player in the neutral zone to them before passing. Now we have a 3v2 advantage.
The next teammate then draws another player to them as they enter the offensive zone. Now we have a 2v1 advantage.
The last defender chooses to play the potential pass receiver. Now we have a 1v0 advantage.
Offensive zone example
The power play is a more pronounced example where we start with the material advantage.
The Red Wings give a textbook example of drawing players to themselves before passing. Sometimes they force the exchange, other exchanges are made as the defending team rotates and aggressively pursues them.
A common issue is for a player to pass for passing sake without eliminating a player or more of the opposition. Effectively turning a 5v5 into a 4v5, or worse.
The simple lesson here, which is very easy to forget, is to make sure we gain an advantage and maintain that advantage through our passing.
Further Reading - Passing progressions for hockey players
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