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Winning Hockey Habits

By Shane Frederick, 02/13/24, 11:00AM CST


Little Details Are Key to Development with BSU’s Amber Fryklund

Good players and good teams practice good habits daily. And the goal is that those habits will become second nature on game days. Habits—good and bad—can carry over year to year, as well, says Amber Fryklund, associate head coach for the Bemidji State women’s hockey team, so being conscious of your habits and reflecting on them can go a long way toward improving your overall game.

“One habit I think is really important is that communication piece,” Fryklund said. “We know that the habits that we create from a young age are things that we continue to do as we get older.”

Be Ready to Make a Play

“Have your stick on the ice and be ready,” Fryklund said. “Oftentimes, when we think about the play, we think about the player with the puck. But the play away from the puck is so important. So having your stick on the ice, always being ready for a pass, always being in a ready position to take a shot or be a scoring threat, and being ready to be an option for your teammates is a big habit.”

Having your stick on the ice also means being able to move it and make a better target for your teammates.

“If you get perfect passes, great! But you’re not always going to get perfect passes,” she said. “So what can you do as the puck receiver to catch that pass and find a way to get that puck on your stick? Being ready all the time goes into that.”

Stop at the Net

So many scoring chances are missed by offensive players or are allowed by defenders because players end up in the wrong position—namely below the goal line.

“Stopping at the net is another specific habit,” she said. “And that's offensively on rushes but also on the defensive side, too, coming back into the zone and stopping at the net or stopping in a defensive area.”

Coaches can emphasize this action (and others) with the drills in their practice plans.

“If you're doing a drill where you shoot the puck and, after you shoot it, you go to the corner and get a new puck, you're not incentivizing them to stop at the net. You’re incentivizing them to go to the corner right away. So we need to be intentional as coaches as to how we're designing drills and what we're asking of our players.”

Practice Like It’s a Game

Practicing with a game-day kind of energy will prepare you for being at your best when it counts.

“It’s so important to practice with that intensity and effort because that translates to game situations,” she said. “So if you practice at 70% and you go to a game, it's really hard to turn that up.

“It's hard in practice to mimic that exact game-like environment, but the higher intensity that you can practice and compete in that effort, the more ready you are going to be in those situations and able to make plays under pressure.”

Reflect on Your Habits

Fryklund encourages players and coaches to think about some of those habits regularly in order to keep them front of mind. Coaches should concentrate on one or two specific items during a practice and then “really highlight those things you're doing and have the kids reflect on those things” after practice.

“Maybe it’s, ‘Hey, we're really going to focus on our communication in practice today,’” Fryklund said. “And after practice, ask yourself, ‘On a scale from 1 to 5, how do I feel like it did on my communication? And can I continue to work on that?’”