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On-ice communication is vital for both players and their teams ...

I've always been vocal as a hockey player. I mean, I was loud. You would hear me pretty much wherever you were in the rink (on the ice, on the bench, in the stands ... you get the picture). I wasn't loud in an obnoxious way, like chirping opponents, though I confess I did a little of that, too! I also wasn't loud because I wanted the puck all the time. My vocal prowess was more to help my teammates make better plays and to watch their backs.

Watch any higher-level hockey game, high school, juniors, college, or pros, and you will hear constant chatter amongst players. When a center is open in the slot in the offensive zone, you may hear something like "open ... slot, slot" called out. Additionally, when a forward is battling in the corner and wins the puck, you may hear his or her defensemen call "point, point," letting the forward know they are open for a shot and alerting their teammate to get them the puck,

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In the defensive zone, you may hear a goalie, defenseman, or backchecking forward yell out something like "one on you" to warn a defenseman or another teammate with their backs to the play of an oncoming forechecker. Conversely, a teammate may want to let another teammate know they have no pressure on them by yelling something like "You got time" or "No one on you."

Bergeron communicating faceoff strategy to Marchy.

This constant communication and ability to be loud are essential for players to develop, not only to make themselves better but also t make their teammates better. As a coach, whether in scrimmages or games (after a player's shift), I always encourage my players to communicate loudly. The game moves fast, and players are in small area battles all over the ice, so they can't always clearly see the best available play - getting input from a teammate (being their second set of eyes) can help them stay a step ahead of the pressure or guide them to making the right play.

As illustrated in the video below, Brenden Dillon, formerly of the San Jose Sharks and Washington Capitals and current Winnipeg Jet, uses lots of communication and vocalization to help his teammates make plays and be aware of what's happening. He displays the kind of communication every player needs to bring to the rink whenever they step on the ice.

Specifically, watch the 0:37-0:49 second mark of the video, as well as the 0:50-1:12 mark, the 1:49-1:57 mark, and the 2:03-2:26 mark.

The challenge for a coach or parent is that not every player is comfortable being vocal. Being loud and assertive is second nature for some, but that may not be true for others. However, much like in life, there are always hurdles to overcome and mountains to climb, and continuous reinforcement can help a player learn to be more vocal. So as a coach (or a parent), I always suggest reminding your players on the ride to the rink to be vocal in every practice and game. Being vocal is something that has to become habitual. Additionally, during the game, if there are moments where a player could have vocalized and didn't, it's always good to use that play as a teaching moment and reinforce how being vocal in that situation may have led to a better outcome.

Being an effective communicator (assertive, not obnoxious) is also a life skill that will translate off-ice. Vocal kids tend to be respected by their peers and looked to as leaders, and they are always heard as opposed to those that take a back seat and remain passive.

Cheers, and keep enjoying the game, whether you're a player, coach, or spectator !!!

Coach Kevin

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