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The Zen of ‘94 or Why Awareness Isn’t Just an Attribute

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Building off of, in particular the following two quotes, this short piece is going to focus on three distinct ways of perceiving puck movement and “the game” as a whole. According to KR, this is known as vision. Alternatively known as being a “heads up” player, coaches that have high awareness of the game perceive skating, passing, and shooting differently than coaches that have low or even medium levels of awareness.


“We can lay all of these techniques and strategies out over and over again, but ultimately the difference from A&B comes down to vision, anticipation and reaction time. Vision means knowing where all 10 guys are on the ice when you are playing, where they should go when controlled by AI, what kind of players they are, and how to position yourself for offense and defense. Anticipation is mainly a defensive skill, but it means anticipating what your opponent is going to do. For example, if I can anticipate an outlet pass to the LW by my opponent, I will grab my dman or winger (vision!), and know that I can check/CB check my opponent with that player before/right when the puck gets there, and if it's a dman I should get the puck and pass to my winger for the counter, or if it's my winger I try to rush up right away on the counter. If I miss, I have my backup defender to come over and finish the job. That kind of thinking over and over every play.”


“Often times, I like to create scoring chances where I'm either forking people (creating two possible chances at a goal simultaneously) or I have a single chance that I can convert in multiple ways (breakaways mainly). A lot of the time in these situations you dont necessarily have time to react, you just have to know how someone will react to a situation and take advantage of it.”

Low Awareness

This is where we might have all started off. A dog chasing after his bone. The coach is focused on the puck and the player in which he is controlling. Common indicators of low awareness include: multiple defensive foils resulting in breakaways and 2-on-1 situations; absurd usage of C-checking; poor one-timers and a generally narrow approach to playing. The eyes are focused at the skates of the star, as if each glide is laborious and requires maximal concentration.

Medium Awareness

As we grow into greater familiarity with skating and knowing players, it is no longer necessary to focus on whether our sticks are facing left or right or the mechanics of skating – it is more important to know where our teammates are for support. Can we dump a stretch pass to get a breakaway? Is there a one timer in the slot? At this level of awareness, coaches focus on developing a cogent ‘team’ strategy. Questions like: How do we move into the offensive zone? How do we retreat in the defensive zone? How do we win back pucks in the neutral zone? are of central importance here. Considering the main focus on one’s team at all times, there are several pitfalls in this strategy. Questions such as: How can a coach account for players that are off-screen? How do you know where/when to pass? Where can I escape defensive pressure? This points to a lack of flexibility in the gameplay. Where low awareness has no rigidity, this level of awareness exercises a more rigid means to deal with collective movement. Here, the eyes of the coach are focused at the skates of the star, as well as the skates of the other players on the team. The coach is lifting up his head to “read” the play, but lacks the final key necessary to further development – adaptability.

High Awareness

Coaches with high awareness see all 12 players on the ice, and do not stare at each individual player. They see situations happening, groups of players, and the movement of a goalie multiple seconds before a shot is fired. This level of awareness demands a high amount of cognitive coordination and memory, since coaches will often consider issues like weight differential between players and the usefulness of C and CB checking styles. Seeing the game as a totality has multiple points of focus – the direction of the puck, the players around the puck (offensive and defensive), the goalie, players to pass to, ways to evade pressure, and is indicative of a general understanding of the game as a flowing process. Remember – in ‘94, no two moments are exactly the same. Coaches with high awareness acknowledge patterns among situations and can (sub)consciously determine the probability of certain outcomes. At this level, the game is a battle of wills, an extremely engaging chess match involving the mind and body at high function. Consider the process of recalling a player’s weight differential; visually lining up the player and executing a perfectly timed CB check to initiate a counter-attack. Not only do coaches with high awareness see this situation and the necessary steps, they look ahead to envision what the next step will be. At this level, coaches perceive the skates of all players on the ice, but also the melding of situations which occur and can calculate probabilities and situations that might emerge. Playing at this level is extremely demanding, but also extremely rewarding, and as such, if a coach is “serious” about his or her level of play, he or she should strive to perceive the game at this level.

Overall, this is the beginning of a conversation to be had with the '94 community. I do not profess to know all of the answers, and the insights from here were written at 1am on a late Saturday night (and those of you who know me, know that I'm usually offline by 9pm). So please, comment, enjoy and critique!

Edit: I'm looking for buds to create some gameplay indicative of these levels of awareness, so hit me up!

Edited by ba55i5t

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love this thread. I think I lack some vision but have solid anticipation and reaction time

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