Communication is the most important habit in hockey. I don’t think there’s any question about it. Talking to your teammates out on the ice makes the game 100x easier for yourself and the players on the ice with you. I would say that talk can give you 5x the time and space to make plays.
In this video clip, you’ll see a clear lack of communication on the backcheck from the Florida Panthers. As Columbus carries the puck into the zone, three Panthers go to one Blue Jacket…leaving another guy wide open in front. He ends up burying the puck to give Columbus the lead.
Sorting it out with communication on the backcheck is extremely important, yet at the youth levels you hardly ever see it at all. Here are a few keys that may help you to teach your team.
- It’s not just talk…point. Teach your defensemen to not only talk, but physically point to the backcheckers on which player to take. That body language helps to identify on the backcheck.
- Have a plan. Some coaches like to have their backchecking forwards skate to the puck and the D pick up from there…others like having them pick up the late guys and let the D take the puck carrier on the rush. Be clear in how you’d like your team to play.
- Make the defense the leaders. The defensemen are facing the play while skating backwards and have a much better vantage point than the forwards working to get back. By telling the defense that they are the ship’s captain for these kinds of plays, it gives them ownership to be clear and loud with their talk.
- Backcheck is not just working hard, but working smart. Putting your head down and skating as fast as you can isn’t an efficient backcheck. Make sure you’re teaching the players to keep their heads up and on a swivel and communicate. It will help tenfold on sorting things out and limiting scoring chances and goals.