How Do Hockey Players Know When Change?

Have you ever been watching a hockey game and noticed a flurry of players coming on and off of the bench and wondered “how do hockey players know when to change?”. If so you are not alone many hockey fans have this same question each time they watch a game.

Hockey players know when to change in hockey based on three key factors the in-game situation, the amount of time they’ve been on the ice, whether or not their linemates are heading for a change.

Knowing The In Game Situation

If you have watched a lot of hockey games you’ve likely seen a goal as a result of a bad change in hockey. In these plays, a player attempts to go to the bench during the game which ultimately results in a goal for the opposing team.

Creating a goal-scoring opportunity is the worst possible outcome when changing lines which is why knowing the in-game situation is on the top of our list.

Have you ever noticed that players will often head towards the bench at the exact same time? This is often because these players have identified that this moment was a safe time to head to the bench for a change.

When on the ice players are constantly analyzing the game situation to determine whether or not it is safe to go for a change. Changing at the right time is very important as you cannot have tired players on the ice but you also do not want to put your players out of position.

Key moments to go for a change would be when your team possesses the puck in the opposing team’s zone or the puck has just been dumped into the opposing team’s zone.

As a player, you want to avoid giving the opponents chances but you also don’t want to give up on any chances of your own.

This constant analysis of the game situation allows the players to find the best possible opportunities to make a line change. This is also why you will see players skate over-center then dump the puck into the opposing zone for a change.

On some occasions, an opportunity for a change will not arise so the team must take that opportunity on their own.

Time On The Ice

One of the easiest ways in which a hockey player can tell when to change is by simply keeping track of how long they are on the ice.

Since hockey is such a fast-paced game the shifts of these players are often very short. You can expect the average shift of an NHL hockey player to be roughly forty to fourty five seconds in length.

This means once the player is on the ice they will know they have about fourty five seconds to make a difference and then head back to the bench.

Since players are going to be taking many fourty five-second shifts per game they get quite used to this shift length. This allows them to build up an internal clock that should let them know when they have been on the ice longer than usual.

Once they realize their shift is getting close to its end they will start to look for their best opportunity to head to the bench.

Changing With The Lines

Another way in which players know when to change in hockey is by changing with their lines. As you likely already know forwards in hockey are broken down into groups of three. These groups of three forwards are referred to as lines with one left-wing one right-wing and one center.

Throughout the game, these players will play together whenever they are on the ice. This means if one player is sent on the rest will shortly follow.

If you are on the ice and your linemate is heading to the bench then this means you should do the same. In an ideal world, the linemates will change at the same time allowing the next line to come on the ice together.

Of course, players must be sure to check out the situation of the game before heading to the bench in order to avoid a bad change. But if all linemates are on the same page you should notice that players will start to head to the bench the second any of their linemates start to do so.

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