For any coaches or parents who have been to the McCrae-Williamson Jamboree, you would have seen the beauty of cross ice hockey at work. Four, simultaneous cross ice games being played at once, with more than 100 kids participating – it is an amazing site! But this is not a new or unique concept. In top hockey nations around the world, cross ice games are the mainstay for players under the age of 10 or 11. The advantages of cross ice hockey are well documented with increased puck touches, better engagement, and enhanced decision making being some the benefits. (da_advantagesofcrossice)
One of the most important benefits of cross ice hockey for young players, is that it provides a more accurate representation of how the sport is actually played at the top level. Watch any AIHL or NHL game and you will notice that hockey is a rapid series 1 on 1, 2 on 2, or 2 on 1 battles that occur in tight areas such as the corner, along the half wall, or in front of the net (I have been amazed by just how many goal mouth scrambles have occurred in this year’s NHL playoffs). Through cross ice hockey, young players become accustomed to playing the game while under the same type of pressure. They must learn to handle the puck in tight spaces, make plays under pressure, make rapid decisions, and compete hard for time and space. The result is enhanced skill acquisition and the development of hockey sense.
However, cross ice games (and other small area games) are not just for novice and atom players. Men’s and Women’s teams at the highest level now incorporate these into their practices for the same reasons we use them for our younger players – increased puck touches, plays under pressure, tight spaces and rapid decision making. Have a look at this video of the Finnish National Team I recorded last year when our Mighty Roos held their training camp at Vierumaki, Finland.
If one of the top hockey nations in the world is incorporating cross ice hockey into their training, perhaps we should be doing this as well. I have personally utilised cross ice games (and small area games) when coaching national teams and in the AIHL. They are effective, and more importantly, player love them. Our players love to compete and these a great way to add that element to your trainings.
Ryan O’Handley, National Player Development Director