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Wayne Gretzky: MindFreak

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Old
12-07-2011, 04:36 PM
  #26
tarheelhockey
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The best description I've heard of Gretzky is comparing him to a chess master.

An ordinary chess player sees what's on the board and reacts to it. At most he might plan 1 move in advance.

A good chess player sees potential strategies on the board and attempts to execute them. He always plans 2 or more moves in advance.

An expert chess player anticipates what strategy his opponent has chosen, and works to take advantage of the weaknesses within their decisions. He plans an entire game in advance.

A chess master knows what his opponent is anticipating. For him, strategy is a foregone conclusion; his game occurs at a higher psychological level of exploiting his opponent's blind spots within an infinite catalogue of potential strategies. He operates within the context of already having finished the game in his head.

Gretzky was a master. He didn't just react to events more quickly than his opponent; he anticipated his opponent's reaction, manipulated it, and exploited it. Perhaps physiological advantages were what boosted him to a superhuman level, but his game was mental much more than it was physical.

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Old
12-08-2011, 12:24 AM
  #27
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I heard gretzkys vo2 max was off the charts back in his day.

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Old
12-08-2011, 10:49 AM
  #28
tazzy19
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I beleve it was in the Ultimate Gretzky DVD that Walter Gretzky recounts a story of how little Wayne, at a very young age, would take a big piece of paper and a pen during Hockey Night in Canada, and actually follow the puck with his pen on the paper throughout the game. This would give him a great SENSE as to where the puck was going most of the time. He would check after the game where he had scribled the most. This also explains a lot. Now why he did this remains a mystery. Maybe it was Walter's idea?

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12-08-2011, 11:11 AM
  #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tazzy19 View Post
This would give him a great SENSE as to where the puck was going most of the time.
Which explains one of the quotes attributed to Gretzky: "I don't go where the puck is. I go to where the puck will be"

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03-03-2012, 07:35 PM
  #30
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I've been thinking more about Gretzky, and there is one thing in particular I've been thinking about.

It seems that Gretzky (prime and post prime) used to make "blind passes" that led to turnarounds. For example, he did it in the 1981 Canada Cup final, at least once leading to a break away and goal against. He also did it several times in the first game of 1983 finals against NYI, once leading to a goal against (it was late in the game though, with Edmonton trailing 0-1). I have memories of Gretzky making that same kind of mistake(?) throughout his career.

If he was so clever, then why did he make "blind" passes that resulted in breakaways - and sometimes goals - for the opponent? I realiize he may have calculated that the net result would still be positive (although I'm not so sure about that).
I even would say that some of the Soviets were better passers, in the way that they seemed more reliable and defensively aware.

Rather, I find the things below to be among Gretzky's best abilities:
* know in advance where the puck will be
* getting first to the puck
* great skating ability; great at starting and stopping, change direction
* great stickhandling
* great backhand
(there's of course more)

I hope I'm not "swearing in the church" or something, when I'm mentioning an apparent weakness of Gretzky's hockey mind. It's just that he made mistakes even I know not to do, and is getting credit for things even I did lots of time (like intentionally using opponents, including the goalie, to score or deflections - haven't a lot of non-NHL:ers done that a lot?). I know Gretzky is generally considered the most intelligent NHL:er ever, but maybe his hockey intelligence is somewhat overrated, while other things that made him so good are underrated? I realize it's somewhat dependant on what one attribute to "intelligence" and what is not. Know where the puck will get is intelligence, but getting first to it also relies on skating and reaction ability. Stickhandling is a combination of physical ability, and intelligence to comprehend where the opponents are and are going. Backhand ability is probably a result of practicing. For making great plays from behind the net, timing and a good sense of where players are is of use, but great stickhandling and reaction ability is also usually required.

(I was thinking of making a new thread for this, but maybe it fits in this fairly recent thread?)

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03-03-2012, 07:54 PM
  #31
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Most creative playmakers also play risky passes which lead to turnovers. I think when you have figured it out like they have, it's probably easy to get a bit arrogant about the sort of passes you can play and sometimes you'll pass where you shouldn't, really shouldn't. And you get away with it because you make up for it 10 times with the positive things you do.

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Old
03-04-2012, 09:56 AM
  #32
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Quote:
Originally Posted by plusandminus View Post
I've been thinking more about Gretzky, and there is one thing in particular I've been thinking about.

It seems that Gretzky (prime and post prime) used to make "blind passes" that led to turnarounds. For example, he did it in the 1981 Canada Cup final, at least once leading to a break away and goal against. He also did it several times in the first game of 1983 finals against NYI, once leading to a goal against (it was late in the game though, with Edmonton trailing 0-1). I have memories of Gretzky making that same kind of mistake(?) throughout his career.

If he was so clever, then why did he make "blind" passes that resulted in breakaways - and sometimes goals - for the opponent? I realiize he may have calculated that the net result would still be positive (although I'm not so sure about that).
I even would say that some of the Soviets were better passers, in the way that they seemed more reliable and defensively aware.

Rather, I find the things below to be among Gretzky's best abilities:
* know in advance where the puck will be
* getting first to the puck
* great skating ability; great at starting and stopping, change direction
* great stickhandling
* great backhand
(there's of course more)

I hope I'm not "swearing in the church" or something, when I'm mentioning an apparent weakness of Gretzky's hockey mind. It's just that he made mistakes even I know not to do, and is getting credit for things even I did lots of time (like intentionally using opponents, including the goalie, to score or deflections - haven't a lot of non-NHL:ers done that a lot?). I know Gretzky is generally considered the most intelligent NHL:er ever, but maybe his hockey intelligence is somewhat overrated, while other things that made him so good are underrated? I realize it's somewhat dependant on what one attribute to "intelligence" and what is not. Know where the puck will get is intelligence, but getting first to it also relies on skating and reaction ability. Stickhandling is a combination of physical ability, and intelligence to comprehend where the opponents are and are going. Backhand ability is probably a result of practicing. For making great plays from behind the net, timing and a good sense of where players are is of use, but great stickhandling and reaction ability is also usually required.

(I was thinking of making a new thread for this, but maybe it fits in this fairly recent thread?)
interesting post.

First, the blind pass example is off base, imo, not because it's not true, but a guy with a zillion assists will most certainly have a lot of gaffes.* This isn't about poor decisions (like Mike Komisarek trying a break out pass) a much as a creative player trying something risky to create a scoring chance.

But I agree with your main point that some of thee physical skills get underrated, but so does the hockey sense, the anticipation. Gretzky never separated himself from anyone by any attribute, certainly not skating or shooting. Even among the elites, he wasn't the best at any attribute, except maybe his elusiveness and agility.

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Old
03-04-2012, 10:21 AM
  #33
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Quote:
Originally Posted by plusandminus View Post
I've been thinking more about Gretzky, and there is one thing in particular I've been thinking about.

It seems that Gretzky (prime and post prime) used to make "blind passes" that led to turnarounds. For example, he did it in the 1981 Canada Cup final, at least once leading to a break away and goal against. He also did it several times in the first game of 1983 finals against NYI, once leading to a goal against (it was late in the game though, with Edmonton trailing 0-1). I have memories of Gretzky making that same kind of mistake(?) throughout his career.

If he was so clever, then why did he make "blind" passes that resulted in breakaways - and sometimes goals - for the opponent? I realiize he may have calculated that the net result would still be positive (although I'm not so sure about that).
I even would say that some of the Soviets were better passers, in the way that they seemed more reliable and defensively aware.

Rather, I find the things below to be among Gretzky's best abilities:
* know in advance where the puck will be
* getting first to the puck
* great skating ability; great at starting and stopping, change direction
* great stickhandling
* great backhand
(there's of course more)

I hope I'm not "swearing in the church" or something, when I'm mentioning an apparent weakness of Gretzky's hockey mind. It's just that he made mistakes even I know not to do, and is getting credit for things even I did lots of time (like intentionally using opponents, including the goalie, to score or deflections - haven't a lot of non-NHL:ers done that a lot?). I know Gretzky is generally considered the most intelligent NHL:er ever, but maybe his hockey intelligence is somewhat overrated, while other things that made him so good are underrated? I realize it's somewhat dependant on what one attribute to "intelligence" and what is not. Know where the puck will get is intelligence, but getting first to it also relies on skating and reaction ability. Stickhandling is a combination of physical ability, and intelligence to comprehend where the opponents are and are going. Backhand ability is probably a result of practicing. For making great plays from behind the net, timing and a good sense of where players are is of use, but great stickhandling and reaction ability is also usually required.

(I was thinking of making a new thread for this, but maybe it fits in this fairly recent thread?)
It's akin to the top quarterbacks in football. Throwing the long ball into double or even triple coverage is a low percentage play but the best QB's can do it with high percentages resulting in huge gains.
Gretzky could execute low percentage plays a high percentage of the time.
That is what separated him from the rest of the pack.

Of course he's still going to get burned from time to time, even making the "safe" play can get you burned but obviously in his prime, Gretzky didn't get burned very often.

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Old
03-04-2012, 10:25 AM
  #34
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Originally Posted by tarheelhockey View Post
An expert chess player anticipates what strategy his opponent has chosen, and works to take advantage of the weaknesses within their decisions. He plans an entire game in advance.
you just described lasker and he was an exception. masters see the positions dynamically. they wont look at individual pieces so much but rather they SEE/FEEL the tensions between. if you see those tensions you can play blind (dont have to remember 32 pieces and their positions)

you can create an analogy between a chessboard and icerink. rink has 12 "pieces" and all those pieces have (moving) positions. if you can "FEEL" the dynamic tensions between players you can make exceptional "moves".

i see gretz this way. other players try to quess but gretz "knew".

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Old
03-04-2012, 02:52 PM
  #35
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tazzy19 View Post
I beleve it was in the Ultimate Gretzky DVD that Walter Gretzky recounts a story of how little Wayne, at a very young age, would take a big piece of paper and a pen during Hockey Night in Canada, and actually follow the puck with his pen on the paper throughout the game. This would give him a great SENSE as to where the puck was going most of the time. He would check after the game where he had scribled the most. This also explains a lot. Now why he did this remains a mystery. Maybe it was Walter's idea?
I think I read that happened when Gretzky was seven. Walter mentioned it wasn't his idea, it was Wayne's... and Walter was surprised at the idea.

I remember neuro tests being done on 100m sprinters in the '80s. Part of Ben Johnson's success (steroids aside) was his quick response time to the sound of the starter's pistol. Turned out his neurons were firing so quickly in his body in response to the sound of the starter gun, that he was pushing DQ levels with his start out of the blocks. I'm going completely off a 25 year memory now, but as I recall it, his body needed just 0.06 seconds to start moving after hearing the gun go off. 0.05 seconds was considered a false start. On ice, those milliseconds can be all that's needed to change direction and get in one stride before the other guy. It can make a big difference if the player has the presence of mind to make a decision within that little window of time.

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Old
03-04-2012, 06:26 PM
  #36
tazzy19
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^^^ I also recall an article from the very early 80s (I believe it was actually in the book written by Peter Gzowski called The Game of Our Lives), in which they studied Gretzky's reactions and his ability to read patterns of a hockey game. Instead of seeing individual variables, they hypothesized that Gretzky had the ability to see group patterns -- a "clumping" of individual variables as one overall group pattern. In other words, he wouldn't have to react to individual players, but instead to the overall pattern that all twelve players were creating at any given moment. This was said to give him a huge advantage in predicting what would happen next, and how to react according to said group pattern. I imagine he became so good at this (as his 212 points the next season after the book was written would seem to indicate), that he actually could manipulate the group patterns -- and moreover, before the other 12 players even knew what he was doing. This is perhaps what Phil Esposito meant when he said that Gretzky knew what the opposition was going to do before even they knew themselves what they were going to do.

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