California Rubber

California’s and Nevada’s Authoritative Voice of Hockey

Chalk Talk: Learning to play ‘honest tough’ can make a difference


gabe_gauthierWhat does it mean to be honest tough?

My coach Mark Morris said it the four years I played for the Manchester Monarchs of the AHL. Honest tough for hockey is when players finish their checks cleanly every opportunity, keeping your stick to your self, keeping your mouth shut, going to the net to finish with a goal and going into the corner without the puck and coming out with it.

The art of checking is to separate the other player from the puck so you can gain possession. On the forecheck or in the corners, a clean shoulder-to-body check is not always executed. Too many times players look to take the easy way out by avoiding giving a check or trying to poke the puck with their stick. Finish your check every time you can because the next time that player has the puck, they will be thinking twice about holding onto it and will give the puck up earlier, which in turn will make the puck a 50-50 battle for you to gain possession. Do it cleanly and do it often. Coaches love players that finish their checks clean. It doesn’t matter if you are the smallest guy or the biggest guy – play physical. On the other side, the best way to take a hit is to hit back. When going for the puck in the corner or along the wall, go through them. Give that hit and come out with the puck.

Play honest tough!

Keep control of your emotions and your stick. You are going to get hit when you don’t want to. You are going to be called names. And you are going to receive a cheap shot that the referee may not see. Take the hit and keep playing the game, keep your mouth shut and skate on. When you get that cheap shot against you and there is no call from the ref, know that the referees will 100 percent of the time see and call the retaliation penalty on you. Honest tough is keeping your head in the game and playing for your team. A player is not bigger than the game and sometimes your emotions can get the best of you. You have more control than you think.

Play honest tough!

Go hard to the net with or without the puck. Come out of the corner with the puck. Most goals are scored in the 10 feet around the crease. It is easy to stay on the perimeter and wait for the puck to come to you. It is hard to play in front of the net and in the corners. Play with grit and with the mentality that you control the puck whenever you want. Honest tough is getting to the net and screening the goalie and keep jabbing at the puck 2-3 times to get the goal, even if the goalie makes the save and the whistle blows. Going to the net hard pushes the defense back and creates open space for your puck-carrying teammate. It will give them the space to make a play to you driving the net, take the shot in a prime scoring spot or pass the puck to another teammate that is open due to your havoc of driving the net. Stay on the puck and be relentless in front. When you are taking the puck down the ice, look to use your speed and protect the puck and drive the net. There are three outcomes that could happen from doing so, and two will be in your favor. One, you get by the defender and get a scoring chance, better yet a goal. Two, when going wide and then cutting by the defender, they are put in a vulnerable position and take a penalty on you. Thirdly, the defender breaks up the play clean. Chances are in your favor when you drive the net with the puck.

Play honest tough!

Gabe Gauthier is the hockey director for the Nevada Storm and Las Vegas Ice Center and the head coach and GM of the WSHL’s Las Vegas Storm.

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