Q: How do I improve my puck handling skills?
A: Puck handing skills can be improved by practicing puck handling drills, using training pucks and experimenting with different blade patterns until you find the one that works best for you. It’s also important to strengthen your forearms and hands with workout routines that target the muscles which are used in puck handling.
One of the most popular puck handling drills is the figure 8. You can place two small cones, your gloves or other stationary objects on the ground and stickhandle around the objects. Make a habit of keeping your head up while you handle the puck so that you are able to protect yourself during a game when other players are lining you up for a hit. When you’re practicing any puck handling drill it is important to focus on moving the puck in a fluid motion that requires the smallest amount possible of forehand to backhand puck movement. Having good hands doesn’t mean that you can simply move the puck back and forth at 100 miles per hour – it means that you’re able to maintain complete control of the puck without over-handling it. Quick, soft hands are better than quick, choppy hands.
Use weighted pucks and stick weights while practicing and you’ll notice a drastic difference in the ease with which you are able to deke and dangle while using a regulation puck during a game. Keep in mind that muscle memory is a huge part of performing any athletic maneuver, so after training with a weighted puck you’ll need to give your muscles time to adjust to the weight of a regulation hockey puck before you start playing in a game.
You can relate it to the way that your legs feel when you’ve been running on a treadmill and then you step off of the treadmill and begin to walk on the ground again – you feel like the ground can’t keep up with your legs. Similarly, the puck will feel much lighter as you’re handling it and at first it may feel a bit awkward because your muscles are anticipating more weight resistance from the puck. But, eventually your muscles readjust and you’re able to handle the puck with greater control and precision because less effort is required due to the decrease in weight.
Another way to improve your puckhandling skills is to explore different blade pattern options. Blade patterns are available in many variations and the differences are evident in the way that you are able to handle the puck with each different pattern. Make sure you experiment with many different types before settling on one or another. And keep in mind that each blade pattern offers a different set of puck handling pros and cons. Some blades offer great forehand puck protection; others will improve your toe drag; some will cause the puck to rest on your heel while others cause it to settle on the middle or toe of the blade. All of these options are available to you so that you are able to enhance your game as an individual with a unique skill set and playing style.