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Getting the Most Out of Your Ice Time

09/18/2013, 8:00am CDT
By Michael Rand

Adult hockey players run the gamut of ages, skill levels, and backgrounds...

Getting the Most Out of Your Ice Time

Adult hockey players run the gamut of ages, skill levels, and backgrounds. Some are fathers of five cramming hockey in between everything else in their lives. Others—male and female—are barely out of college and trying to sprinkle in some activity in the midst of burgeoning careers. But they all find common footing playing the sport they love, especially this notion: don’t waste precious ice time.

Nobody wants to squander the precious intervals of ice granted to them. Here are a few different ways to accomplish that:

HOCKEY 101

Some associations offer instructional settings where beginners can learn the finer points of the game. The Tri-City Adult Hockey League in Nebraska, for example, started offering a weekly “Hockey 101” class on Monday nights. The goal, league board member Randie May explains, is to elevate the overall level of play.

“We noticed in our league about four to five years ago that there weren’t many beginners coming up into the regular league,” May says. “Our league had been around long enough that, for a brand new person, it was terrifying to go out there.”

Hockey 101 matches up over-35 players with beginners in an informal, but instructional, setting. Newcomers can rent equipment as they ease their way into the game.

“We get the older players who wanted a slower pace, but great skill and great teaching, and getting them hooked up with newer players,” May says. “They are taught the game, positioning and all the really important parts. It’s just little things. They learn off-sides. They learn basic breakouts. They learn basic positioning.”

As a result, Hockey 101 has helped groom new players that can be embedded into the league, proving to be a valuable use of ice time. It also keeps those players who aren’t yet ready for league play from slowing up the action.

DROP-INS

Rob Hibbs, adult hockey director of the Iowa City-Coraville Hockey League, says adding a “drop-in night” on Thursdays has become a popular choice with league players looking for more ice time.

While these are often no more than glorified scrimmages, they are also a place for players of all ability levels—but particularly those at a lower level looking to improve and sharpen particular skills.

“There are very few C-level players here because it’s hard to keep up, but they will go to drop-in hockey and try to build their skills there,” Hibbs says. “Experienced players who attend drop-in nights are more patient, because they are just there to have fun and get some ice time. And newcomers benefit from having a safe, low-pressure atmosphere to practice. It’s a good starting place for sure because it helps build relationships and skills.”

IN-GAME

Does your league tend to drag at the start of your designated ice time for games? Does it feel like intermissions are too long? Sometimes simple measures go a long way toward maximizing time. Time slots in the Tri-City League are only an hour, but almost all of that is spent in-game.

“We do a three-minute warm-up and one-minute intermissions, so we basically play 55 minutes,” May says.

Hibbs, too, says the league in Iowa City runs a tight ship when it comes to game nights.

“We have a set schedule that we play within,” he says, “so it’s pretty quick and a good fast pace.”

Additionally, May mentions a Tri-City league rule that keeps games from turning into routs, which can contribute to the feeling that they’re a waste of time.

“If you need a sub, you need to get someone at your level or below to replace you. That’s how we keep the parity,” May says. “You can’t just skate all the high-level guys.”

BUILDING RAPPORT

Finally, don’t overlook the importance of intangibles like team spirit and consistency as a way to wring the most of ice time. A team that continues to stay and play together is more inclined to gather for efficient practices and rewarding drop-in scrimmages outside of league nights.

“With our league, you go with camaraderie and you get a group of guys over time,” Hibbs says. “You build a real good bond.”

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