In A Devilish Mood: Here’s why I always want the shot blocker on my team
Talent is obviously a no-brainer, but being a truly gifted hockey player takes a lot more than just talent. If I am picking from a group of young players to start my team and I see a player out there who is blocking shots like crazy, I have probably found my first pick.
This player’s willingness to block shots tells me more about his/her attitude than anything else, and here’s why:
1. This player is not selfish and has a team-first attitude. He/she is willing to do what’s best for the team and is putting the team’s needs ahead of their own.
2. This player is coachable. Blocking shots is a skill that needs to be taught in order to be done correctly and thereby reducing your chances for injury. Players get hurt blocking shots when they expose parts of their body that do not have protective padding on it i.e. the “flamingo” shot blocker that raises one leg and turns his/her back to the shooter. Some coach spent some time with this player showing him/her the correct way to block shots and this player was not only able to perform the feat correctly, but also sees the importance of making it a part of his/her game.
3. This player is a defensive-minded player and understands that if the other team does not score, they cannot win. Everyone likes to boast about the goal-scorers, but I am one who believes that defense wins hockey. I tell all my players that “100 percent of the shots that miss the net don’t go in.” The same can be said about the defensive zone with “every shot you prevent from hitting your net eliminates a goal scoring opportunity against you.” I love players that understand this and let’s face it, if your little goal-scorer scores three goals a game, but is on the ice for four goals a game against, is he/she really helping the team win?
After all, hockey is the ultimate team sport where the only points that matter are the two points for the win. When you move up to higher levels, players who cannot be trusted defensively find themselves on the bench in the third period when their team is enjoying a small lead.
4. This player is a leader. That does not mean that this player is the vocal leader on the team and may or may not be a captain or assistant captain but rather that he/she leads by example and lets their play do the talking. Leaders make everybody around them better and you can bet that everyone on the team appreciates this player when they make a big shot block and inspires other team members to do the same. The majority of hockey is played without the puck and therefore, what you do without the puck is the most important aspect of any players’ game.
5. This player is tough and plays with guts. Coaches like these types of players. This player is not afraid to get hit by the puck and knows that blocking that shot is important to the team. In my opinion, us coaches need to make sure we are pointing out these players’ heroics to the team, especially at the younger levels. The star of the game is always the player who scored multiple points or the goalie who stopped all the shots, not that they don’t deserve it, but we also need to let the shot blocker know that they played a major role in the team’s victory as well.
In order to become a good hockey player, you need to become very good at doing the “little things” – and shot blocking is a BIG little thing!
Brad McCaughey is the director of hockey operations and coach-in-chief for DYHA.
(March 8, 2018)