Great thread - thanks guys.
A couple of questions regarding handedness...
Right. Neal, a LHS, on the right wing would be on his "off wing" his "weak side" even his "wrong side". That's considered "wrong" colloquially in North American hockey. That said, it seems the further down you go, the more RHS there are and the less and less likely it matters what side you play on because the competition is so limited. Improper defense techniques leaves sizable gaps and spacing issues for even moderately-skilled players to thrive on their wrong side. But that's an entirely different issue...
1) Do you say that playing the off wing is considered wrong because of the defensive responsibilities that the NA systems implement, whereas Kovalchuk and Ovechkin excel on their off-wings?
Off wing is "wrong" for possession mostly. North American hockey focuses on possession and board work. European hockey focuses on rushing the puck and more one on one skills. As you astutely note, Euros, especially Russian trained players like Kovalchuk and Ovechkin, can play on their off wing because of their terrific and quick shots and their wonderful hands. Look at their golden generation vs. "ours".
See clips from the 1972 Summit Series and the 1980 Olympics. Watch the USSR jerseys, count the LHS on the ice. And look at the breakouts...a lot of criss-crossing, drop passes, they want to be in the middle of the ice...that's where organic offense is created. Watch a regular season KHL game today...many one-man rushes, if you can get by three guys, great...if you can't, well, you'll just try again next time...
Look at the North American game. Board play, cycling, possession. Offense isn't organically created through creativity. It's manufactured...it's artificially created. It's pre-processed blueprints to a goal.
Europeans generally are taught to create plays. North Americans generally are taught to create errors (opponent errors, of course).
Defensively, yeah, there's advantages...possession again, look at the Blackhawks. Their goalies aren't any good, but the other team isn't allowed to have the puck...no puck, no shot...no shot, no goal.
When you're back in your own end...what do they tell ya? "Up the boards and out..." "Use the glass and out..." Retrieve. Turn. (Now you're on your forehand) and Out. Tough to clear on your backhand at any level.
juicebox1 wrote:2) You mentioned that the further down you go, there are more RHS -- the further down where?
Sorry, I should have been clearer. Further down the ranks. The NHL is something like 70/30 or 75/25 LHS/RHS or something like that...I forget the exact figures off hand. I know I've coached teams at lower levels where I couldn't find a LHS to save my life...I don't have the numbers in front of me, but I'd guess the ECHL or VHL, for instance, would have a higher percentage of RHS. I'm not even totally sure why that is to be honest...
juicebox1 wrote:3) I've always been curious as to how different regions "breed" their players. When I grew up playing street hockey, I went back and forth with my plastic Mylec curve because I never felt comfortable playing "Right-Handed." 6 of 8 kids in my neighborhood all ended up playing Lefty - while only one actually wrote with their left hand. I have always attributed this comfort level to having my dominant hand at the top of the stick for maximum control. Maybe it's a generalization, but in terms of top end talent, the % of RHS appears to be higher in the US than in Canada. Does that have anything to do with how they train their kids from day 1 or is there an "advantage" that LHS have in their game?
Well, isn't the population like 90/10 right-handed vs. left? Or some such? So, dominant hand goes on top in Canada, so right-handed writers are left-handed hockey players. Exceptions abound, of course, but that's the generalization.
Me...well...I'm totally different. I write right...I throw left (but did teach myself to throw right-handed out of necessity [lack of baseball gloves with my hand amongst friends, gym class, etc.])...I started playing hockey as a LHS, broke all of my lefty sticks, the next stick I could get my hands on was for a righty, so I became a righty...and I'm a righty today. But I can't shoot left any longer. What happened to me...
Fun fact: Gordie Howe was ambidextrous as an NHLer.