Game Plan Glitch

Hockey has evolved in every way imaginable over the years.  One major evolutionary aspect is the influx of technology into the game.  Coaching staffs spend hours upon hours analyzing and breaking down video of both their opponents and their own team to hone system play and correct mistakes.  Most teams at higher levels even staff a full-time video coach due to the large body of work that is required in this field.

When I was playing in the NCAA we had a student-video coach who assisted the coaching staff using the “Steva” video breakdown system.  Each week the coaching staff would analyze the teams we were to face for the upcoming weekend.  Teams were mandated to exchange video with the upcoming opponent depicting their most recent games to allow for fair system preparation.  The staff would breakdown the video of their opposition’s last game and dissect everything from power-play breakouts to controlled forechecks in order to prepare and tweak our systems for the upcoming match-up.  It was all very scientific and was quite similar to how football teams prepare week-to-week.

One week, I can remember, we were getting ready to host Yale and Princeton and our coach had us prepping all week for the Yale game.  We never had much trouble with Princeton so the main focus was to shut down Yale.  All week we were studying their breakouts and power-play setups.  We would watch video of how they would attack us in all situations and then spend our practices working on how to conquer their systems.  We’re talking hours and hours of hard work and preparation.  We were ready for them!

All of a sudden Friday comes along and its 5:30 pm, the time we always had our pre-game video session to do one last run-through.  We’re doing an overview of their systems one last time with the video we have been watching all week when all of a sudden one of our guys blurts out, “Hey which team is Yale on the video again?”  Everyone looks at him like he was from Mars.

I can distinctly remember flinching and thinking, “Oh shit he’s done.  The first pre-game scratch I’ve ever seen is coming up.”  Coach just looked up with an annoyed look and said, “Blue, you dummy!”  Then the player says, “I’m pretty sure that’s UConn Coach.”  Coach starts to snap back with, “No you idiot UConn is in the white,” and then pauses as he looks more carefully at the monitor.  The player was right!  The video was always a bit grainy and nobody thought to look closely before.

All week we were prepping for what we all thought was Yale’s systems when in fact it was UConn!  To this day I’ll never forget the reaction from Coach once he realized we’d just prepped all week for the wrong team.  He stood up, turned to us, threw his clipboard in the air and said, “Alright boys.  Forget about systems tonight.  Let’s just make sure we score more goals than them.”  It was priceless!  We were in stitches.

Jamie McKinven
Author / Blogger at
Jamie McKinven, author of “So You Want Your Kid to Play Pro Hockey?” and “Tales from the Bus Leagues,” is a former professional hockey player who played in the NCAA, ECHL, CHL and Europe.

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