Research on Small-Area Games
During the 2019/20 season, the Finnish and the Swedish Ice Hockey Association joined forces and conducted a game format analysis. The aim of the study was to determine how changing the game format affects player actions. The project was subsidized by the IIHF Growing the Game Fund.

Click here to see the full report.

Summary of the Results:

In total, 25 different game formats from 2-on-2 to 5-on-5 (male and female, U8 – U14) on 1/8 of the ice surface to full ice were analyzed. The results of the study show that the number of players and the size of the playing surface have an impact on player activity during the game. Less players on the ice per shift increases the amount of actions, game intensity and flow as well as the overall involvement in the game action of each individual player. Naturally, this also means that the total activity per player decreases with an increased number of players.

A downsized playing surface has a positive effect on the number of actions, problem solving, decision-making, technical skating and overall player involvement.  Every player is active in 2-on-2 and 3-on-3 games. Smaller rink size supports the development of both, stronger and weaker players. The stronger players are more challenged while the weaker players are closer to puck and game action.

The study results furthermore indicate increase of the following:

On 1/3 compared to full ice:
Shots and shot attempts: increase of up to 5x
Passes and pass attempts: increase of up to 2.5x
Receiving shots: 1.4x

The study further concludes that, to support player development appropriately, one should use different game formats during training.

Best game formats:

2-on-2 on 1/4 of the ice North South
2-on-2 on 1/8 of the ice
2-on-2 and 3-on-3 1/2 ice long
2-on-2 and 3-on-3 on 1/6
3-on-3 on 1/4

The traditional 5-on-5 game format on full ice seems to be the least beneficial game format for player involvement and game time optimization.

Coaches have a vital role in practice planning and execution. They are to develop each player through ever changing practice environments and to tailor to the needs of each player, taking the player involvement and learning opportunities from the games into consideration. Practices play an important role in a player’s ice hockey skill development.