Hockey IQ is a term thrown around in the hockey world all the time, but what does it really mean? Hockey IQ is a player's mental capacity to take in all of the information during a particular game moment and process it fast enough to make decisions that give them and their team a competitive advantage over the other team consistently. Hockey IQ is situational awareness to understand what is going on on the ice in order to be able to correctly anticipate the next move and be able to read the plays as they are happening. A lot of it is understanding your position as well as the other positions on the ice and a lot of questioning of “what next?”. It is the mental side of the game that sometimes gets overlooked because of the focus on skill improvement.
But why is hockey IQ important? Coaches and scouts look for players with good hockey IQs because they want their players to understand the game. Being able to read plays and catch things before they happen is a great skill to have. The faster the players can figure out what to do, the better. When players have a higher hockey IQ coaches and scouts notice because having a good hockey IQ gives an advantage in the game. You don’t have to be the fastest skater to be a good player. Being able to be where the puck is going to be is going to get a player a lot farther than just being fast. The better the understanding of the game, the better off the player is. It means they can be steps ahead while the other team is still figuring out what happened and trying to recover. Having a good hockey IQ can help a player overcome any shortcomings they might have as well. Knowing the ins and outs of the game will get a player really far, especially if they want to make it to the professional leagues.
Hockey IQ is something that coaches want to be able to teach their players, but many people just have it naturally. Some great examples of NHL players with great hockey IQs are Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, and Nicklas Lidstrom. Gretzky, aka “The Great One”, is known as the greatest player in the history of the game not just because of his speed, toughness or his shot, but because he had such a deep understanding of the game and his opponents. Lemieux had a way of making the game go at his pace. Lidstrom could use leverage, angles and positioning on his opponent to restrict scoring changes on his goal.
You don’t have to have years of experience in the NHL to have a good hockey IQ. Some of this year's draftees were drafted so high because of their amazing hockey IQ. Of course, we have Connor Bedard, who has been called “incredibly hockey smart”, especially for his age. Another is Gabe Perreault, whose hockey IQ was one of the main reasons he went first round. It has been said that he has one of the best hockey IQs of his class.
There’s so much more to hockey than most people think. Like all sports, hockey requires both mental and physical skills. Hockey IQ only covers part of the mental skills needed to play the game.