USA Hockey Magazine

February 2015

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s the season reaches the stretch run, players are striving to help their teams reach the top. As each game becomes seemingly more important than the last, the best players rise and excel under the pressure. This is why coaches and scouts look for "clutch" players for their rosters. And one of the most vital driving forces behind a clutch player is hockey sense. "Aside from the core fundamentals of skating, shooting, puck handling and passing, hockey sense is the part of the game that helps complete a player's all-around abilities. It just allows those basic fundamentals to then be performed at a higher level," explains Jim Johannson, USA Hockey's assistant executive director of hockey operations. "After skating and compete level, I would say it is the biggest component looked at by coaches and scouts in evaluating a player." Johannson should know. In more than a decade with USA Hockey, he has been involved in the selection of multiple U.S. Olympic Teams, National Teams and National Junior Teams. He also played on two U.S. Olympic Teams (1988, 1992) and won a NCAA Div. I national championship with the Wisconsin Badgers in 1983. Now that he's charged with building successful international teams, Johannson must look to add players with top-end hockey sense who can succeed in a shortened tournament format. "When identifying hockey sense, you look for positioning and overall ice awareness," he says. "Does the player recognize when to provide support on the ice in situational play and go to areas of the ice that help create an advantage for his or her team?" While practices and games can help build hockey sense, there are off-ice options that can help develop this skill, just like going to the gym can help strength and endurance. Along with watching footage of great players and attempting to mimic what they do both with and without the puck, players should consider The Hockey IntelliGym. This computer-based training tool is designed to improve an athlete's cognitive abilities, allowing him or her to make quicker decisions under duress. The low-fidelity program is based on technology originally designed for fighter pilots, and has been proven to work better than video games or simulators. The IntelliGym challenges the user's brain and grows more difficult over time rather than relying on familiar graphics or gameplay that become familiar and automatic. Users have reported on-ice improvement in as few as 10 sessions, giving players just enough time to sharpen up for the end-of- season push. Alex Clark is the manager of Marketing at USA Hockey and a former Brian Fishman Intern. A D V E R T O R I A L // By ALEX CLARK A For more information on The Hockey IntelliGym, visit ONLINE Hockey Sense A Vital Skill In Rounding Out A Player's Game When creating national teams for international competition, USA Hockey coaches and staff look for players with top-end hockey sense. 59 USAHOCKEYMAGAZINE.COM FEBRUARY. 2015 PHOTOS BY Rick Kimball; USA Hockey Archives

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