Observations From the Rink: What the Hell Does “Playing Fast” Actually Mean?

Other than the word “obviously” replacing “you know,” the hockey world’s vernacular never really changes until now.

The newest trendy phrase in the game is really starting to piss me off. 

“Play fast.” 

What the hell does “playing fast” actually mean and why the hell are we seeing it being thrown around the hockey world like a box of Crackerjacks at a Major League game?

Do hockey coaches, players and fans alike even know what “play fast” means? 

 “We really want to play fast.” 

“Wow, that team really plays fast, they are going to be tough to play against.” 

Ok, I understand trying to “play fast” is critical to win in the new game and I understand the game has changed and its more skilled and faster, but honestly what the hell does “play fast” actually mean?

Do you really need to play fast to win hockey games nowadays?

Playing fast? 

Does it mean turn pucks over? 

Does it mean that an indirect pass should be option one instead of “tape to tape” pass coming out of your own zone? 

Does it mean that we stretch the opponent out and “cherry pick” all night and not take care of your zone?

Seriously what the F%$# does “play fast” mean?

For the last four years from a scouting perspective, I’ve witnessed teams trying to “play fast”. 

Trust me it’s not hockey, it’s more like controlled chaos. 

In effort to “play fast” teams have totally ignored the true fundamentals of the game. 

There’s no flow. There’s no team game. There’s no attack. There’s no organized offensive zone entries There’s no possession time. There’s no passing!

There’s hardly any individual skill on display, but holy shit they are playing fast.

In my opinion “playing fast” is one of the most misunderstood misused phrases in the game today. 

In my opinion “Playing fast” essentially means, A) Throw the puck away, B) Chase it down, and C) Skate real fast when attempting to do A and B. 

In all honesty the game has changed. I get that, but come on.

Sure it’s faster, but are we really teaching young players how to think the game by making it a prerequisite as soon as you touch the puck, to move it without processing the game and making the best possible play?

In effort to “play fast” the game is starting to see one of the most fundamental skills that has stood the test of time deteriorate. 

The skill of passing is a lost art within today’s game. 

It’s the first thing that jumps off the page when I sit down and scout/watch a Midget game, really any game or level for that matter. 

Players that control the puck and move it with relative ease truly jump off the page. 

So the burning question remains did we play fast? 

How much has the game really changed? Playing fast in the 80’s and 90’s meant moving the puck. It meant moving the puck quickly and precisely.  It meant skating into space and accelerating to get into position to receive another pass. 

In my opinion, playing fast was just sound fundamental transitional hockey. 

It meant playing the game the right way. It meant coming back to pucks. It meant supporting the puck carrier. It meant accelerating into open space making yourself available to receive a pass. It meant being able to receive a pass at full speed. It meant head manning the puck. It meant attacking as a 5-player unit. It meant quick ups, in the neutral zone and executing solid regroups. It meant taking care of the puck.

It meant dumping the puck in with purpose. It meant forechecking with purpose and being physical when got there.  That’s what “playing fast” meant to me when I laced them up.

NEW YORK – APRIL 04: Sticks and the puck photogarphed during a faceoff between the New York Islanders and the New York Rangers on April 4, 2008 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

You want to know why players can’t make a pass? You want to know why players can’t receive a pass?  You want to know why players can’t adjust to the speed of the game while the puck is on their stick? 

They are all trying to “play fast” that’s why! 

Let’s play fast, but let’s play the game the right way. Let’s pass the puck, let’s not just throw it away. Let’s work on skating and passing the puck at top speed. Let’s teach transitional hockey.  Let’s teach players how to think and not be indirect hockey playing robots. 

Good Luck Playing Fast!

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