If you've been involved in sports at all you've probably noticed how inconsistent players can be from one game to the next, especially for the youngest players. From their own bodily circadian rhythms and what they bring to the rink from an emotional standpoint to how they are doing physically (injuries, illness, etc. ) there are many factors. One we tend to overlook is the arena they are playing in.
This argument makes sense for all players (and coaches) but to emphasize the point the best I'm going to speak on behalf of goaltenders. (Yes, you're welcome goalies. A shot blocking, though offensive defenseman will be your voice. )
As a goalie steps into his crease he has to figure out his angles. If all arenas were the same this would be fairly simple. Find something in the rink to help orientate the middle of the crease, then a slight adjustment to the right and find this angle, and pop over to the other side to find the other angle and voila! All set to break Martin Brodeur's shutout record (125 NHL shutouts, by the way).
Unfortunately for goalies (and fortunately for shooters) the goalies have to play in many different rinks which have very different standards when it comes to lighting, dasherboard colour (blue or yellow usually), dirty old boards, glowing exit signs, reflection off the glass, high ceilings, low ceilings, the sun blaring on them in some arenas, and a multitude of rink dimensions, just to name a few. A goalie may be told to focus on the puck, which is fine but where is their net? It's getting trickier. No wonder goalies are crazy.
For forwards and defencemen this is also a factor as they have to adjust their skating techniques differently on a small ice surface compared to a large and their sight lines just sometimes don't mesh with their brains in some rinks. For instance, this past May I had a 5 year old leave the ice in a rink he wasn't used to because of the fact the seating was well above the ice surface and it was making him anxious.
Our brains are tricky to manipulate into being ready every game when the puck drops. Learning the nuances of the building and our brains being at ease with them is the first step. Making adjustments physically is the next step. It's quite a long process for players of all ages.
Let's be mindful of the fact that our children are trying their best and want to do their best. So many factors go into a good performance. The physical arena is only one of them, but it's certainly a big factor.
Happy New Year everyone!
- Apollo Hockey Development