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On defense with Alan Leggett

August 28, 2011 Defense, General No Comments

On defense with Alan Leggett
By Bob Cunningham
Oct 30, 2001, 11:08


There are many subtle, and even not-so-subtle, differences between ice hockey and its thawed cousin, roller hockey. And the trick to effectively taking advantage of those variations, says defenseman Alan Leggett, is to know how you’re affected by the differences—rather than just identifying what they are.

For instance, notes Leggett, who skates with the San Diego Barracudas of Roller Hockey International, it is widely accepted that roller hockey is slower than the frozen version. The puck doesn’t move as quickly, and neither do the players. But that comparative lack of mobility in roller hockey is exactly why a defenseman is more likely to get burned if he’s not careful.

“It’s an adjustment to be able to learn to maneuver on roller blades, because you can’t cut and stop and switch directions,” says Leggett, a player-coach for the Barracudas. “I’ve been fortunate in that regard. I’ve been able to make the adjustment pretty easily.”

Not every RHI player, says Leggett, makes the transition so smoothly. Virtually every RHI player has significant ice hockey experience.

“Some guys will go the whole year without really getting comfortable,” Leggett observes. “They get frustrated. They can’t mentally adjust.”

Still, when you come down to the nitty-gritty, a fundamentally sound roller hockey defenseman has a familiar top priority: stop the opposing team from scoring. Then, if the opportunity presents itself, take advantage of your own scoring chances.

“Defense (comes) first,” Leggett confirms. “When the opportunity arises, sure, you go after it. I guess it’s a matter of jumping up in a play rather than leaving a play. Some defensemen, in this league as well as ice hockey, are very offensive defenseman. I’m more conservative.”

Leggett, a native of Wainwright, Alberta, has played professional hockey since 1989. His ice hockey roots go from Virginia to Czechoslovakia to the San Diego Gulls of the International Hockey League to Raleigh, NC. He joined the Barracudas prior to this season.

Before embarking on his professional career, he was a four-year member of the vaunted Bowling Green University ice hockey program.

Leggett’s best season, statistically speaking, was 1992/93, when he garnered 79 points in 64 games with the ECHL’s Raleigh IceCaps. So, he can play some offense, too.

“I certainly try take advantage of the opportunities,” he says. “I just don’t put scoring ahead of preventing the other team from scoring.”

At 6’2” and 205 pounds, Leggett has the prerequisite size to be physical, but he says he bangs only when necessary, again because in roller hockey it’s so easy to get locked out of a play through lack of recovery time.

“I’m not a Scott Stevens sort of guy, where I try to hit everything that moves,” Leggett says. “But I’m not a Paul Coffey, either. I’m somewhere in between.”

“A thinking man’s game”

Leggett notes that, overall, roller hockey isn’t as physical as ice hockey. The reason?

“I really think a lot has to do with not being able to take chances. It’s a thinking man’s game. Not that you don’t have to think in ice hockey, but I believe it might even be more important in roller hockey.”

Adding pressure to the roller hockey defenseman’s role is the lack of a blueline in the RHI. Offenses can pass the puck into the scoring zone immediately upon crossing the red line.

“Without a blueline, they can make a pass from the red line right to the goal,” Leggett says. “That makes it even easier for a defenseman to wind up out of position—and again, once you’re out of position in roller hockey, it’s tougher to recover.”

Leggett believes that, as in all sports, the mental approach to roller hockey is often more important that what a player is capable of physically. And the right mental balance, he says, is an attitude of confidence tempered by realism.

“That’s one thing that I see that gets to a lot of younger players. They go into a game with a lack of confidence,” Leggett explains. “You certainly don’t want to be overconfident. But you have to know you can play. You have to know that if you’re faced with a situation where you’re the only one that can prevent that goal, that you’re up to it.

“A lot of younger players lack that, because they don’t have the experience.”

Now that’s he an assistant coach as well as a player, Leggett, who will be 30 this month, wants to instill that confidence in younger charges on the Barracudas.

“It’s really important to believe in yourself and what you can do.” l


— Bob Cunningham

This first appeared in the 08/1995 issue of Hockey Player Magazine®
© Copyright 1991-2001 Hockey Player® and Hockey Player Magazine®

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