Tips to improve your stickhandling abilities
Hockey is a sport that requires constant practice.
From skating skills to puck handling, there is always something to learn.
Just like there is always something to learn, there is always someone who has something to teach. Puck handling is one of the most important skills for hockey players, who need to be able to put the puck where they want it and shoot to score.
Fortunately, there are drills that hockey players of all levels can practice on a regular basis. Some can even be done without having to be on the ice.
One of the most important things for hockey players to have is the ability to move the puck with ease. Fortunately, there are several ways to practice stickhandling and many of them do not require any ice time.
Here are several drills that hockey players can practice both on and off the ice:
Work off the ice to improve on the ice
It is possible to practice stickhandling in a driveway, garage, or other large space.
Instead of using a heavy, and potentially dangerous puck, stickhandling can be practiced with lightweight hockey puck balls.
These little foam balls are not easy to use, but they can certainly improve skills with the puck. Bouncing these around on the blade of the stick can develop skills that transfer onto the ice. Since these can be used anywhere, it is possible to practice with them every single day.
Work on soft hands
Develop soft hands with a basic puck handling drill. Hockey players have an easier time controlling the puck if they can cup it with the blade. So, using a puck or a practice ball, hockey players should work on moving from forehand to backhand with a simple wrist action.
By rolling the wrist under and over, you will develop a comfort that will transfer onto the ice. The green biscuit puck is a good tool to use with this drill.
If it becomes easy to move the puck back and forth, try doing it without letting the puck make any noise.
Strengthen wrists and forearms
To improve your puck handling skills, it is important to strengthen your wrists and forearms.
When you are working on your stickhandling, try using a weighted ball. It might not be easy, but your muscles will develop as your practice your wrist rolls.
If the weighted ball is too much, there are also hockey stick weights that you can add to the blade to temporarily increase the weight and build your strength.
Speed and agility
Along with being able to handle a weighted puck or stick, it is also important to add speed to you stickhandling skills.
Hockey never slows down, so your hands need to be quick to manage the puck and keep it away from your opponents. It is not easy to practice speed, but there are a few drills that work.
One involves smooth handling paired with speed. Setting up cones and moving the puck between them as quickly as possible will help you learn how to maneuver with speed and precision.
It is best to start slowly and build up speed as your puck handling gets better. Many pro shops will have special gear that you can buy to help with speed and precision, too.
Don’t drop your head
One of the most important skills for stickhandling involves keeping your head up while you are moving the puck.
This is something that must be practiced regularly. If you look down, you will get knocked around by your opponents. So you should only practice using your stick with your head up, so you do it in real game play.
It is truly a safety issue, so be sure you can manage the puck without having to look at it. Every drill you do should eventually end up with you looking up, not look at the blade and the puck.
Keep the stick away from your body
Another important skill that you can practice is keeping the stick away from your body.
Your hands should not be tight to your body, but should be away so you can keep control of the puck. You want to have a full range of motion and holding your hands in reduces that. Practice with hockey cones so you increase your range and length as you move the puck around them.
Find some obstacles and move around them
Obstacles can help with other stickhandling skills. If you set up obstacles in positions that mimic what you will see on the ice, you can work on your speed and agility with stickhandling.
There are several types of obstacles that you can use to practice with, but you can also find some of your own and use them in your driveway or in your garage. It’s about stickhandling here, not skating.
Forehand and backhand practice
While you are working on different types of stickhandling drills, you can always work on forehand and backhand skills.
This can be done on or off the ice. Work on using the stick all around your body, not just out in front. Since you will most likely have to use your stick in a variety of different ways on the ice, practice those variations as often as possible. You can do this with a practice puck or with a foam ball.
Stickhandling while standing still and moving
It is also helpful to practice working with your stick while you are standing still and while moving.
Why not walk up and down the sidewalk flipping the stick while looking dead ahead?
Or, you can practice bouncing the a foam ball on the blade while watching TV in your living room. Practice using that stick as often as you can and eventually, your moves will become second nature.
Develop games to measure growth
Lastly, hockey players should come up with their own puck handling and stickhandling games.
With little games, you can keep track of your improvement and the issues that you continue to have. These can be as simple as counting how many wrist rolls you can do while bouncing a training ball and always trying to increase the number.
These can also involve games with other people, which can be a fun way to work on stickhandling skills.
Interested in learning more? Check out our advanced series of hockey skills from our Ice Hockey 101 guide.