10 ways to up your game and become a more effective force on the ice
By Andy Heath
Hockey is gaining in popularity more and more in North America, and also has an impressive presence on the international stage. This after all is a sport that is popular throughout much of Europe and Russia, and even the UK. But just why do people love it so much?
It goes without saying that watching hockey games—either live or on TV—helps the sport reach so many people. There is just nothing quite like seeing the action unfold on ice and enjoying the fast-paced play, not to mention those bone-crushing hits or occasional fisticuffs.
Betting on hockey games is also something that has helped draw more people to the sport in recent times. This has been especially true in the US, where the legalization of sports betting in many states has seen hockey wagering explode. If you plan to bet on hockey games yourself, just remember to use the latest promo codes in order to get the best bonuses when signing up with an online sportsbook.
The Growing Popularity of Rec Hockey
Of course, the other major reason for hockey’s enduring status as a top sport is the number of people who play it recreationally. Whether it is youth games or adults lacing up for the beer leagues, recreational hockey is a catalyst that helps the sport flourish.
If you love playing hockey, you will no doubt be looking for ways to improve over time. This can help you to become a better player, and impress your teammates (and yourself) while getting some exercise, making friends and contacts, and having the time of your life.
Just as learning how to deal with losing in hockey can actually make you a stronger player, finding ways to get better overall can also help you thrive. Here are 10 tips you can use to up your hockey skills.
1. Skate As Much As You Can
Just making the effort to play more hockey in your spare time is enough to up your game. Spending more time with the stick in your hand is great for fine tuning your passing, shooting, anticipation and hockey smarts.
It will also build muscle memory and help you work on your general fitness, agility and balance.
2. Play Other Sports Too
Although your main focus should be on hockey if you want to up your game, it can also help to train a little in other sports too. This might sound crazy but it can work very well in your favor.
It all comes down to transferable skills and how things you learn in other sports can boost your hockey prowess. Playing a little tennis, for example, can improve hand-eye coordination and arm power.
3. Work in Some Hockey-Specific Weight Training
If you are not following a specific weight lifting plan for hockey when training in your spare time, you may be missing out on a major way to up your game. The key thing to note here is that you are not lifting weights to become a strongman or powerlifter.
You must follow a program that makes you hockey strong and one that is tailored specifically to the sport. By following an appropriate program, you will find you should have:
- More leg power to skate faster
- More arm power for a harder shot
- More body strength to protect the puck
A good tip is to find specific hockey weight-training programs to produce the above results.
4. Consider Private Lessons
While this might be a costly option, private lessons can produce faster, better results. The important thing is to find a program or instructor who knows what they are talking about.
Ideally, this will be someone who has played at a higher level at some point in the past. If you can lay out the bucks, it’s an awesome way to up your game: you get one-on-one instruction, and someone to tell you exactly which areas of your game you need to improve.
5. Up Your Game With Visualization Techniques
In essence, this technique involves taking time to think about how a game or practice might pan out before you actually step foot on the ice. You should visualize exactly how you want it to go and mentally envision yourself playing well.
It can also be useful to visualize specific things before a game or practice, such as successfully pulling off that sick move, scoring on every shot you take, or winning every face-off. By doing this, you will not only be more confident when playing for real but also more focused on the game.
6. Stretching is Key
The cool thing about finding ways to up your hockey game is how simple some of them can be. Stretching is a classic example, and best of all it doesn’t cost a thing. When you also consider that it’s not difficult and doesn’t take up too much time, it gets even better.
The key thing is to stretch for around 10 minutes before—and after—you play. This applies to scrimmages as well as any more serious games you might participate in.
Stretching before games helps warm up your muscles and can help make you more flexible, while stretching after a game helps to boost your recovery the next day.
7. Watch More Hockey
We have already noted that playing more hockey can help you get better. But did you know that watching more hockey can also prove effective?
Whether it is NHL games on TV or games at your local arena, checking out more hockey can help you develop a deeper understanding of the game. It can also help you get a feel for how proficient players in your position operate, and the key things they do to succeed in a game.
8. Watch What You Eat
Taking care of your diet properly can keep your body in better shape for hockey. In addition, it can help you feel better and be more alert when playing.
A good tip is remembering to stay hydrated in your regular off-ice routine, and to drink plenty of water each day. When playing games or at practice, electrolyte-based drinks can be handy to give your energy levels a lift.
In terms of food, eating fresh fruit and vegetables can be key. Be sure to add some healthy protein to build muscle strength. If you also avoid processed, fried or sugary items, you should see and feel the difference.
9. Take Your Hockey Seriously
Whether you play youth or beer league hockey, people play hockey for the fun of it. Even the pros derive immense pleasure from playing the game.This is an important aspect of the sport and something you should continue doing.
To get better at it, though, it can also pay off to take it seriously when it’s needed. This might sound unnerving; but it just means always keeping your focus and trying your best when you’re on the ice.
10. Get Some Zzzzzs
The simple fact is that all of these tips will not deliver top results if you are not getting enough rest. If you are lacking in decent sleep every night, you will be sluggish mentally and physically when training or playing.
Lack of sleep will prevent you from training as hard as you can and prevent you from performing to the best of your best abilities.
With this in mind, aim to get around eight hours of good, quality sleep every night. It can also be worth having a set routine in terms of when you go to bed and when you get up. Always unplug from your TV or smartphone as these have been proven to affect your sleep.
Finally, if you enjoy playing hockey recreationally but want to up your game, these 10 tips can help. And if you find that following all 10 of them is too daunting, you will probably do best if you pick a few you’d like to try and give them a shot.
Whatever you decide to do, if you set a routine and follow it consistently over a period of time, you should experience noticeable improvements in your hockey skills.
Consult a physician before undertaking any training or nutrition program to ensure it’s right for you.