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The Toronto Maples Leafs of the National Hockey League on the bench.

4 Reasons Why Hockey Players Lose Ice Time

01/16/2015, 5:00am PST
By Kelvin Cech

"Sometimes life isn't fair. Except when it is."


The Americans have the dollar.

The Russians have the ruble. 

Great Britain has tea and biscuits. 

Currency. These locations all deal with a specific currency, a means by which they represent relevance to the world. Their currency measures their impact on a global economy often fraught with problems, politics and pandering.

So, what’s Canada’s currency?

You guessed it. 

Ice time. 

Our country’s success is measured in ice time on so many levels. Nic Petan recently elevated his play in the 2015 World Junior Championships and received more ice time. Your favourite National Hockey League team played well and made it into the playoffs, thus getting more ice time. 

Play good, get ice.

Simple, right?


I’ll try to be nice about this. But I am a coach, after all. 

Why on Earth, when a player gets ice time it’s because they played well, but when they don’t receive whatever the ‘correct’ amount is it’s because the coach is a fool?

Let me clarify for a second. There are so many factors that contribute to the distribution of ice time, not the least of which being the player’s age and level of play. But, for the sake of my argument, let’s assume a player is playing on the team with which he belongs and receives a fair shake when it comes to his time on the ice. 

Back to the point, if ice time is currency, then it’s the best way for a coach to teach players. Hockey is about the investment made before the game - in the summer, the night before, the season prior - except when it’s not. 

Here are the 4 main reasons players lose ice time. 

1. Went to Bed Late

The older a player gets the less the responsibility of bed time falls the the parents. Sometimes players just don’t have energy. Regardless of the level, a coach who keeps sending the player out for extra ice time when they’re sluggish or having a difficult time making decisions is completely undervaluing his currency with all his players.  

2. Didn’t Eat Properly

Same idea, though it’s easier to control your diet than the quality of your sleep. Healthy eating choices are the foundation of a hockey player’s success (or lack thereof), and a shocking amount of players and their parents don’t take it seriously. 

3. There are Better Options

“Why am I not on the powerplay?”

“Because we have another option who has a better shot than you right now.”

6 months later…

“I have a better shot now, can I play on the powerplay?”

“So does our other option. Sorry man!”

Sometimes in life there are people who are just better at certain things. The key then is to figure out how you can contribute. 

4. On-Ice Results

Coaches don’t play. Coaches put players on the ice and tell them to perform specific tasks. When a coach puts a player on the ice and they perform the task asked of them, the coach has done his job. 

I’m seriously downplaying the euphoria of putting a player on the ice to kill a penalty or score a goal and watching it happen. 

When these players get results, they get more opportunities. Consistently achieving desired results builds trust with the coach. The desired result can be any number of in-game situations:

  • getting the puck out of the zone
  • covering rebounds
  • using the boards to make a pass
  • getting shots on the powerplay

And so on and so on. Hockey is about making the most of your opportunities (when you get opportunities). 


Ice time is a touchy subject that doesn’t need to be. In the long run hockey is about quality of play rather than quantity. 

Is it difficult watching your son or daughter watch from the bench? Of course it is. It hurts to watch this happen to ex-players too. There are situations that fall outside the realm of this article’s logic, and to those of you reading and shaking your head at me, I apologize. 

All I know is that players can only control what they can control. If a player is paying attention to their nutrition, their sleep habits and their natural contributions to a game, then that’s all they can do. 

Sometimes life isn’t fair. Sometimes hockey isn’t fair.

Except when it is. 


photo credit: clydeorama via photopin cc

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