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My 5 Go-To (Mostly) Ageless Hockey Warmup Games

12/04/2015, 6:00am PST
By Kelvin Cech

Can someone out there name another situation where we take the most uncoordinated members of society, strap knives to their feet and arm them with clubs before shoving them onto a frozen sheet of ice and asking them to swing as hard as they can at a tiny frozen piece of rubber that’s damn near impossible to see through their ill-fitting crash helmets?

…Didn’t think so. Also I think that’s the best sentence I’ve ever written here. 

What? Oh, the point. The point is that there’s a lot going on during hockey practices. 

Whether you’re on the ice with 15 demonic angelic 7 year-olds who can’t wait to laugh at you when you find the business end of their hockey stick buried in a sensitive spot, or you’re on the ice with 15, 16 and 17 year-olds ripping pucks 8 feet wide of the net, it’s helpful to find a way to channel an athlete’s energy early on. 

/End rant. Here are my top 5 on-ice games to fall back on when the going gets tough.

Puck Pirates

I play this game with initiation players pretty much every chance I get. It’s organized chaos and the coaches get to jump in. Every player has a puck except for one or two pirates, and their job is to steal pucks and put them in the net, which in turn transforms their victims into new pirates. 

  • Benefits: constant puck handling, on-ice awareness
  • Dangers: players crashing into each other 

Thief

This is one of the most tiring games around, so it’s great to take the wind out of the sails of a particularly exuberant group. Each circle on the ice represents a different level. To ascend, a player must knock another player’s puck out of the circle while maintaining control of their own puck. Players on the wrong end of the exchange move down a level. 

  • Benefits: constant puck handling, conditioning, small area awareness
  • Dangers: frustration

Star Wars

Kids are yellin’, kids are wanderin’, kids ain’t listenin’ - sounds like an old country song, but it’s surprisingly accurate. When all hope is lost and despair sets in like a black cloud, Star Wars is the answer. What could be better than firing pucks at the skates of those who’ve wronged you as they perform a disguised bag skate back and forth across the ice? Want it to last? Just keep missing. 

  • Benefits: I play this game a lot
  • Dangers: kids who cheat

3 Puck

Over the past 15 years of working in hockey skill development, I bet I’ve played this game 200 hundred times. It’s the perfect way to start a practice: two teams line up on opposing blue lines with three pucks set on the red line. On the whistle, players try to shoot the pucks into the opposing goal. You can add extra rules too to make it more competitive, such as restricting game play to only one puck in the offensive zone at any given moment, lest a goal not count. 

  • Benefits: stronger players will touch the puck more often, weaker players are forced to find open ice or battle for pucks
  • Danger: the game could last a very long time, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, come to think of it

Tip In

The best game of all time. The current head coach of the Edmonton Oil Kings taught me this game on my first day on the job at my old hockey academy in Edmonton. Essentially it’s a 2 on 2 battle in front of the net that starts with the coach shooting a puck which the players try to tip in to the net. Whether a goal is scored off the tip or the ensuing small area battle below the top of the circles, the victorious team stays in to face the next duo. 

  • Benefits: every applicable skill used in the game of hockey is covered here
  • Danger: none. It’s the best game ever. 

Each of these games is more suitable at different ages and levels, but every hockey player regardless of age loves these games.

The best part? They’re all fun. And hockey is fun, so, mission accomplished! 

photo credit: IMG_5295.jpg via photopin (license)

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