Skate to Where the Puck is Going

May 2013. Police Officers, with the drainage culvert behind them.

Fall 2013. Heavy rains had turned the normal trickle in the culvert into a raging current. A dog in the park slid down the grassy slope into the swift moving water. Before his owner could make sense of what was going on, the dog got sucked into the water-filled underground pipe!

Another park patron called 911. Several beat cops responded to the call. I happened to know where that sewer pipe flowed downstream. It lead to a small retention pond a couple neighborhoods over, then went back underground to traverse the expressway.

Simply, I knew where the dog was going. And I went there. Not to where his owner was still panicking. Before we knew it, “Sammy” was reunited with his owner!


This story has lessons of anticipation & prediction.

I skate to where the puck is going to be, not to where it has been.” 
~ Wayne Gretzky 

In policing, we respond to plenty of “moving” emergencies — running suspects, car chases, offenders fleeing the scene.

I teach our cops to “skate to where the puck is going.” In doing so, we catch many more bad guys (& dogs) than if we respond directly to the crime scene where the offenders are nowhere to be found.

In the case of the “doggy water slide,” we knew exactly where the engineered path led. It was linear & known.

Humans don’t behave linearly or predictably. But there are still clues, tendencies, strategy, & psychology in rightly guessing or anticipating on what route a suspect might be fleeing…

This is a game of odds. We inevitably lose sometimes. Like today — we took the wrong turn. (Fortunately, someone else caught them!)


Despite an uncertain future, you must commit to decisive action. Learn your industry. Know the signals. Crunch the data. Play the odds. Exploit an advantage. Be biased toward acting.

Standing still is rarely a good option. Keep moving ahead of the puck.


Lou Hayes, Jr. is a detective supervisor in a suburban Chicago police department. He's focused on multi-jurisdictional crime patterns & intelligence, through organic working groups compromised of investigators & analysts from a variety of agencies. With a passion for training, he studies human performance, decision-making, creativity, emotional intelligence, & adaptability. In 2021, he went back to college (remotely!), in hopes to finally finish his undergrad degree from the University of Illinois - Gies College of Business. Follow Lou on LinkedIn, & also the LinkedIn page for The Illinois Model


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