Hockey IQ: A Simple List
3 min readJan 6, 2024

If you want to see the worst of the web, search Google for ‘hockey iq’ and you’ll waste an incredible amount of time. After all, you didn’t search for ‘hockey genius,’ did you? That’s different… that’s trying to figure out what’s in Gretzky’s head and somehow decoding it.

That’s not what I’m after… or what my group means when we bitch about someone on the ice doing the wrong thing in a simple situation that repeats itself 100 times every game. These are things that don’t require talent, but simply forethought, thus the ‘IQ’ notion.

Here’s the list:

  1. There’s nothing more important than clearing the puck out of the defensive zone…
    … not completing a pass, not scoring an empty net goal, not remembering to pick up the kids at the bus stop, not remembering your anniversary… OK, maybe your anniversary. Actually, I can think of one time it’s worth taking a chance: when your team is behind and it’s your last one or two shifts.
  2. Under pressure, put the puck where YOU yourself can continue to defend it… either keeping it right where you are or moving it in the OPPOSITE direction of a line drawn between your goalie and you.
    We can’t always skate it calmly out of pressure, but at least don’t make things harder on your teammates. Don’t put it to the opposition’s point man; don’t move it toward the center of your defensive zone; don’t blindly wrap it around the back of the net.
  3. At the offensive point it is 100 times more important to get the puck past the opposition than to get the puck on net.
    If it’s blocked it will usually come back in a breakaway and you’re probably flat-footed because you already demonstrated yourself to be a beginner.
  4. Rather than trying to thread the puck through people, pass or clear the puck using the boards.
    Receiving a pass is often easier when it’s off the boards because 1) it takes a longer path so there’s more time to read it; 2) the puck will often settle better after the rebound; 3) it widens the space that others would have to cover, to intercept or block the pass… defenders will generally be inside, toward the center of the ice.
  5. When receiving a headman pass, don’t stop the puck on its way to you, especially if it will bank off the boards; let it go around or past your body before stopping it.
    (If the puck is barely moving, that’s another story.)
  6. Before a pass gets to you… or should get to you… or might get to you, look left and right to see where everyone else is.
  7. On an odd-man rush, immediately pass the puck to one of the other guys so the defense does not have as much time to calibrate their spacing and establish their stride.
  8. In the offensive zone, never blind pass it toward the slot or goal.
    It will almost always be a pass for the other team. Since there are 5 opposition players but only 4 other players on your side, the odds start off at 5-out-of-9 that it will go to the opposition. Add in the fact that the opposition will be thinking defensively when ‘the other team’ (meaning yours) has the puck, they are also more likely to be between you and the goal… so blind passes almost always fail.
  9. When receiving a puck that was wrapped all the way around the goal to you at the defensive boards or point, move in as much as you have to, to prevent the opposition from pressuring both you and the puck.
  10. When receiving a puck that was wrapped around the goal to you at the defensive boards or point, if the opposition is right on top of you, win either the body battle or the puck battle but don’t lose both.
    Most likely, just keep the puck where it is (meaning that you worry only about the body battle) allowing your teammates to pick it up.
  11. When taking a slap shot from a far left or right angle, don’t shoot wide in such a way that the puck caroms all the way down the opposite end of the ice… possibly becoming a breakaway pass for the opposition.