When it comes right down to it, hockey is a series of 1-on-1 battles. They happen all over the ice at all levels.
USA Hockey caught up with Pat Mikesch, head coach and general manager of the USHL’s Green Bay Gamblers, to talk about 1-on-1 battles and how important they are in a player’s development.
USA Hockey: How have you seen 1-on-1 battles evolve over time?
Pat Mikesch: The game’s always been about players that can win their 1-on-1 battle and then, ultimately, that’s how you create a 2-on-1. Scoring opportunities come from gaining that advantage in all situations. The game 20 years ago, there was so much more stick being used, or even 10 years ago, where the defender has the advantage a lot of times by being able to use his stick for more of a clutch-and-grab game. Now the game has evolved where the offensive player has a huge advantage because of the rules and the lack of clutch-and-grab that was used 10 years ago.
USA Hockey: Puck possession is a popular term today. How do 1-on-1s fuel puck possession?
Mikesch: If they’re finding ways, offensively, to maintain pucks in their 1-on-1 battles and control the game that way – obviously that’s a sign that they’re winning them offensively. Then a player, defensively, is spending less time in their defensive positioning and they’re able to gain positioning quicker and take advantage of the offensive players. You see less time defending, more time in the offensive zone, when you’re seeing the 1-on-1 battles being won.
USA Hockey: Simply put, does winning 1-on-1 battles translate into winning games?
Mikesch: Without a doubt. The game just breaks down into one battle after another of one-on-one. The players that can win those are going to give you back the advantage in every situation. So it’s obviously a key to success. They have to be able to have success coming out of those battles — not only winning one-on-one battles, but being able to do it consistently against players that are bigger and stronger than them, I think is a key before you’re able to move onto another level.
USA Hockey: How can coaches express the importance of these battles to the players?
Mikesch: I think that by the time they come to our level, it’s been engrained into them. It starts at the lower levels and putting kids in situations where they learn to compete that way in practice so they understand the importance of, first of all, defending well, and then once you’ve defended well, being able to maintain (possession of) that puck and win your offensive battles as well. Emphasizing that at the younger ages is important, so that by the time they get to the junior level, it’s engrained into them and they understand that the team will win when you’re able to win more battles than you lose.
USA Hockey: Are there any specific drills that coaches at those younger levels, or any level, can use to help emphasize this?
Mikesch: Small-area games put people into those situations immediately, because that’s what it comes down to. Especially when you get to those higher levels as the gaps are going to be tighter and you’re going to have to play in a smaller space against somebody. So any time you can put the kids into a situation where it’s a controlled, one vs. one, smaller, confined area, they start to learn that body positioning and puck protection from the offensive side of it, and, from the defensive side of it, the ability to separate an offensive player from the puck.
USA Hockey: How closely do scouts or coaches look at these 1-on-1 battles or compete levels in prospects?
Mikesch: I think compete and battle are what the highest levels are all about. At the college and professional levels, players have to be able to compete and play through all kinds of 1-on-1 battles all game long. And you have to be able to do it consistently. That’s one thing you hear from scouts in the NHL level over and over again is “Is he able to win his 1-on-1 battles on a regular basis?” It’s obviously, at the highest levels, what they look at night in and night out.
Even with almost 50 years of involvement in hockey, you can’t plan for the current state of the world and the impact coronavirus has had on our game. I think it is safe to say that nothing prepares you for the changes that have taken place in our daily lives and the uncertainty of when things might return to normal. Or in this case, what will become the new “normal.”
Our expertise is hockey, so what we’ll address in this piece: the impact of the global pandemic on our game and how likely it will affect our game in the immediate future.
USA Hockey continues to post information on COVID-19 on the main website. These updates keep our membership informed of specific programs and the changing safety recommendations that will be in place when hockey returns. Be sure to check back regularly for updates and other hockey information.
On the officiating front, much of what we are able to do from a program standpoint is connected to player events like national tournaments and player development camps. As you know, the national tournaments (along with the March, April and May IIHF World Championship events) were cancelled. The Officiating Program then canceled our two instructor training programs that were planned for late April and early May in Lake Placid, N.Y., and Colorado Springs, Colo.
At this time, details for any potential summer development camps are still being determined. On the player side, several camps we are connected to were cancelled, and the few camps that are still in planning have been dramatically downsized. The Officiating Program continues to monitor the decisions made for players and will take advantage of any opportunity we have to salvage our summer camp program and maximize participation.
The good news is, we are confident we will have a 2020-21 season. All indications show no reason to delay registration. It will open as scheduled on or around May 26, followed by the open book exams and online seminar curriculum on June 1.
SafeSport Training (required for anyone born in the year 2003 or earlier) and background screening (learn about the new national level screening program in the Q & A section) will also be available to complete at that time. If COVID-19 still has things slowed down in early June, it would be an ideal time to get these requirements completed.
The biggest unknown will be the timing in which we will be able to conduct seminars. The vast majority of rinks are currently closed, and many of them took this opportunity to remove ice to save operating costs and do maintenance. There is now doubt they will be prepared to quickly ramp up once they are allowed to do so, but as with most everything right now, the timing is uncertain. As a result, some of the earlier seminars may be pushed back a few weeks. The District Referees-in-Chief will secure ice times and facilities so we can provide seminar dates and locations as quickly as possible. We are also encouraging our instructors to think outside the box by providing some weeknight seminar options, and to look at other ways to best meet the needs of our members.
The Advanced Officiating Symposium, scheduled for Providence, R.I. in late July, is still going to plan. We will continue to monitor the situation, including local restrictions and travel advisories in the coming weeks, and we will announce any changes in advance to allow for alterations to travel arrangements. Click here for up-to-date information or to reserve your seat at the 2020 Advanced Officiating Symposium.
These are difficult times for everyone, and although our hockey family is important to us, it is a small fraction of the big picture that is impacting our daily lives. To quote Andy Dufresne in his letter for Red that he left under the big oak tree in The Shawshank Redemption: “Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”
We hope you and your loved ones are safe and healthy. We hope the coronavirus is conquered with minimal loss of lives and a return to a prosperous normal as soon as possible. We hope your passion for the game of hockey will only grow as a result of its absence. We hope we are back on the ice in the coming months and that the 2020-21 season will be our best yet.
Thank you for your continued support of USA Hockey and don’t hesitate to contact us if there is anything we can do to make your hockey experience a better one. In the meantime, stay safe, stay healthy and be prepared to be back on the ice soon.
In order to comply with new requirements from the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee (USOPC), USA Hockey will be implementing a national level background screening program. This program will replace all USAH Affiliate coordinated background screen programs.
Why must officials be screened?
Per USA Hockey and USOPC policy, all coaches, officials, board members, employees, volunteers, billets and anyone else who will have regular contact with, or authority over, minor athletes are required to submit a background screen before any contact with minor athletes.
Who is required to be screened?
Officials who are 18 years-old (or older) prior to June 1 of the current year.
Any official, 18 years-old (or older) without a completed valid background screen (national or USAH Affiliate coordinated) after April 1, 2019.
All national background screens are valid for two seasons, and starting on June 1, 2020 a national background screen must be completed and in good standing before receiving an officiating card and crest.
What are the timelines for launching the national background screen program?
Beginning on April 1, 2020, background screening will be conducted by our national background screen vendor, National Center for Safety Initiatives (NCSI), and information on background screening will be included following your registration.
As of March 22, 2020, applicants will no longer be able to submit new USA Hockey background screens through USAH Affiliate vendors, and will not be able to submit new screens through NCSI until April 1, 2020.
If you were screened after April 1, 2019 for the 2019-20 season, your screen is valid for the 2020-21 season, and you will not need to be screened under the new system until prior to the 2021-22 season. If your most recent screen is from prior to April 1, 2019, you will need to be screened under the new system, after April 1, 2020, in order to participate in the upcoming season.
All new screens submitted through the new NCSI national screening program after April 1, 2020 will be valid for two seasons. For example, a screen submitted and approved on April 15, 2020 will be valid through the end of the 2021-22 season, which is August 31, 2022.
How can members complete their required background screen?
A link to submit for screening will be included in your membership registration confirmation email and posted in the drop-down menu under the OFFICIALS tab at USAHockey.com.
Background screens through NCSI under the national program will cost $30 for all domestic screens. For international screens (members who have lived outside of the U.S. for six consecutive months in any one county during the past 7 years) the flat rate fee is $150. If that country is solely Canada, the flat rate fee is $75.
Where can members go with questions about the national background screen program?
Please refer to the USA Hockey Background Screen webpage at USAHockey.com.