Playing Off The Heels
The What and How of Playing Off a Player’s Skates
Playing ‘off the heels’ is a high-level concept that elite players use to control the opponent’s skates. But it’s a simple tactic that can be used by all players with a few pointers.
What is it?
Getting a player to commit and turn their skates so that you’re able to operate in the space behind their skates (a.k.a “off their heels”).
With the opponent headed in the opposite direction, there is plenty of time and open space to operate. It’s created by an attacker’s deception or by a defender’s poor angling skills.
How do you create it?
Turning an opponent’s skates by utilizing:
Deceptive body language and vision. Look and sell one way and go the other.
Deceptive skating. Threaten one lane and end up going into another.
With Vision + Body Language
Here is a great example of Duncan Keith manipulating a NYR defender using his vision and body language. The blue box is the space we are discussing.
Here is the full goal:
Here is Alex DeBrincat manipulating the Dallas defenders using deceptive skating to work off their heels. We can see he got their feet to turn before shifting into the inside lane.
DeBrincat shows he is going outside with a quick dip. With his head up he is able to recognize the defender turned their feet. Now he has the defender committed outside and leaves acres of space off their heels to the inside. He quickly shifts into the inside lane and creates a great scoring chance.
Long-time readers will know that we love ways that players can dictate on the ice. Playing off the heels is just one of many ways that players can dictate.
Further Reading List
Offensive Angling. Controlling angling defender’s feet to make them into pylons
Team Defense: Setting the Edge. Becoming the force defender to force offensive players into tight spaces
Having Assets vs Utilizing Assets. How to weaponize assets and using speed as the example
The 3 Parts of Deception in Hockey. Manipulation by presenting false information
Genius Level Movement From Erling Haaland. Using movement to create space and scoring opportunities
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