What Makes Great Players Great?


Hockey is a simple game. 

We've probably all heard that line before, right? 

I 100% agree with this statement when it's taken in the proper context. When talking about the actual skill involved with hockey, it's definitely not simple. Skating 30+ miles per hour on two blades that are only 1/8 of an inch thick definitely doesn't sound like the simplest thing to me...

But, when people talk about hockey being a simple game, and are talking about it from a execution standpoint, that, I completely agree with. 

Often people talk about what separates one player from another. What makes certain players 'so great'?

I think the answer is maybe something that you wouldn't expect. I think the great players are the ones who can execute simple things unbelievably well. 

Like the first line of this post says, hockey is a simple game. The people that ultimately excel the most are the ones who are able to master the simplest aspects and details of the game. 

Sidney Crosby isn't the best player in the world solely because of his ability to stickhandle or shoot the puck. He's the best player in the world because he can do so many simple things incredibly well. 

He understands the game. He reads and anticipates the play. He protects the puck. Then you add all that together to his individual skill and there's an obvious reason why he's as good as he is. It's honestly hard to find any sort of weakness to his game. Sure he has a ton of natural ability but the real reason for his success is his work ethic and his concentration on the details. 

There's always the famous story about how when he first entered the NHL he really struggled with faceoffs. Over the next offseason, he dedicated himself to improving everyday and low and behold he became one of the best centers taking draws in the league. 

The point of all this is that keeping it simple gets results. Is it really that important to want to go on the ice and work on shooting the puck while reaching your stick back between your legs, or is it more important to work on your snap shot and quick release?

When you read that it probably (I hope) seems like a no-brainer. But, the truth is I still hear and see people focusing all their efforts on these sorts of things. 

Personally, I usually get a laugh when I ask a player why they're spending so much time working on something like that and the answer is usually something along the lines of, "I need a challenge". 

I just have a different philosophy. Sure everyone needs to be challenged and pushed. But, I want to push players to be really great at the simple things. The things you use most often in games. Working on having that quick release. Focusing on handling the puck. Being able to make a great first tape to tape pass. 

I'm a big believer that these are the things that as individuals, and teams, if you do really well will lead to a lot of success. 

Remember to keep hockey simple and focus on the details, that's what the great ones do.