December 29, 2008, Updated September 13, 2012

Before the tots are learning how to walk, hockey moms and dads are already fitting them with ice-skates. Those that aspire for the NHL start early, and send their kids to hockey camp in the summer, and buy all the new pro hockey equipment in the winter.

But not every boy – or girl – is a natural born hockey player. According to USA Hockey, which is co-developing a new computerized hockey training software with Israeli cognitive training software developer Applied Cognitive Engineering (ACE), one doesn’t have to rely on natural talent alone to make it to the big league.

No penalties, no pucks

“This training system is revolutionary in nature. It will provide players with a highly-effective training tool to develop perception and decision-making skills (i.e. hockey sense) and enable their coaches to fine tune the training program and follow-up on the progress of the players,” Dave Fischer, director of media and public relations for USA Hockey, tells ISRAEL21c.

“Coaches have long considered ‘hockey sense’ to be a born gift. This product will truly help players develop hockey sense, a training method never before available,” he adds.

The new software, similar to the successful Basketball Intelligym developed by ACE and now in use by major league Basketball teams in the US, will be launched next Christmas.

USA Hockey is partnered with Israel’s ACE through BIRD – the Binational Industrial Research and Development Foundation, which connects American companies with Israeli ones, giving them funds to co-develop products.

The idea that cognitive exercises on a computer could help with game play, began with Prof. Daniel Gopher from the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, who developed a software to train fighter pilots. Flexing the brain in areas that include decision-making, pattern recognition, attention control and peripheral vision, as examples, ACE’s Intelligym can give those in training a mental workout that no coach can provide.

An early advantage in a competitive sport

“Hockey is the fastest sport in the world; it’s very rapid and requires a lot of decision making,” says Danny Dankner, the CEO of ACE. Dankner studied with Gopher at the Technion and founded the Hod Hasharon company with three friends in 2001. The company also has offices in East Hanover, New Jersey.

Dankner explains that ACE’s Intelligym is ideal for brain training. Modifying the basketball software for hockey, the new tool will be marketed to younger folks, and their parents: “We do plan to use it with national teams to help professional players, but we are aiming for the younger player,” he tells ISRAEL21c.

The idea to work on a training tool for hockey started in Canada. “It came by way of a venture capital fund that invested in our company,” says Dankner. “They are Canadian, and took us to Toronto to see some ice rinks. It was awesome. Hockey is like a religion there.”

Although the solution is expected to enhance play, the screen of the software isn’t meant to resemble real game play. A player manipulates simple on-screen activities, while the program analyzes skills and customizes a training program that matches each player. Says Dankner: “We provide the equivalent of hundreds of hours of on-court training in just a few hours in front of a computer screen.”

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Jason Harris

Jason Harris

Executive Director

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