Coach Nielsen's Ice Hockey Drills

Can Video Games Help Players Develop Skills?


Adam Kimelman of contacted me the other day about an article he is working on about video games and youth players. He was wondering if playing video games can actually help young players become better players. At first I thought how could playing a video game help a player get better in the skills area? I told Adam that I think the games may help players learn some concepts about the game and maybe even teach them how to “see” the entire ice better, but no way it could help improve skills.

I took this one step further and asked my players (13 – 18 age range) what they thought. I have to say I was surprised at the answers. The older players seemed to feel that they learned things about how the spacing on a power play works because they see the action from a high perspective. They had a better idea of the way a forecheck works and things of that nature, but the older players felt that they didn’t learn any skills. Where my surprise came in was with the younger players. A few of them told me that they learned moves from playing the video games. One player even discussed a specific move he makes often and said he picked it up playing one of the NHL2K type of games. A few others said they have tried things on the ice in practice that they learned on a video game. So, now I am wondering if it is possible for a young player to actually learn skills from playing video games.

If you are interested in joining the conversation on this please write a comment and I will share what you give me over the next few days with Adam and maybe he will use our comments as part of his upcoming article.


Filed under: coaching

8 Responses

  1. I know I’m a few years late to this thread, but I absolutely think players can learn skills from hockey games. I say this because I believe hockey IQ to be an important part of the total skill set. As many have said, the games kids play help them to see and think about the ice in different ways, reinforcing what (hopefully) we as coaches are trying to teach them.

    At the time this article was originally written, I would’ve called these gains minimal because the EA Sports AI was the most incompetent hockey I’d ever seen. You couldn’t cycle. It wouldn’t pass to the person you wanted to (it attempted cross ice passes when you wanted shorter, indirect passes), and the defensive positioning was attrocious. I’d stack my current HS team up against those AI teams and we’d win because our intelligence is simply better. But in the last two or three years, the AI has started behaving better, and with the new passing system in NHL 16 it’s even easier to correct for some of the computer errors.

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  4. IAmJoe says:

    Skills? In terms of straight how to shoot or pass, I’d say no. But I think video games can help generate creativity and ability to improvise. It’s hard to “see” the overall picture of what’s going on across the entire ice when you’re standing on it – it’s attempting to see the forest from the trees. Videogames, and the angle they give on developing action, can help players “see” opportunities that they might not otherwise see, when all they can physically see is a man in their face. A much more tangible gain to be had from playing video games is conceptual understanding of various tactics. In relating it to skill, I think you see improved execution of team tactical concepts.

    Another thing that should not be discounted is that when you have players playing games together, it gives them a common “playbook” to work from, so when a given situation happens in a game, and a group of players has used a certain action in-game as a response, all the players involved can more easily recognize that situation, and move more efficiently to the response action. Taking this to a more literal extreme, when I played in a flag football league for a while, my teammates and I, who all played Madden together, used to call all of our plays straight out of our playbooks we knew in Madden. We just had to say a given play, and everyone knew what to do. Obviously this doesn’t work the same in hockey, with the more fluid nature of the game, but on the fly, giving players more familiarity with what the other is thinking and where they’re going, it could certainly help guys approach something like the Sedins’ passing wizardry.

    • Adam Kimelman says:

      Joe —

      This is Adam Kimelman from I’d like to use your comment for my story. If you can drop me a line with your name and a little bit on where you coach, and how old the kids are, I’d appreciate.

  5. Craig Wilson says:

    Our players play against each other on NHL11 on PS3. They play in between tournament games at the hotel. They play as a team and talk about the game as it’s occurring on screen as if they were actually on the ice. The kids yell cycle, get on the post, behind the net, d to d pass and more.
    Younger kids seem to be able to take what they have experienced on the screen and apply it to real life in a way that kids 16 and older can’t.

    My son scored three goals this weekend with a move I’ve never seen him do. I asked, “where did he get the move?” Response NHL11, when did he practice it, on screen in the shootout.

  6. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Scott Pantall, Robert Nielsen. Robert Nielsen said: Can Video Games Help Players Develop Skills? […]

  7. I’m not a coach, but I had to pitch on on this one. I’m 30 years old and have only been playing hockey for less than a year. I’ve been playing EA Slaphshot on the Wii and I think it’s done a lot to help me see the ice better in a game.

    EA Slapshot allows you to play a “Peewee to Pro” mode where you pick a position, then move up through the leagues starting at 3v3 Peewee hockey and ending at the NHL. It grades you on your positioning, team play and stats and rewards you accordingly. =

    I think by playing a hockey video game with good AI and locking the video game player in one position (as opposed to always being the puck carrier) you can learn a good deal from playing video game hockey.

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