Puck Daddy - NHL

On Tuesday TheLeafsNation.com ran a funny bit from the Pension Plan Puppets boys, featuring some spectacularly pathetic defending by Toronto on a Martin St. Louis(notes) goal.

The post was aptly titled "We've got to work on our communication," because, y'know, when you out-number your opponent in your D-zone, how in bloody hell does their one-time Hart Trophy winner get left alone in front?

Obviously, there was a whole lot of "duhhh I thought you had 'im" going on out there.

On-ice communication is essential - to this, my college roommate can attest. He's the guy who had to sit in the penalty box during practice and yell his own name until coach told him to stop, because he wasn't calling for passes during practice.

Apparently this particular attribute is one that coaches value.

The only time calling for passes is a problem is when you're trying to sneak behind a D-man for a breakaway, and you let him know you're there.

Somehow, that dilemma has led to the introduction of the "woo" callers, who somehow believe that, like a dog whistle, only their teammates can hear them when they use that stupid sound.

Frankly, the "woo" caller is a bit of a [expletive].

He skates around like he's wearing Harry Potter's cloak of invisibility, only to reveal himself at the last second with his high pitch punch-worthy mating call. Then he gets to the bench and informs you he was open. He's the guy who needs good linemates, because he doesn't make plays unless he gets (woo!) set up because he's (WOO!) open.

On-ice chatter comes in all different forms, so let's break ‘em down.

Wooers be damned, we've given them too much attention already.

Goalie-style communication

Having a talkative goalie in the defensive zone is a blessing from above (incidentally, it's why I'd be hesitant to sign a non-English speaking tender).

They can be the ultimate quarterback, the rare stationary player with the majority of the play in front of them, which helps them direct traffic.

The one-word-advice guys ("slot!") are fine -- the play happens fast -- but I love a goalie who speaks in full sentences. I even love the triple repeat that usually occurs as panic rises, like, say, right before I miss an assignment and we get scored on.

"Bourney backdoor, Bourney BACKDOOR, BOURNEY BACKDOOR! F*&%!"

Coach-style communication

This is the least effective form of communication. Bench bosses should stick to talking to the players on the bench, countering systems and matching lines.

I'm telling you, I can't recall a time in a game I heard, processed and adjusted to one of the muffled bellowing of a coach who clearly wished he was in skates and not a suit.

Callllmmmm downnnnn, buddy. And quit standing on the actual bench.

Linemate/center communication

Having a talkative center is a blessing too.

It's amazing what a difference it makes if you can just get a little help from someone who can watch your six for you.

Simple phrases: "Chip," "deep," "I got low," "stay high" -- make all the difference. It's like strapping some combination of a GPS and a fish-finder to your back. Good talk makes it feel like cheating.

I played with one center for two years in college, and we had it down to an art. We were able to communicate essential messages, including crucial ones prior to puck drop, like "brunette, nine o'clock, three rows up."

"Yep, discuss later."

Referee communication

These guys will inevitably be in the way sometimes.

So you have to work with them by using a few simple phrases, and they have to do the same.

Mostly it's just "behind you!'s," but sometimes the refs take it to the next level:

"Sticks down fellas, sticks down" or "I've got number 12 right now, who else wants a penalty?" or "don't eat the puck Marty, play it ... no seriously Marty, you CAN'T EAT THE PUCK."

D-partner to D-partner

Breakouts are ten times smoother when D-partners play together consistently and learn to communicate back there.

When one guy goes back on a puck, the other has to be hollering where his partner needs to go with it, as that guy can't see behind him, let alone farther up ice. Short phrases make it easy, like "quick up, "hard rim" and "reverse."

When they don't talk and start turning pucks over, it's really fun to get to the bench and use a few words of your own, like "rock" and "hands," or "meat" and "head," or simply "traveshamockery."

• • •

The more you talk out there the easier the game gets for your linemates, defensemen, and everyone involved in the game. It's the calling card of a good group, and a big reason why team chemistry plays a part in the success of so many teams.

Plus, if you want to run your mouth at the other team, it can be good to have a talkative linemate for obvious reason: "Pronger's got a lock on your lower skull with his elbow duck."

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