Ice hockey is a very unique sport – especially when it’s compared to the other 3 professional team sports in North America (Baseball; Basketball; Football). Each of these sports have many things in common, but there are many things that set ice hockey apart from the rest.
- Hockey is played on an ice surface rather than a field or court
- Hockey players wear skates rather than cleats or shoes
- Hockey is played with a goaltender to defend the net
- Hockey is played with sticks and pucks rather than bats and balls
- Player substitutions are often made on the fly
- Transitions from offense to defense occur continuously without any stoppage of play
- Every whistle and stoppage of play requires a faceoff
- When an infraction occurs, the referee assesses a penalty which puts the team of the offending player shorthanded for the duration of the penalty
- There are no shot clocks or limitations on possession time
The list goes on, but you get the point. Despite all of these differences, as a hockey player you should recognize that in order to reach your full potential on the ice you should engage yourself in other sports. Playing other sports will help you develop your hand-eye coordination, keep you in shape, strengthen different muscle groups, improve your mental awareness, and you’ll be far less likely to get burned out on hockey. The key is to keep yourself involved in activities that will challenge you and help you grow as an athlete. That could mean swimming, running, golfing, or hunting – just stay active.
One of the best crossover sports for hockey players is lacrosse. Lacrosse is becoming more and more popular every year, and as a hockey player you’ll find that the transition is fairly seamless. Just like hockey, lacrosse is a fast-paced sport that requires quick decisions, great mental awareness, pinpoint passing skills, and the willingness to sacrifice your body in order to make a play. Lacrosse is a very physical sport and most leagues are full contact, so you have to keep your head on a swivel and be able to make plays without missing a stride. Playing lacrosse will help you develop soft hands for hockey, too. Lacrosse sticks are made with a webbed head on the end which is used to cradle the ball. Learning to cradle the ball well will drastically improve your puckhandling skills – so, even if you aren’t playing in a lacrosse league, a lacrosse stick would be a great training tool for any hockey player.
If you keep an open mind about playing other sports in addition to hockey, you’ll be amazed by the growth you experience when you step back onto the ice. The difference between good athletes and great athletes is that great athletes are incredibly versatile and well-rounded.