These days, the sport of hockey is all about Transition. Offensive Transition, Defensive Transition, Transition Transition. OK, I’m kidding about that last one, but winning hockey games often comes down to winning the transition game.
Offensive Transition is the action of moving from defense to offense. It involves quickly changing directions and attacking off of a loose puck or a turnover. Players must recognize the opportunity to generate a quick attack or an odd-man rush. Offensive Transition often involves a quick first step and explosive speed, as well as defensemen jumping into the play and players using open ice. Head-manning the puck, area passes, indirect passes, slant support, and middle lane drive are all important concepts to master in Offensive Transition. Teams that are good in Offensive Transition attempt to catch their opponents moving the wrong direction and take advantage of players caught up ice.
Just as O-Transition involves moving to offense, so does D-Transition involve the process of moving from Offense to Defense. Similar to O-Transition, Transition to Defense involves a quick first step and explosive speed. D-Transition also involves effort and will power. Communication, awareness, play recognition, stick skills and tie-ups are crucial to successful Defensive Transition. Teams that excel in defensive transition play with a sense of urgency and are effective at reading the play and taking away the most dangerous option for their opponents. In D-Transition, it is often not the first or second man back that makes the difference, but the third or the fourth player making an effort or failing to pick up their player on the backcheck that is the difference between a harmless rush and a goal against.
Why is Transition hockey becoming so critical in hockey today? Players are getting faster, stronger, and more explosive and the game is moving up and down the ice at a quicker pace. This has forced teams to be better at defending the rush, which has resulted in more opportunities to transition to offense. The transition game is similar to the chicken/egg argument – does good D-Transition lead to O-Transition or is it the other way around? Either way, it is imperative that teams excel in both areas and have great first step quickness and explosive speed.