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The “200-Foot” Hockey Player

Anze Kopitar – a 200 foot player

By Enio Sacilotto

Many players that want to make it to the next level of hockey are concerned with scoring goals and getting assists.  They believe that getting points will attract scouts and coaches.  The ability of players to score goals and make plays are crucial for teams.  But teams need players that check well, kill penalties, play on the power play and play a two-way game.  In other words, teams need players who can contribute in all game areas. 

Today, a popular term in hockey is the “200-foot player,” or teams need to play a  “200-foot game”.  What does this term mean?  

The reference to “200 feet” is the length of the standard ice rink.  The “200-foot” player is a forward who skates the length of the ice (more details to follow).  In Contrast to the “200-foot player” is the offence-oriented forward.  He scores many goals but avoids being first on the forecheck, backchecking (tracking), and competing in the corners for pucks.  The scorer “cherry-picks” outside his zone, waiting for the puck so he can go score.  He cheats for offence and neglects his defensive responsibilities. 

Although this list is not complete and more can be added, a “200-foot” player does the following:

1. High compete level – battles for loose pucks, stops on pucks, stops at the net and gets in front, for screens and tips, willing to take a hit to make a play.

2. The “200-foot” player has high-end hockey sense-making quick decisions on transitions (offence to defence and defence to offence.) 

3. They are committed to being responsible defensively and offensively in all three zones.  The “200-foot” player will often be the first on the forecheck (F1) or the “second man quick” (F2), supporting F1.   If one of his teammates gets a shot on net and the rebound is in the corner, he will be quick to “check – to get the puck back.  If opponents gain control of the puck in the offensive zone, he will work to get above the puck and start to track back (backcheck) into his defensive zone.  Once in the defensive zone, he will assume his assignment – paying attention to staying on the defensive side and his stick positioning detail.  

4. When he gains possession of the puck, he scans the ice surface, reads where his teammates are, and passes the puck effectively, using all available options.  If one of his teammates gains possession, he sprints to a support position, with his stick on the ice, open to receive the puck.  He will attack the defender one-on-one, taking the puck to the net if he needs to.  He will also shoot the puck and track his rebound to the net.  He will be able to protect the puck in all three zones and make the plays as required, with no shortcuts.

5. Another overlooked important factor is that he will give 100% on each shift but take responsible shift lengths, not staying on the ice too long.

6. “200-foot” players are consistent.  They bring the best version of themselves at every game and practice.  Coaches know what they are going to get from these players.

Other terms used for a “200-foot” player are that “he plays well away from the puck,” he “plays the right way,” and he has balanced checking and offensive skills.”

Coaches love “200-foot” players as they will use them to preserve a lead or if their team needs a goal late in the game.

Here are four video examples of “200-foot” players:

1. Elias Lindholm of the Calgary Flames.  

2. Anze Kopitar of the Los Angelas Kings

3. Johnny Gaudreau – praised by his coach Darryl Sutter

4. Sidney Crosby: The Ideal 200-Foot Player | Pittsburgh Penguins

How can you become players “200-feet” players?

1. Every chance you step on the ice to train – give your best effort.  

2. Work on the fundamentals of your game: Skating skills (including your posture, sustained knee bend), edges, proper passing & receiving technique, shooting, and stick-on puck checking.  If you want to be an elite player, you have never arrived; there is always something to learn and improve.

3. Study the game, and watch hockey on TV.  Pay attention to the players mentioned in this article (see videos).

4. Pay attention to all the little details of the game.  An example is stick positioning, keeping your stick on the ice.  Stick on the ice works for receiving passes and for stick-on-puck checking.

5. Buy into your team’s system and be a coachable player.  Take instructions from your coaches.

6. Be mindful of your effort and competitive level at all your games and practices.  Pick some of the critical points of a “200-foot” player described in this article (or any other points that you can think of) and write them down on an index card.  Keep the card with you and look at it often as a reminder.

7. Work on your mental skills, set goals and evaluate them regularly.  You will not become an elite 200-foot player by chance or luck.  It takes consistent hard work and practice. 

Here is a quote from a recent article in The Athletic (Murat Ates) from Cole Perfetti of the Winnipeg Jets.  A fan asked, “if you are preparing to be a 200-foot player at the NHL level, what kind of skills go into success at both ends of the ice?

Cole’s response, “That’s what my goal is: to be a 200-foot guy, relied upon in all situations.  There are lots you can do: working on D-stuff, working on tying up sticks, working on boxing out, working on pinning guys up against the wall.  Lots of stuff like that.  There’s tons of stuff you can practice and that we do with the Moose and that we do in the summer that will translate to being that 200-foot guy.  I think a lot of it is you have to have the will and the want to do it.  It’s not fun to play in your zone, but you have to want to do it if you want to be good at it.  And I think you’ve got to be smart.  I think you’ve got to read the game, you’ve got to anticipate plays, and you’ve got to read what’s going to happen.  If I continue to work on the skills defensively and keep practicing that, hopefully, I will be that strong 200-foot guy one day.”

Here is a quote from Johnny Gaudreau, from the Calgary Sun, January 3, 2022, “Three years ago, I was maybe cheating more to the offensive side,” Gaudreau admitted.  “I had a good year points-wise, but just looking at my game personally, I think I’ve gotten a lot better with my 200-foot game.  That was important before the season started, and I think our line has done a great job just not costing our team games from the d-zone.  We may be had that a little bit that year, three years ago.  I think I’ve just gotten a lot better throughout the whole d-zone.”

You probably weren’t expecting today to be reading about Gaudreau’s diligent-and-determined work on his end of the rink.

So remember, it is not about goals and assists.  Scouts and coaches will notice you being a two-way, “200-foot” player.  Playing this way is what is going to get you to a higher level of hockey.