2018 hockey small games skill stations

The importance of small-area hockey

Hockey Canada skills coaches talk about the benefits of small-area games and station work in practice

Hockey Canada Skills Coaches
January 8, 2020

As a coach and skills coach, I incorporate some type of small-area games in every practice and skill development session I run. Regardless of the age, level and ability of the player, everyone stands to benefit from the use of these games throughout practice.

I will modify the game, playing surface and rules depending on the ability of the players on the ice, and I will take into account what skating and puck skills we have or will be working on during the sessions; this ensures the small-area game gives the players an opportunity to experiment with skills they have previously worked on, or skills that have been introduced during that current session.

The use of small-area games to begin a practice or skill development session is a great way to get every player engaged and involved right from the start. As a coach, small-area games are a great way to set the pace and work-ethic expectation for the remainder of practice.

From the player perspective, small-area games will improve their long-term development over the course of their playing career and aid in their minor hockey success.

These games improve a player’s ability to read, react and adapt to a given situation; improve their ability to handle a puck under extreme pressure and confinement; and improve their skating ability, edge work and ability to escape opponents. They will also build a player’s confidence in practice and games through game-simulated repetition.

by Zach McCullough


For a few years now, we’ve noticed the emergence of many individually-skilled hockey players. How can we most optimally develop these skill sets among Canadians?

If Canadian minor hockey (Initiation – U7 and Novice – U9) is evolving towards cross-ice/half-ice play to increase play time, puck-possession time and player development, the same tactics should be applied for individual skills with older players.

While many coaches want players to be able to perform in different systems, it is important to give these players the proper tools in order to have them perform at their peak. These skills include shooting, passing, skating, stick-handling, angling and many more.

Station work allows for an increase in repetition in a condensed amount of time, important technical movements essential to the development and performance of Canadian hockey players. Further, the nature of this type of play implies a smaller area of space for the players to work with, thus emulating the more restrictive-area hockey of today. Practicing with these space limitations prepares players to better adapt to certain systems and perform better come game time.

Individual skills should be an important part of player development and the maintenance of new skills. The skills coach and head coach should work together to integrate it into the season plan.

by Philippe Trahan

For more information:

Esther Madziya
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada

(403) 284-6484 

[email protected] 

Spencer Sharkey
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada

(403) 777-4567

[email protected]

Jeremy Knight
Manager, Corporate Communications
Hockey Canada

(647) 251-9738

[email protected]

Recent News
Most Popular
2022 WJC: CAN 4 – SWE 3 (Pre-Tournament)
Gaucher and MacTavish scored 0:34 apart early, and Canada held on.
2022 HGC: CZE 3 – USA 1 (Preliminary)
Šprynar scored game winner as Czechia earned a semifinal spot.
2022 HGC: SVK 3 – SUI 2 (Preliminary) OT
Cedzo scores pair in overtime win over Switzerland
2022 HGC: CAN 3 – SWE 0 (Preliminary)
Ratzlaff earned his second shutout to help Canada top pool A.