Stick handling in hockey is one of the skills fundamental to the game. You must develop these puck handling skills to maintain possession, deke the goalie, give and receive passes and shoot the puck. Luckily, you can practice honing your skills both on and off the ice.
Here are six tips for stick handling in hockey to start you on your way to stardom and reputation as an ultimate “dangler“:
1. Keep your head up when carrying the puck. Be aware of both opposing players and team mates. Keep your stick in front of your body and treat the puck like an egg. Don’t break it. Practice stick handling blindfolded with a tennis ball in your basement or garage.
2. When stick handling “cup” the puck with the blade of your stick. Tilt the blade in the direction you are moving the puck. A wide range of motion will make it more difficult for your opponents to reach the puck and will still allow you to maintain control. Remember to keep your head up.
3. When practicing, move the puck from your forehand to your backhand and back again. Keep the puck moving in all directions and include variations in your movements. You don’t want to be predictable.
4. Develop strong wrists and quick, soft hands. You should be able to move the puck around with little sound. Try to avoid the erratic slapping when stick handling. Exercise your hand, wrist and forearm muscles to develop the strength needed for great puck handling.
5. Practice with obstacles. Place various items around your stick handling course to simulate other players. Negotiate your way around these obstacles with greater and greater speed as your skill improves.
6. The toe drag: Easy to learn – turn your stick over so that the tip of the blade touches the ice in front of the puck. Pull back with the top hand while sliding your stick through the bottom hand, roll the top hand so the blade is on the ice, catch the puck with the blade. Tough to master – takes a lot of practice, first with a tennis or hockey ball at home, then on skates, then moving on skates, then faster and so on.
Whether you play forward, defence or goalie you will need to be able to handle the puck. Hockey is played at such a high pace and skill level that only through practice and repetition can you develop the soft hands and speed needed to succeed. Always push yourself beyond your comfort zone to achieve the dexterity required for stick handling in hockey.
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by C. W. Watson