Stickhandling Essentials

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Stickhandling-Essentials
West Point-The U.S. Military Academy

Stickhandling essentials are important to master, at all hockey levels

By David Franco

Stepping onto the ice for the first time, hockey stick in hand, can be both exhilarating and daunting. The intricate dance of skating with the puck, weaving through opponents and gracefully getting it past the goalie and into the net, is something every hockey player aspires to master.

The foundation of these skills lies in superior stickhandling. Whether you’re a budding hockey player or one who is looking to refine your skills, these stickhandling essentials are for you.

Importance of Stickhandling Essentials

Before diving into the drills, it’s paramount to understand the significance of stickhandling. At its core, stickhandling allows a player to control the puck, maneuver it around opponents and set up plays or shots. For a beginner, mastering this skill can significantly enhance on-ice confidence and overall gameplay.

In hockey, stickhandling is both an art and a precise skill. As you become more proficient in the sport, you’ll uncover a wealth of techniques that can take your game to the next level. Remember, every NHL legend started out just like you, learning the stickhandling essentials. With hard work, passion and the right practice routines, you too can excel at this skill.

It’s no secret that those who have excelled at stickhandling have seen their name featured in FanDuel NHL odds as a top player in the big league.

Bare Essentials of Stickhandling

For these drills, ensure you have the following:

  • A standard ice hockey stick. Especially if you’re a beginner, choose one that’s comfortable and the right length.
  • A puck (a hockey ball can be easier for beginners).
  • Proper protective gear. Safety first!
  • A smooth surface. It can be your local rink at an open hockey session, a smooth garage floor or driveway, or even the street for off-ice practice.

Fundamental Drills to Kickstart Your Journey

These drills are designed to lay a solid foundation for your stickhandling prowess. Here are some basic training drills you can do to elevate your skills:

Stationary Stickhandling

Objective: Familiarize yourself with the puck and how it responds to your stick movements.

Procedure:

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart
  • Place the puck in front of you
  • Using soft hands, move the puck from side to side
  • As you become more comfortable, increase the width and speed of your movements

The Figure-Eight Drill

Objective: Enhance hand coordination and the ability to move the puck around obstacles.

Procedure:

  • Place two objects, like cones, about two feet apart
  • Begin by stickhandling the puck around the first object, moving in a figure-eight pattern
  • Keeping your head up, try to use your peripheral vision to guide you
  • As your skills advance, reduce the distance between the objects or increase your speed

Dribbling Drill

Objective: Improve the speed of moving the puck back and forth.

Procedure:

  • With the puck in front of you, quickly tap it from your backhand to your forehand
  • Focus on short, rapid movements, using only your wrists for the motion
  • Over time, challenge yourself by looking up or increasing your dribbling speed

Wide Reach Drill

Objective: Extend your range of motion and puck control.

Procedure:

  • Spread your feet out and place the puck between them
  • Using your stick, move the puck as far to your left as you can reach and then as far to your right
  • Ensure smooth transitions, maintaining control throughout the reach

Tips for Effective Practice

Consistency is Key: Like any skill, stickhandling improves with regular practice. Dedicate time daily or several times a week.

Use Video Resources: In our digital age, countless tutorials and demonstrations are available online. Observing professionals and emulating their techniques can be immensely beneficial.

Feedback Loop: Consider recording your practice sessions. Watching your movements can help you identify areas for improvement.

Stay Relaxed: Ensure that your grip on the stick is firm yet relaxed. Tense hands can hinder smooth movement; having soft hands is always good.

Elevating Your Skills: Advanced Techniques

As you get the hang of the basics, it’s time to step up your game and explore more advanced stickhandling techniques. This will not only polish your abilities but also better prepare you for real in-game action.

Puck Flipping

Objective: Develop the ability to lift and catch the puck using your stick.

Procedure:

  • Start by balancing the puck on the blade of your stick
  • With a swift upward motion, flip the puck into the air
  • As it descends, cushion its fall using the stick blade, trying to regain control without letting it hit the ground

One-Handed Control

Objective: Enhance puck control using just one hand, which can be beneficial in tight spaces during a game.

Procedure:

  • With only one hand on the stick (preferably your dominant hand), move the puck around your body
  • Focus on maintaining control and ensuring the puck remains in contact with your stick
  • As you advance, introduce obstacles to maneuver around, simulating real-game defenders

Incorporating Physical Fitness

Stickhandling is not solely about hand-eye coordination; your physical condition plays a significant role. Enhancing certain aspects of your fitness can considerably improve your stickhandling prowess.

Core Strength: The core is the powerhouse of the body. Engaging in exercises like planks, Russian twists, or leg raises can improve your balance on the ice and the force behind each puck movement.

Wrist Flexibility and Strength: The wrists are central to stickhandling. Include wrist curls, stretches and resistance-band exercises in your routine to bolster wrist strength and flexibility.

The Journey Ahead

Lastly, stickhandling is at the heart of every hockey player’s on-ice performance. As you become more proficient in the game, keep in mind that patience and practice are your best allies. With these stickhandling essentials as your foundation, you will no doubt increase your level of confidence and comfort on the ice.

So lace up, grab your stick and let the journey begin, filled with amazing goals, intricate plays and the unbeatable feeling of a puck smoothly controlled by expert stickhandling.

David Franco is a frequent contributor to CrossIceHockey.com. He is a sports fan and dedicated writer who has been analyzing teams, players and plays in order to provide the most accurate opinions around the sports universe.

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