What do Connor McDavid, Sidney Crosby, and Dominic Hasek all have in common? They are three of the greatest hockey players ever known, but their game styles and positions are all very different.If we look at great hockey players across the eras, some are technically gifted and agile. Some are physically strong. And some, the goalies, seem to run on instinct when stopping the puck.
But what are the qualities all the best hockey players share?
Being a great player goes beyond speed and strength. When we look deeper, we can observe a few base traits that all of the best hockey players possess.
1. WOrld-class skating
Perhaps the most impressive thing about great hockey players is their skating ability.
These athletes are as big as football players, and they glide around the ice and smash into one another. Most of them are fast. Some of them have world-class speed. And all of them have extraordinary balance.
There are stories of great hockey players training for years with figure skating coaches as children before they were ever allowed to pick up a stick.
While some skills may be negotiable in hockey, outstanding skating is a requirement for anyone wanting to be prodigious.
2. Puck Skills
For any player, most hockey games are played without the puck on their stick. It’s what the great players do in the milliseconds the puck is on their sticks that separates the great from the good.
An exceptional ability to shoot, pass, stick-handle, and control the puck are skills that all the best players share.
The more mysterious skill of on-ice vision also appears in all the great ones. From forwards to goalies, the best hockey players have an uncanny ability to anticipate a play developing on the ice.
Movement on the ice is a skill that starts the first time a young player takes part in a game and evolves throughout their career. Great players never remain still on the ice. The greatest of all time were constantly in motion.
Some of the best—Gretzky, Ray Bourque, Patrick Roy—were just as exciting to watch when they didn’t have the puck.
Whether it’s a defenseman drifting stealthily between a player and the puck, a forward working to get free for a pass, or a goalie sliding into a better angle—great players are never static.
4. Training and Technique
Training for solid, foundational hockey technique is always consistent with greatness.
For exceptional players, building technique begins in youth hockey training and is perfected years into their careers. Constructing proper techniques that can be utilized instinctively is crucial to becoming a great player.
Training hard and investing time is necessary for a player to achieve greatness.
5. Hockey IQ
There are athletic limitations to almost everyone’s game. The best players can make up for what they lack in athleticism with high-level hockey knowledge.
Knowing your team systems, your team’s identity, and being aware of precisely what your goal is in any particular moment needs to be intuitive to a distinguished player.
The best players always seem to be keenly aware of what the other team is trying to achieve. They are students of the game. They make educated bets on how their opponent will behave and monopolize on their knowledge of the game like a successful crypto trader predicting bitcoin prices.
These guys talk hockey, watch hockey, and think about hockey full-time.
6. ‘Hockey Strength’
Most great hockey players are not massive, muscled-up players, but they are all “hockey strong.”
Hockey strength is about building specific muscles for the core skills of the game. The best players have strong cores, sturdy legs, and wrists, and hands that can crack coconuts.
They work on these critical areas and become hockey strong. This requires extensive training on and off the ice.
Players will need to utilize every outlet to improve their strength. They lift, they eat, and work out to keep these key areas strong.
With the recent plummet in gym memberships over the past couple of years, you can be assured hockey players wanting to be their best were not among the culprits skipping the gym.
All the skills in the world will mean nothing if a player cannot be coached. The best players are open to constructive criticism and practice harder than they play.
As the cliché states, great players are always the first players on the ice and the last players off it.
Coaches live for players with skills who also listen well, synthesize information, study, learn, and grow. The ability to be coached is identifiable in all the best hockey players. Without this capacity, most players are doomed to mediocrity.