Shooting is one of the most important skills that a hockey player possesses; or doesn't possess. If you feel like you've got some room for improvement in the shooting department then take a look through some of these tips and suggestions about how to increase your shooting ability.
Q: How do I take a wrist shot?
A: When you’re taking a wrist shot the puck should rest on the heel of your blade and roll from heel to toe as you're releasing your shot. Your weight should be resting on your back foot as you're loading and transferred to your front foot as your shot is released. Following through on your shot by pointing to your target as you release your shot will greatly improve your accuracy.
Q: How do I take a snap shot?
A: Snap shots are known as the option between slap shots and wrist shots because the puck is slapped but with only a small amount of wind up. There are basically two ways to take a snap shot: 1) Lift your blade off of the ice about 6-12” away from the puck, strike the puck and follow through to take a “mini slap shot” of sorts. 2) With the puck resting on the toe of your blade, rotate the stick with your wrists so that the heel is lifted off the ice as your toe cradles the puck and then quickly snap your wrists to rotate your heel back to the ice and release the shot from the mid-toe of your blade.
The second method takes a bit more time to master because you have to develop strength and quickness in the forearm muscles that are used when performing the shot. But it is the best shot option when you need to release the puck quickly and powerfully, so it is a very important skill to develop.
Q: How do I take a slap shot?
A: For most players, the slap shot is the hardest shot in their repertoire but also their most inaccurate. There are a few common mistakes that many players make when taking a slap shot.
- A huge wind up – lifting your stick so that the shaft is almost perpendicular to the ice (≈ 150°) is as high as you need to go when winding up for a slap shot. Any higher than that is simply a waste of energy, and a costly waste of time, which is often limited when you’re trying to get a shot off before the defenders are able to steal the puck or block the shooting lane.
- Blade/ice/puck contact point – when your blade approaches the ice to slap the puck, it should first strike the ice approximately 1-3 inches behind the puck before making contact with the puck. This is a skill that takes practice, but it’s an important key to generating maximum shot power. When the blade makes contact with the ice the shaft flexes and loads. As the blade approaches the puck, the shaft whips forward and propels the puck with greater force. Players call this “making the stick do the work for you”.
- Hand placement on the shaft – players commonly place their bottom hand too low or too high on the shaft while taking a slap shot. An important technological aspect to understand about hockey sticks is that they have varying “kick points”. Hockey sticks have a low or mid kick point, which denotes the point on the shaft that flexes when pressure is applied. If your bottom hand is too high the shaft will not flex properly and you’ll generate very little shot power. If your bottom hand is too low then you’re likely to experience a power deficit as well as a lack of shot accuracy.
The best way to improve your shot is to simply practice. Don't just shoot aimlessly though – make sure that you're shooting to score every time. Pick corners, aim for the inner edges of the posts, practice shooting from tough angles on the sides of the net and release the puck as quickly as possible. Have someone pass to you so that you're forced to settle the puck quickly before releasing your shot. Accuracy and shot power are very important, but a quick release will catch the goalie by surprise, so make sure you spend time practicing shot quickness.