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Why Open Hockey Is So Important

I try to play in net anywhere from two to three times a week. Typically there is a game and then a practice session at open hockey on either late Friday nights or early Saturday mornings. I look forward to these practices and get a lot out of them. Depending on your mindset and approach to these open skates you are going to love it or hate it.

If you haven’t been down to one let met start off by saying that you will have next to no defense. This translates into more odd-man rushes and passing plays that will make your head spin. A goaltender can get pretty frustrated by all of this and it can affect their confidence. I take a different view on this. All of the crazy plays that get setup in front of me, the constant breakaways, the back and forth passing in a 3 on 1, help to make me better.

When you start to make saves against these types of game situations you begin to add how you did it into your bag of tricks. When game time comes around and on the occasion your defensemen leave you hanging, you won’t get distracted by all the mental chatter worrying about how in the world are you going to stop the puck, instead you will just react and execute the saves you learned in open hockey.

Another aspect to open hockey that can be exciting or frustrating is the quality of players that show up. Where I play they range from beginner all the way up to elite. Being in net against better players is one of the best and fastest ways to improve your skills. The elite players are going to hit the corners, find the holes, and draw you off angle. This will force you to pay more attention to detail and for me it makes me play harder because there is nothing more satisfying than stopping the best of the best.

One of the places it is not recommended to try new things is in a game. The last thing you want is to test out a type of save and give up a goal. Open hockey provides the platform to test anything and everything. You could test out a new save, a different way of lacing your pads up, a shorter or longer goalie stick, etc… Here are some examples from my own experience of testing things out in practice: I figured out the best way to tie my chest protector to my pants, taught myself how to use the Turco Grip, came up with the best way to use my toe-ties. Use open hockey to your advantage and you’ll reap the rewards in your games.

Last thing I can say about open hockey is don’t expect to end the night with a Goals Against Average (GAA) of 0.00. There are no face-offs, no icing, no whistles, and little to no breaks. You are going to give up goals. What I try to do both in practice and in a game is to try to learn from the goal I just gave up. I’m certain that there is at least one thing I can learn from every goal and that means that I didn’t fail. Only if you do not learn the lesson(s) from your mistake(s) is it failure.

“I play to win, whether during practice or a real game. And I will not let anything get in the way of me and my competitive enthusiasm to win.” ~ Michael Jordan

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