Defense with Jeff: Part 1 of 6
Part 1: GAP CONTROL
Hello past and present Mules!
I am going to be sending out 6 different articles on what I teach every summer and what I feel are the most important concepts to this very challenging position. I refer to defenseman as MULES. We just pull the cart, no glory just guts and hard work.
I have been teaching defense camps for over 20 years now. Teaching the youth of the Nation on my 13 week summer tour is my passing and has been such an honor and pleasure each and every summer. It is such a thrill to see my kids progress through the course of the week and see significant changes in their defensive game.
The number one question/concern I get from parents is “can you help my son/daughter to not get beat 1 on 1”
This is a number one area I concentrate/focus on each week.
Here is a short list of how to not get beat anymore or limit the amount of times you get beat in order of importance:
- Skating ability-you need to be able to skate forward, backward, laterally and be able to do an efficient heal to heal pivot without crossing over
- GAP CONTROL-we will discuss this later on in article
- Stick positioning-so important to have stick out in front of you on all 1v1’s and stick on puck in all areas of the ice while attacking your opponent. Very easy concept but very hard to master. we work on this profusely.
- Looking at opponents crest or as I teach the kids look for his heart beating. Don’t get trapped into looking down at puck, your stick will handle that part of the job. If you look down your done! Look at chest as that doesn’t move and move opponent go through you.
- You dictate where the forward goes and how much time and space you want to give him and what direction you want him to approach with your body and stick positioning
- Take pride in not getting beat. I was scared to death to get beat and became obsessed with it starting with practice. Every battle you have in practice allows you get one step better at mastering this very hard skill. I encourage the kids to get beat at my camps so that they can get out of comfort zone and learn how to do it the right way with NO PRESSURE OR FEAR FROM OUR COACHES.
- Stay inside the dots. All good d men/women take care of the most dangerous area of the ice which all lies inside the dots!!!
Gap control is the hardest thing to master and the biggest game changer for a defenseman. It requires tremendous skating ability, stamina, hard work and desire!! Desire to get in your opponents face and take their time and space away. I tell the kids do you like when the bully at school gets in your face and intimidates you. Of course they don’t, I want my defense to get up and challenge these forwards.
Gap control starts from the breakout. You make that hard crisp pass and then you sprint up the ice to join in the play and support your forwards. I used to almost beat my forwards up the ice because I want to get the drop pass in the offensive zone, creat offense and most importantly if there was ever a turn-over I was so close to my opponent that I created great gap between my opponent and myself. I always want to be a stick length or 2 stick lengths max away from my opponent.
At my defense camps we force the kids to get up and close the gap but doing it with them, encouraging them to get beat (its ok to get beat at camp, that is why you are here to learn and gain confidence!) we add a 2nd puck with every 1v1 or battle drill that we do which is HUGE! It creates competition and force the D to gap up and try to beat your opponent.
I could go on and on but this is a good start feel free to pass along to your player, teammates, all fellow mules in the hockey world.
Hoping to see you all this summer on my 13 week tour. Believe it or not many locations are half full and BU is near capacity already.