Cross-ice hard dividers are not just for 8U hockey. They can create a great learning environment for players at any age. When two teams are sharing the ice for practice, the boards can be used to give each team an attacking end and a defending end. Watch the example below of a 12U team using the half-ice format in practice, focusing on offensive and defensive positional play. Notice how many important hockey concepts are reinforced efficiently and repeatedly in this 4v4 half-ice environment.
Taking it a step further, USA Hockey recommends that clubs schedule one day of free-play half-ice hockey each week. In this free-play environment, players pick their own teams and compete 4v4 half-ice, with total freedom of expression and creativity. The rink is halved so two games are played simultaneously, keeping everyone in the action. Players are encouraged to make plays and have fun. Coaches are present only to ensure safety. A buzzer signals line changes. The resulting competitions mirror free-play hockey found on ponds and outdoor rinks, providing the benefits of enhanced creativity, hockey sense and fun to players nationwide, even those in warm climates where indoor, scheduled ice-time is the only option. It’s a reminder that, even in a facility-driven sport, scheduled play doesn’t have to be regimented.