Real Hockey

Out on the road recruiting, you watch a lot of hockey. In a span of 48 hours this week, I saw approximately 13 hockey games. While the sport of hockey is fundamentally the same in all of these games, there are many different types of hockey being played. The type usually depends on the relative ability level of the two teams.

When they are far apart, the game often appears like the ice is tilted strongly in one direction. The puck is in one end for most of the game, and one team has a superior talent level and is able to showcase their offensive abilities. While this can be entertaining to watch, it is not a great game to scout players from.

Teams that are close together and have a high skill threshold tend to play a game that goes end to end, up and down the ice. There will be some physicality but it generally consists of grinding along the boards or rubbing guys out along the wall. This is a game that is good to watch to identify high skill level players.

Two teams that have a similar skating ability but slightly different puck skill levels will typically play a more physical type of game. One team will be the aggressor and finish all of their checks, while the other team will begin to do that to stay in the physical game.

When looking for college hockey players, I like to watch games with a physical component. It closely mirrors the college game and it forces teams and players to work for their ice. It requires patience, intelligence and poise with the puck, as well as skating and communicating without the puck. The mental toughness needed to succeed in these games translates well to the college level.

For me, grinding hockey is real hockey. It is a game played between two relatively evenly matched opponents who force the other to work and grind for every inch of ice and every opportunity. If you can succeed in a game like this, you may be well on your way to a career in college hockey.