Trial of 9 v 9 in four quarters of ten minutes each.


2018 National Hockey League ‘product test’ – ACTAS v NSWIS

This is video of three 40 minute 9 v 9 matches carried out as a trial (a “product test” – in marketing-speak) in Australia. I failed the challenge to watch it in one sitting, it took five well spaced sessions, and I also failed to endure the commentary, only turning it back on occasionally after the first painful ten minutes – and then quickly turning it off again. Far too much talk from the commentators about the score and the effects of a double score period and in which quarter a ‘power play’ (double score) was best conducted.

That terminology was irritating. Why call a period of the game, where any score counts double, a power play? A power play is a situation set up in play where one side has a numerical superiority – and to add to the confusion, we have already seen such power plays replacing penalty corners, in the Lanco 9’s, also in Australia. What’s wrong with calling a period of the match in which scores count double a ‘double score period’? That said why introduce double scoring at all when so much else is changed. It’s an unnecessary distraction from taking note of the way the game is being played because of the reduced numbers and a zone restriction.

I do not like the concept of doubling scores in a chosen quarter of a match (with each side choosing a different quarter). I don’t much like the idea of one point for a penalty corner goal and two for an open play goal (there are other ways to prevent the ‘manufacture’ of penalty corners). Nor do I like a one on one with the goalkeeper after scoring a goal, which if converted, would give a total of six points in a double play period (the initial field goal 4 plus the conversion 2) , that  left me cold. Too much like kicking someone when they are down (which used to be considered ‘beyond the pale’ but is now regarded as sensible behaviour).

And of course obstruction offences were completely ignored by the umpires throughout the match, we have come to expect that, but why (and how can anyone) introduce new game formats while ignoring existing Rules of Conduct of Play?


It was a requirement that each side kept two players at all times in the opposing half of the pitch and, a sensible idea, there was an additional  official to watch that the teams complied with this requirement. I have no idea what the penalty might be for a breach of this zone requirement, as there was no breach and the commentators, when explaining the Rules, didn’t say what the penalty was.

I think there are better zone restriction alternatives because one thing that was clear from the play was that the circles got very crowded – it was after all possible, even if very unlikely, for fifteen players to be in either circle at any one time, but twelve at a time was not uncommon. .

There was an FIH Mandatory Experiment back in 2004 (in the eleven-a-side game) in which teams were required to keep three players out of their own 23m area at all times. That got ‘watered down’ in the following year to that requirement being applied only during opposition free balls in the 23m area and corners (the old long corner) and was then discontinued, without there being any adoption of any zone requirement into Full Rule. There were no extra officials appointed to watch for compliance and the initial zone restriction must have been near impossible for a single umpire to properly oversee in his or her own part of the field. Having a zone restriction only during corners or when there was a free awarded within the 23m area was fussy and almost pointless, so discontinuation was no surprise.  

I nonetheless believe that zone restrictions are best applied to defenders rather than to attackers, if the idea is to open the game up and create more scoring opportunities. Provided there are flag officials to watch for compliance, it might be a better option to limit the number of defenders in the circle at any one time to three field-players and a goalkeeper. There could also be the introduction of a small goal-zone (marked out in the same way as the shooting circle but with a radius of 2m from each goal-post) which could be occupied only by a goalkeeper (and into which no attacker without the ball – or before the ball – could venture).

I like the idea of nine-a-side game, I think Horst Wein was right about the advantages of it, but it needs to be played in a different way than was generally displayed in this ‘product test’. Back passes should not be static plays but create the opportunity for forward runs from deep positions to receive a subsequent forward pass,  (there may have to be a short interim pass or double to and from a third player to allow time for the runner from a deep position to achieve an advanced position). There also needed to be a lot more ‘give and go’ and ‘wall-passing’ in the central channels and supporting runs for and with (alongside of) the player in possession of the ball.  There were players patiently makes passes from one side of the pitch to the other while gaps as wide as ‘barn doors’ opened up but remained unexploited in front of them. “Create a gap, put a body into it, give that body the ball”, works as well in midfield or even better, than it does in the opponents 23m area, there is generally more space and less cover. It is a good way to create the opportunity to outnumber defenders in their own circle while in possession of the ball. But it doesn’t just happen (at least not often) even if some players can do it intuitively (have appropriate game intelligence), it needs to be planned and practiced until all players involved in the various movements deployed, develop good game intelligence. A planned move involving four players needs all four players to be able to execute the move smoothly no matter what their starting position is in relation to the other three players.

The technical bits and pieces were disappointing. The camera positions, number of cameras and hockey experience of the camera-operators were below par. The two teams played in kit that was at times difficult to distinguish, and with numbers that even the commentators could not easily see. This made the viewing experience a tough one, especially over more than two hours of play – which was too much for screen viewing. The hockey played was frankly, not that interesting.…ten-minutes-each/

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: