On a warm summer evening under the street lights, after hours on the road, a cry goes out, “Next goal wins!” Our team is pressing in the opposition’s end when my buddy feathers a beauty pass across the crease to me and I fire the ball into the yawning cage to win the game. A pass is a beautiful thing!
From instructional hockey right through to the NHL, passing is one of the skills that differentiates quality teams from less successful ones. On a hot summer day, it is easy to learn that players will tire, but the ball never does! So the secret is...let the ball do the work for you. Well positioned teams with skilled passers can stand the test of extended games while still having “fuel in the tank”. I’m reminded of the time my coach in Novice lined the entire team up along the side boards with the assistant coach standing across the ice along the opposite boards. His challenge to us was, “When I blow the whistle I will pass the puck across the rink. On the sound of that whistle, see if you can skate across the ice and beat the puck to the other side.” It did not take many repetitions of this drill to forever instill in our memories that we should let the puck or ball do the work for us.
In countless neighbourhood street hockey games, the reality of unlimited team size means that you learn early that a little orange ball can go where players cannot. Threading the needle between a cluster of opposing players can spring one of your own teammates into the clear for an uncontested shot on net. A well placed pass can utilize open areas of street to your advantage. Even though Play On! events are refined to the stage that there are only four players from each team on the street at one time, the principles learned from the neighbourhood games can still be very effectively applied as strong teams spread out and move the ball around to make best use of the playing area. Figure skaters clued into this long ago and now are rewarded for making use of the full rink in their programs.
The ability to pass gives a player a multitude of options. Players can feather it, flip it, saucer it, snap it, drop it or even bank it off the curb. All of these options keep the defenders guessing and give the offence a definite advantage in any situation. Aspiring Play On! participants can hone their skills anywhere they can find a smooth surface in front of a wall that will act as a passing partner for any style of pass that you deliver. Time spent in this lonely pursuit of passing perfection can pay great dividends when your team hits the street. Successful and well practised passers utilize the spherical shape of the ball to work their magic with a pass and actually welcome the opportunity to pass a ball rather than a flat and unresponsive puck!
Passing allows for the entire team to become engaged in the game. Stick handling on some road surfaces can prove to be very challenging which just reinforces the value of a pass to your team’s success in any of the Play On! events across Canada. So sign up, get out there and show us your passes!
- Matt Boyle