Coaches Corner

Coaches Corner

Off the Ice. But Never Off Guard.

“That’s the difference between average and good, and good and great players. And working with the IntelliGym will force them to make good decisions, to be able to understand the cues through the game and to incorporate them in our game“
Mike Corbett, Head Coach, Alabama–Huntsville

As a coach, you know how a good player is made great by hockey sense, and how he in turn does great things for the team. The debatable question has classically been whether that is a teachable skill, or whether hockey sense is one of those things a player either has intuitively… or never will.

Up until now, the thinking has been that hockey sense is more or less un-trainable, with the best coaches managing to help players try to compensate for its absence simply by improving other skills. The Hockey IntelliGym™, however, is changing the game by challenging this belief: We CAN train hockey sense, by training brains.

"I’ve coached several of these kids since they were Mites. Pretty quickly our coaching staff saw improvements in the majority of the players and heard them saying they could see the passing lanes much better. They said they were able to find players easier because the IntelliGym slowed the game down for them." (Tim Bergquist, Head Coach, Golden Eagles U16).

Cognitive simulation - now known as the IntelliGym™ technology - was initially developed for the military by brain scientists. Quick decision making, reading rapidly changing circumstances, and coping with pressing time constraints – essential components of hockey sense - are all abilities also required of air force pilots. After being adapted to the sports field, the stunning success of the Basketball IntelliGym™ prompted USA Hockey to approach ACE about the development of a similar product. The result: The Hockey IntelliGym™.

“As a former NHL player and Stanley Cup recipient, I got to be on the ice with the best players in the game of hockey. I learned one main thing from being around these great hockey players and that was you must have a great mind to excel at the highest level. When I first took on coaching a Minnesota high school team, I wanted to provide the players with the best training possible and give them the extra edge that it takes to help win games. For this, I've implemented the Hockey IntelliGym into our regular training regimen. So far, our guys are completely into it and I personally know that the numbers on the ice will follow.“
Shjon Podein, Stanley Cup Winner

Daily repetitions of a motion – like power skating - make it natural, fluid. The same is true for mental endurance, flexibility, and for thinking fast, ahead of the puck. Mental excellence is quantifiable, and it is changeable.

Skills integral to making shots and avoiding injury – like the ability to divide attention between the puck, the stick, the ice, the other players, and the strategy – are hard to acquire at 13 miles per hour, and are in fact trainable outside the arena. Gathering information, planning skating paths, recognizing opportunities, and advanced spatial perception are also better burned into the brain before translating into physical play. 

Coach Kurt Kleinendorst
“They started to make plays under pressure that I hadn’t seen prior to them using the game…“
Kurt Kleinendorst, Former U18 National Team Coach

The NTDP Beta

IIHF U18 World Championships

The NDTP has been base camp for the development and fine tuning of the Hockey IntelliGym™. A similar program has already proven effective on the basketball court (The Basketball IntelliGym™), with player stats improving 30% on average and coaches seeing a significant competitive edge that these results have given their teams. In most cases, by the time the player has completed his 8-10 training sessions, the results are clearly seen in the arena.

The NTDP teams participated (collectively) in 6 international tournaments in 2009/10, including the World Under 17 Challenge and the IIHF U18 World Championships, and returned with a perfect record of 6 gold medals!

In January 2009, the U17 team won the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, beating teams from Canada, Russia, Sweden and the Czech Republic. That same year, the U18 team increased their win ratio from 29% to 70% after only ten IntelliGym™ training sessions, eventually winning the IIHF World Under-18 Championship – skating all the way to a gold medal.

Following that success, the NTDP chose to adopt the Hockey IntelliGym™ to be part of its standard training program.

USA Hockey’s exceptional collaboration with ACE has already garnered impressive wins for the National Team, and world class scientific recognition, winning the 2010 Sharp Brains Innovation Award.

Some Science

Various studies have confirmed that the skill of attention control is a general skill that may be applied to many different settings. Specifically, it has been shown that if trained, such attention control skills could be transferred and generalized across different settings and different task requirements, as long as the tasks maintained the same processing modality. (Gopher, Armony & Greenshpan, 2000; Armony & Gopher, 2002).

In addition to demonstrating the training of attention control skills, these types of results indicate the importance of the cognitive resemblance between training and real task environment.

In order to develop a hockey cognitive training tool, the researchers mapped the brain skills that are required for top performance in the game of ice hockey. With this map in hand, ACE's researchers designed a system that stimulates the exact same skill set. Although the players are merely performing with a keyboard in front of a monitor, if you screen the minds of the trainees, you’ll find that the skills (or the “brain muscles”) that are working are exactly those that are required during a real hockey game.

The trainer is therefore designed as a tool that trains multiple cognitive skills in a unified and comprehensive task environment. Trainer components are mapped to the cognitive skills that were identified in the initial task analysis (following years of research on the sports field / court / arena) and are incorporated as integral parts into a computerized environment.

Finally, ACE’s trainer philosophy emphasizes the cognitive fidelity of tasks (similar processing modalities, similar attention control requirements), and not their physical fidelity.

See more in Science...

The Hockey IntelliGym™: Specs

  • The Hockey IntelliGym™ is a SaaS (Software as a Service) product
  • The application is online; Each user has personal user name and password
  • Runs on any personal computer with connection to the internet
  • Runs on all common operating systems (Windows, Mac)
  • Intended for competitive players ages 10 and up to juniors and pros
  • Coaches receive attendance and progress reports, if so desired, from players training at home
  • Results on the ice are expected after 10-15 training sessions on average
  • Training session duration: up to 30 minutes
  • Recommended regimen: Two training sessions per week.
  • Training data is sent online to our server, which then personalizes the training program to each individual based on his strengths, weaknesses, and progress - continuously measuring the athlete’s performance and calibrating the training parameters

Tap Into the Science of Winning….Learn More:


- The Hockey IntelliGym Intro: The Hockey Sense Revolution

- National Coaches Confirm: IntelliGym™ Works

- Watch Hockey Sense Emerge Before Your Eyes: A Demo

- Missed the USA Hockey Coaches Webinar? See it Here


More about the IntelliGym™ technology

The Basketball IntelliGym™

Research and resources

Prof. D. Gopher on the science behind the IntelliGym™

Coaches Benefits

- The best way to improve hockey sense
- Players train at their own time
- Twice a week. 30 minutes
- First results in 5 weeks. On the ice
- Personal program
- Automatic adaptation
- No need for coach supervision
- No need for coach preparation
- Coach access to participation reports
- Coach access to performance reports
“We fully expect the Hockey IntelliGym to become part of the regular training regimen for players at all age levels and abilities.”
Jim Johanson, Assistant Executive Director for hockey operations at USA Hockey
Jim Johannson, Assistant Executive Director of Hockey Operations for USA Hockey