Kukla's Korner Hockey
by Paul on 04/12/13 at 09:24 AM ET
USA Hockey is on fire.
And while victory is complex and multi-faceted in the game of hockey, there’s strong evidence that program’s secret sauce involves technology originally used to teach Israeli fighter pilots about aerial combat.
The technology I refer to is called the Hockey IntelliGym. It comes in the form of a downloadable software program that runs on any personal computer and can be used by any player age 10 and up.
Let me tell you a bit of the back story to illustrate the impact of cognitive training on performance.
USA Hockey’s NTDP (which include U17 and U18 National Teams) adopted the Hockey IntelliGym in 2009-10. There was an almost immediate impact. On average, the players increased their number of goals and assists by 42% after 8 weeks of using the IntelliGym. The wins ratio of both teams more than doubled that season – the U17 group increased their wins ration from 8% to 42%, and the U18 from 29% to 70%.
The initial spurt of success has continued. The US U18 team has won an unprecedented 4 consecutive IIHF World Championships since integrating the Hockey IntelliGym into their training. Prior to this, the longest winning streak of any nation was two. Was this just a ‘good run’ of talented players? Obviously there was great talent, but the fact that multiple cohorts of players came through the system suggests that brain (and other) training gave the US a leg up on the competition.
In total, five cohorts of young US players have used the Hockey IntelliGym over a period of four years. They’ve won a staggering 16 gold medals in international tournaments (and 22 medals in total) out of 23 international tournaments.
The link between cognitive training and USA Hockey’s success was readily on display at this year’s World Juniors. Thirteen of the players on the Gold Medal winning squad at the World Junior Tournament trained on the product. This group included tournament MVP, John Gibson and tournament all stars Jake McCabe and Jacob Trouba. Seth Jones, the likely first overall pick in the draft who had a stellar tournament, also honed his hockey sense using the Hockey IntelliGym.
So why does this matter?
I’d suggest two reasons. First, we all know that in a fast paced game, unpredictable game like hockey the slightest edge often makes all the difference. Second, for years the hockey intelligentsia has suggested that hockey sense is innate – that it cannot be taught or honed. USA Hockey’s experience with the IntelliGym suggests that this belief is a bit misguided.
I know no one will ever see the ice like Gretzky, and that the knack for “being in the right place at the right time” that guys like Steven Stamkos have is a unique thing. However, USA Hockey’s bold decision to partner with a company that built technology for fighter pilots should be applauded. Given the aforementioned facts and their record of success over recent years it’s clear that cognitive training and the Hockey IntelliGym have played a role in building a stellar program and producing top notch players.
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About Kukla's Korner Hockey
Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.
Email Paul anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org