Playing hockey requires more than skill

Written by Gianna Salitrik 

When it comes to hockey, everyone talks about the gorgeous goals and pretty saves, but there are parts of hockey that people do not discuss. A lot of attention is paid to the “sty” (style) players have, or the dangles they can do on defensemen. What is not discussed as much is the mental or scientific parts of the sport. There is a level of focus and preparation that you must have to play the game well. 

Before the game, there is a lot to do: What a player eats before a game is one of the most important things. A diet can affect the way a player plays.  If I do not eat anything before a game, I feel extremely tired and low on energy. If I eat too much before the game, I feel very full and like I want to lay on the ice and take a nap. Preferably, I like to go with something light but filling. Carbs are needed for energy so I can skate hard and fast. 

There is also a level of focus that you need before the game. If you are messing around as a team and not concentrating on the opponent, you will go into the game unfocused and unprepared. A silly mood can do damage to the team. 

Once on the ice, the warm-up is important. Imagine this…the coaches just finished their “chalk talk” and you are about to go on the ice. You put your helmet on and make sure your skates are tied tightly. You stand in line to get on the ice and suddenly you are skating on a freshly cleaned rink. The warm-up starts now. 

During warm-ups, we do three drills and each is important. The first is “Grab a Puck and a Partner.” We skate up and down the ice, passing the puck back-and-forth. The next drill is called “The Windmill,” which is a 2-on-0 drive to the net. This means, there are two players in the drill and two lines. The lines start in either corner. Player No.1 starts with the puck and leads player No. 2 with a pass. They regroup at the Blue Line and go in 2-on-0 (no defenseman). The last drill is simply going to the blue line and back. We skate back-and-forth and up-and-down. After, we put the pucks in the bag and get ready for the opening face off. 

During the game, there is a level of respect that must be met. If you are out on the ice using unacceptable language, being rude to the refs, or disrespectful to your opponents and teammates, that is not good hockey. In hockey, it is fine to get a little feisty and aggressive, but once you turn disrespectful the game is not as fun. Even if you hate the team you just played, you still have to be a good sport and show good sportsmanship. It is a code hockey players must follow. 

After the game, once back in the locker room, your coach usually will give an after-game speech. Most of the time, the talk is about things the team could have done better and the things the team did well. It is important to listen when the coach analyzes a game. A player can learn a lot.

Hockey is an amazing sport but there is more to it than the highlights you will see on Sports Center.

About the author: Gianna has been skating since she started walking. She started out as a figure skater because women’s hockey was not very popular. Although she enjoyed figure skating, she wanted to play hockey. By the age of 7, she was on her first In-House team, the Red Barrens. She now plays for North Pittsburgh Wildcats.

Story photo credit: The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

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