There was one thing that made the likes of Gretzky, Howe, Orr, Beliveau, Yzerman, Crosby, etc. different from all the other NHL players. Aside from being the best to ever play the game, an aspect that reigned supreme was their hockey sense and intelligence for the game.
Many think hockey sense and IQ cannot be taught. It’s something your born with. You either have it or you don’t. However, the folks at IntelliGym are doing their best to flip the script and put the myth to rest.
What is Hockey IntelliGym?
Originally invented for fighter pilots, the makers of the program realized that differences between fighter pilots and hockey players were not all that different. Although they are two completely different situations altogether, pilots and hockey players use spatial awareness, reaction time, decision making, among other things. So Danny Dankner, the CEO of IntelliGym felt it was best to pursue his program in professional sports.
According to Dankner, “The IntelliGym is a computerized training system that enhances the brain skills of competitive athletes. In particular, the system hones the brain skills that are crucial for decision making and execution. This training tool is based on ACE’s patented ‘cognitive simulation’ concept. With a non-simulative training, the system generates significant cognitive workload on the same brain “circuits” that are crucial for athlete’s performance. The program constantly measures the trainee’s performance and automatically personalizes the training program accordingly. In addition, on-ice performance data is collected to further adopt the training to each trainee. The IntelliGym has a video-game look and feel, to make it engaging and fun.”
One of the first teams to implement the IntelliGym program was the United States National Team Development Program. IntelliGym was introduced to them during the 2009-10 season and ever since, the NTDP has seen fantastic results. In these two graphs, you can see it’s had somewhat of a profound effect on the players.
But Dankner, along with his team of developers, researchers, and partners are starting to hit other markets with the success of the program at the NTDP.
Dankner mentioned that, “since this initial trial and the subsequent product rollout, we have many thousands of players and numerous teams using the Hockey IntelliGym. The pioneers were the Air Force Academy and Maine University. Last season, Canadian teams joined and the teams on board included the Niagara IceDogs of the Ontario Hockey League and Concordia University in Montreal. This season’s adoptees include Seattle, Portland, Regina, Lethbridge and Ottawa in the Canadian major junior leagues, as well as the Union College men’s team and the Maine and Ohio State women’s teams in the NCAA. We definitely expect the program to become a standard training tool, used by every competitive player. That said, we are aware of the fact that with any new technology, there are the skeptics and more conservative players and coaches, so it may take a while. We are definitely on the right track.”
The skill, awareness, and overall play are fine and dandy when it comes to players with elite hockey sense and IQ, but there is another factor that may be paramount: longevity of a career. Players with the best hockey minds to ever lace up a pair of skates usually have had very long NHL careers because they could see all of the ice, react to hits, and make smart plays to not get themselves in trouble.
“On a recent study conducted at the National Team Development Program, it was found that while elevating the game’s performance, cognitive training also decreases the number of on-ice injuries,” Dankner said.In the two years following the implementation of IntelliGym to the USNTDP, hockey injuries went down by 10-15% which are quite promising.
Aside from decreasing the amount of injuries, the folks at Hockey IntelliGym see a future in their program at all levels of the game.
“It may take a while, but we have no doubt that cognitive training will become a standard component in every athlete’s training regimen. We see the IntelliGym take a lead role in this process. While planning our next IntelliGym products for additional sports fields, we extend and broaden the collaboration with other sports partners who share our vision,” Dankner said of where he sees his product in the next 5/10/15 years.
Hockey sense can be the difference between making an average player in the NHL a star. It’s come a long way since the fighter pilot days, but with the help of the IntelliGym program, more and more athletes are becoming better at the game of hockey and developing hockey IQ and sense for the game – an aspect that was once thought of as unteachable.
Follow Shawn Reznik on Twitter: @ShawnTHW