Hockey is a fast swift game which needs high metabolism but being a fast-paced sport, it’s a cerebral game too. So, hockey players take quick action with a fully attentive mind. As the game is super quick, to play it best, players change quickly after a short time to maintain their stamina.
Interestingly, players in hockey can change during the game play, not like other sports, for example, football requires a stoppage of the game for a while to change players.
When do The Players Get The Idea To Change?
To change in the game is based on multiple factors. It’s all about their shift length, a strategic match-up against the other team, unit change with line players accordingly and changes when it will not give score to the opponent.
Players Change Off After 30-45 Seconds
The ice hockey game is mainly about timing and prompt strategic action. The NHL shift normally goes about 30 to 45 seconds. Because if the player remains longer on ice, it will affect their performance due to their depletion of game-playing energy and their game will start to deteriorate. Therefore such a swift motion game requires to have high stamina and energy to play. And it’s not some kind of secret that hockey players can keep up their metabolism level for about 30-45 seconds.
NHL players are professional in their game, they have gone through lots of shifts and know when to change. It’s their instinct that alarms them at the end of the shift. Still, if you have not exhausted then it means you have not skated enough.
During the time of power play, a player can stay longer than the normal shift as there is not much skating required in the offensive zone in the power play as at that time the game becomes of puck passing and controlling. Contrary to that, penalty kill players rather want to switch every 30 seconds because their side of the game is more like is to pursue the puck which makes them tired quickly.
Thus, a player exactly knows and is quite intuitive about changing a shift before losing physical stamina and remaining energy to play, so it’s better to get fresh reinforcement.
Players Get Change Off When Line Players Change
When one player changes, the linemates on the other side of the ice shift as well whether they are playing or not. To shift off as a whole defence pairing or forward line is common to see and each line has its special function.
The forward four lines are categorized as the first scoring line, 2nd scoring line, shutdown line and energy checking line. The top two lines are assigned for scoring goals while the shutdown line is responsible for stopping the opponent’s line and the fourth line is tasked to Forecheck and establish the other line’s momentum.
These all players are assigned positions to make a player change when their linemates shift. The coaches have assembled these lines for a clear purpose, making it easier for players to change on and off together as per the situation of the game.
Players Change Off As a Strategic Game Part
Players change on and off the ice as part of the game strategy to match up against the opponent’s team. It’s possible that offensive mindset groups like forward and defence may find themselves weak in front of the opponent’s forward and defence group. It would be a bad match-up as the others are superiors in defending.
Instead of wasting time, it is better to change off with their best offensive group so that their best group play at their best level to maintain the game. Meanwhile, the shutdown line will be responsible to deal with or stop the opponents for their defensive play to come up.
It is quite common for the team defence pairing to switch on and off as a game strategy. A deliberate plan to limit the other side’s attack.
Players Change Off and On Only When Feel Safe Too
As said earlier, players will only change off when they feel safe for the ongoing game. This means when there is the certainty that their change-off will not score against them, only then they will switch off and on ice.
When players are confident that this change of shift will not put their squad at loss. This specifies that when the puck is at the opponent’s end and far away from their goalie.
This happens often when players skate the puck to the red line, shoot it and go for a line change. To get over the red line, players avoid icing the puck (to understand icing rule read out my detailed write up) and once the red line is crossed they shoot the puck deep into the opposing team’s net.
Shooting the puck deep into the opponent’s side end gives the forward man and defence man an opportunity to change off without making the other team able to kick the puck up the ice before the arrival of a fresh set of players. Usually, they keep one player still on the ice who waits to change until other players change. Then he will make his way toward the bunch.
Depending on how the shift is moving on, only 1-2 players get the chance of changeover at a time. Because if a player’s line gets stuck in their zone and the puck bygone the blue line. This will give enough time to switch for one or two players safely not the entire line.
In nutshell, players always wait for a proper safe opportunity to change off!
Players Change off Only When Feel Safe to Change off
Being a fast and furious sport, it is a dangerous game too. Players on the ice, move constantly and are in danger of getting hit, so they change off so they feel safe about every point of the game.
In addition to that, coaches always tell their team about line changes that bad line changing results in bad and can cause goals against them. But NHL players are pretty talented and move like flying, allowing their linemates to change unscathed when there is poor line change. To do this, they leave scoring chances that cause goals against them.
Recreational Level Change Off
Changing lines at the recreational level is almost of the same aspects as of NHL except for some differences.
- Buzzer: Hockey shifts are of two minutes and are timed at the beginning. A buzzer will buzz signalling all the players to shift off the ice arena.
- Coaches: Coaches stay active during the match calling the players on and off the ice. They pay attention to the part that everyone is getting equal time to play. But at a higher level of hockey like the NHL, players do not get equal time – better to play more.
- Pick Up Hockey: it’s a type of hockey that friends play together not like league type. And in such type of hockey does not abide by high-class hockey rules. In games like that, you will always spot one guy who likes to take longer shifts and others do not like these guys as it’s a waste of time. So do not be that guy. Instead, try on ice for a 1-minute shift on and off because longer shifts will not give any benefits but only steal time of other players.
The Bottom Line on How Do Hockey Players Know When To Change Lines?
Hockey players have been in the game for so long, so they can get an idea of when to change off while maintaining the possession of puck and scoring chances. Depending on the ongoing game scenario, they know when to change with their linemates safely and not give the poor line-changing influence.