If you (or your child) is ready to take to the ice, these 10 tips for new hockey players will get you on the right track
Sports fans have long been interested in the thrill of hockey. Just the release of the Mighty Ducks movie franchise captured the interest of those who hadn’t a clue about the game and spurred them to become fanatics.
Hockey is an exciting Winter Olympics sport, and the fast-paced action of the NHL has ensured the sport continues to grow in popularity. In fact, hockey has become the third most popular sport worldwide, behind soccer and cricket, with more than 2 billion fans around the world. Aside from the NHL in the US and Canada, the European leagues have huge global followings as well.
The NHL continues to draw the biggest names in the sport. And the NHL odds are well browsed and bet on regularly, especially as we get closer to the Stanley Cup final, to see who gets to hoist the Stanley Cup—arguably the most coveted trophy in all of sports—this season.
If you don’t already participate in the coolest sport on the planet, these 10 tips for new hockey players will help get you on your way.
If you or someone you know is ready to take to the ice, here are the top 10 tips for beginners:
1. Start with street hockey
Unless you are a decent enough ice skater already, it can be very helpful to begin on the pavement in your running shoes. This can help you pick up an understanding of how much quick changes of direction are needed. And you’ll get an idea of the fundamentals of the game in a somewhat slower-paced version.
2. Get the basic gear
At the very least, you’ll need to score skates, stick, gloves and helmet. As you gain the confidence and join a hockey league, make sure you have the basic safety equipment. This ensures you have what you’ll need to play the game safely (which is a requirement of most if not all hockey leagues).
3. Learn to tie your laces
No joke; it’s an easy mistake to make. Laces should be snug, but don’t wrap them around your ankles. This can restrict your movement and agility as well as quickly cause pain to the ankle and top of your foot. Use the crisscross method when lacing your skates too, as this will help keep them secure and comfortable while you play.
4. Learn the rules
Understanding the basic hockey terminology for areas of the rink like the crease, neutral zone and of course the sin bin will help you get the confidence in knowing you’ll be able to follow instructions from your coach or instructor clearly.
Find out what a power play is, how you can be called for offsides and the legal ways of trying to wrest control of the puck from your opponent.
5. Practice your stickhandling
This can be done on the ice, at the park or at home—anywhere really. Get used to how you hold the stick and manipulate the puck, dragging it and moving it as well as passing and shooting. You can do this with a tennis ball on the grass or a puck on the ice, any way to get used to the movements you’ll need to make.
6. Know your position
There are normally five players on the ice at any given time, excluding the goalie, in a hockey game (one center, two wingers and two defensemen). Each player has a specific position which identifies his or her role on the ice.
Aside from getting the puck past the goalie, centers assume the role of attacking through the middle of the ice (neutral zone), as well as distract opposition defenders to give their wingers the chance to score. The center isn’t just focused on attacking; they are expected to help the defense as well by keeping the puck as far from their own goal as possible.
Wingers operate to the left and right sides of the center and strive for speed as they move across the ice. They work the puck out of the defensive zones and help the center score goals. They are responsible for creating chances, intercepting the puck and blocking shots and passes from the opponent.
Defensemen are there to defend attacks from the opposition. They gain possession of the puck and control the game by either bringing the puck out of the defensive zone or passing it to the wingers or center.
7. Try being a goalie
Would you prefer to keep pucks out of rather than trying to get them in the net? If you’ve got quick reflexes, don’t mind wearing the necessary pads and have no fear of getting hit by a puck, then goalie may be the position for you. Their role is to stay in the crease and keep the puck from crossing the goal line and getting into the net. Although they appear to be standing in one place through most of the game, excellent fitness and skating skills are paramount for this position.
8. Keep your stick on the ice!
Don’t lift your stick when you skate. Keeping it on the ice as you skate will increase your chances of receiving a pass, or intercepting one made to an opposing player. Learning to skate with you stick on the ice at all times ensures there is no lack of reaction time.
9. Stay fit
Hockey is a sport that requires a lot of energy to play. To perform at your best, you need to be fit. That means eating right, getting enough rest, and exercising off the ice too.
10. Watch the pros
Aside from these 10 tips for new hockey players, you can learn a lot by watching professional hockey games to see how they play the sport. That’s especially true if they are in the position you want to play as well. You’ll also find great role models to learn from to develop your skill on the ice.