Why Cross-ice Hockey?
Cross-ice hockey is a major part of age-appropriate development for Initiation players. Using a modified ice surface in Initiation programming allows young players the opportunity for more puck battles, puck touches which promotes greater chance for skill development (puck-handling, shooting, coordination) and decision making. These benefits are important in the long-term development of an individual player.
Cross-ice hockey is based on a model of practicing and playing hockey across 85-foot width of ice as compared to the full length of 200-foot ice. “We would never put a five or six-year-old on a full-size soccer pitch, or expect them to play basketball with any adjustments made for their size. Hockey is no different” Paul Carson, Vice president of Development, Hockey Canada.
The cross-ice modified ice surface has been used in many leading hockey nations around the world for a number of years and has stood the test of time. It has been tested and proven that a child who begins their hockey training in a modified environment have a greater hockey experience. Many parents may ask the questions why should my child play cross-ice? What are the benefits? Others
may believe that they want their child to experience ‘Real Hockey’ like the NHL on full 200-foot ice.
Cross-ice Hockey and Small-area Games
Cross-ice hockey or Small-area games, simply defined are technical and game-like competitive drills that use a playing surface that has been reduced in size and allows players to practice their hockey skills.
Small-area hockey actually has been around for as long as the game has been played. When players played on a pond did they use an ice surface 60 metres x 30 metres? No, they played in a small area that developed and sharpen their skills without the rules of off-sides, icing, penalties, face-offs, etc. Somehow coaches have moved away from this idea of practicing and playing in an
environment with little control or structure, to one with greater control.
Many of the greatest hockey players to ever play the game will attribute their success to growing up playing on the ponds and not in highly controlled practices!
When the playing surface is reduced in size, young players are being correctly prepared for the speed and quickness they will encounter as they grow older. Can you imagine a child eight and under playing basketball using a ten foot basket? Cross–ice develops a positive environment, increases puck handling, and teaches puck protection by forcing players to play in smaller,
For practicing it means that more players are on the ice but the group sizes are smaller. With more players on the ice it reduces the costs of the individual player for practicing.
This increases the ice usage and the efficiency of the practice by increasing the activity level of the individual player during the practice as their involvement time grows. Time spent waiting in line for the next chance to go is greatly reduced.
Players have more time with the puck for puck handling, passing and shooting. Drills are designed to focus on multiple skills and situations, increasing puck touches and situational repetition. On top of this the goalkeepers are more involved in the drills and get more shots to stop.
Practicing cross-ice and in small area’s this is beneficial for players of all ages and levels and they have fun.
The key playing benefits of cross ice are that it promotes creativity, creates an environment for self-learning hockey, increased player participation, speeds up the learning process, improves decision making skills so the player reads and acts quicker, maximizes skill learning and development, increases tempo, creates a positive environment and a passion to play.
In small area games, players control the puck in tight situations and will typically have more shots on goal than in any normal drills – all while competing at game pace and having fun! This is a more competitive practice environment and players develop game strategies to make better decisions. Finally it reduces the need for traditional conditioning drills.
Many countries and National Associations have now included cross-ice hockey into league play at the Under 10 age group. At any level of play, an average player may only have control of the puck for a few seconds during the course of a game. In a small area game, that same player may have over a minute of puck-possession time over 6-7 shifts in one 10 minute game. One cross-ice
game can have the development benefits of 10 -12 full ice games because of the closeness of the players to the puck and constant action.