Why You’re Not on the Power-Play

By Kim McCullough, MSc, YCS, Director & Founder, Total Female Hockey


kim-270Everyone wants to be on the powerplay. And everyone gets upset when they’re not on it.

Today, I want you consider why your coach may have decided not to put you out on the powerplay.

(Note: this could easily be written in the context of a goalie not getting a big start against a hated rival or a player not playing in the final minutes of a close game).

So I’m going to share a little story with you from my own hockey career that will hopefully help you understand where we coaches are coming from when we make key decisions during the game.

When I was playing NCAA Division 1 hockey at Dartmouth, I scored quite a bit. I was in the top 3 of our team scoring for at least 3 years. And I rarely played on the powerplay. In fact, the year I lead the team in scoring for the majority of the season, I barely played on the powerplay at all.

Weird, right?

Usually the snipers get all the powerplay minutes.

Well here’s the thing. I wasn’t exactly a pretty scorer. I was more of a bull in a china shop kind of scorer. The kind of scorer who scores 95% of their goals from the hashmarks down. I scored because I had no fear of going to the net hard and always had my stick in the right place at the right time.

I excelled at reckless abandon.

Reckless abandon usually isn’t something we want on the powerplay.

I might have been a key powerplay player on a powerplay that shoveled pucks to the net and I simply had to bang ‘em home.

But that’s not the kind of powerplay we ran back in college. We slowed it down. We set it up. We waited patiently for seams to open up.

Patience with the puck wasn’t something I excelled at. And so I didn’t play a lot on the powerplay. And it bothered me a lot.

How could a top scorer not get a lot of powerplay minutes?

What was the coach thinking?

And that’s when you need to STOP.

You’ll never really know what the coach is thinking. It wasn’t until I was a few years in to my coaching career, which was nearly a decade after I stopped playing college hockey, to understand why I wasn’t a key cog in our powerplay.

And while I may not have been the type of player to run our finessed powerplay, I definitely did one thing right…

… I shut up and did the work.

I didn’t roll my eyes when the powerplay units got extra practice and us penalty killers were told to go to the other end and wait.

In fact, I decided to make sure that I never gave that powerplay a millisecond of time or a centimeter of space. I was the best damn penalty kill practice player you’ve ever seen. I’m sure I pissed off more than my fair share of teammates penalty killing like crazy in practice. But I made them better – and I got a lot more penalty kill time as a result.

So when you’re wondering why you’re not on the powerplay or the penalty kill, or why you’re not getting the big start or getting on the ice in the final minute, remember this…





We have to make a choice. Sometimes we get it right and sometimes we get it wrong.

But you need to stop worrying about things you can’t control and focus on the things you can control.

Work harder. Focus on the little things. Be better.

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