Like skating, shooting and passing, stickhandling is a fundamental skill every hockey player must master. Without it, you will be unable to fake out a goalie to score a goal or maintain possession of the puck at key points during a game.
Great stickhandling adds flash to your game, but its true importance is how it enhances your play on the ice. The fine-tuned techniques of elite NHL players like Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin give them a definite edge over opponents. They can fake out a defenseman, maintain possession of the puck and speed down the ice to set up a game-changing assist or goal.
When handling the stick, use your top hand to control the blade and your bottom hand to position and support the shaft. Obviously, it's best to practice your stickhandling drills on the ice with a puck, but since personal ice time is often hard to get, you can work off the ice with a ball that weighs about the same as a puck, like the Smart Hockey Stickhandling Ball, a golf ball or a street hockey ball.
To improve your technique, precision and speed, perform the following three stickhandling drills, which mimic game situations:
Three Puck Stickhandling Drill
- Set up three pucks in a triangle with 18 inches between them
- Assume ready position with knees bent, chest and head up and puck or ball on stick
- Start at puck A and drag around outside of puck B, creating a half figure-eight
- Drag puck around outside of puck C, creating another half figure-eight
- Pull puck down and back around puck A
- Continue for specified time
- Perform set in opposite direction, starting at puck B
Sets/Duration: 5x30 seconds each direction
Benefits: Enhances your ability to transition the puck from your forehand to your backhand while moving in multiple directions
Three-Way Stickhandling Drill
- Assume ready position with knees bent, chest and head up and fourth puck or ball on stick in front
- Stickhandle for 10 seconds, maintaining a tight pattern of about six inches
- Stickhandle to right for 10 seconds, maintaining a tight pattern of about six inches
- Stickhandle to left for 10 seconds, maintaining a tight pattern of about six inches
- Perform set stickhandling with broad pattern of two to three feet
Sets/Duration: 5x30 seconds each pattern
Benefits: Improves stickhandling speed and precision in different positions so you can maintain puck possession in different areas of the rinkStickhandling Mayhem Drill
- Drop 15 to 20 pucks on ice or ground over 10' x 10' area
- Stickhandle randomly through pucks, changing directions and patterns
- Perform for specified time
Sets/Duration: 5x30 seconds
Benefits: Develops stickhandling creativity so you can weave your way around opponents trying to steal the puck. For an added challenge, perform drill with a partner to force you to maintain awareness of your surroundings.
Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock