Stickhandling Tips that Every Hockey Player Should Know

Post image for Stickhandling Tips that Every Hockey Player Should Know

by Jeremy Rupke on February 11, 2010

How to Stickhandle

Stickhandling is very important in hockey, many young players may think they know how to stickhandle, but you may be surprised what you are doing wrong!

I used to think I was pretty good with the puck, I could get around players, I could deke and I could score goals. I lived by this notion until I was about 16 years old, and wanted to score even more. I started looking around for information about stickhandling and deking. I started studying the best stickhandlers in the NHL and I began to realize something, I could be a lot better. Don’t make the same mistakes I did, learn the proper way from the start. This article will help you learn the proper way to stickhandle, and how you can control the puck in any situation

Stickhandling Basics

When most players practice stickhandling they practice with the puck in front of them and moving the puck back and forth. For beginning players this is fine, you need to get a feel for the puck, and practice stickhandling with your head up. But when you get older, or better at hockey you should practice a lot more. When you first start stickhandling practice moving the puck back and forth. Lift your head and just feel the puck, see what it feels like on your forehand, on your backhand, near the toe of the blade, near the heel of your blade. Get to know these feelings, by registering those feelings in your brain you will improve a lot at keeping your head up and not losing the puck as much. But there is more to stickhandling than moving the puck back and forth….

This is the proper way to hold the stick when you are stickhandling

You can see in the left picture that my top hand is to the side of my body. This reduces range of motion, the proper way to hold the stick is how I am holding the stick on the right. This allows free movement of the stick around the entire body

The Golden Rule of Stickhandling

Many players think that stickhandling is moving the puck back and forth, this is wrong. When you practice stickhandling you should practice controlling the puck every where you can reach with your hockey stick. This means moving the puck side to side AND forwards and backwards, in front of you, on both sides of you, and even behind you. Practice this as soon as you can and as often as you can. Not only will you be able to stickhandle through heavy traffic, and around a lot more players, you will also be able to recover the puck more often when it is knocked off of your stick, and you will also be able to receive more passes.

How to practice stickhandling

You can see here that I am practicing controlling the puck within the furthest reach in every direction. Every hockey player should practice this in order to have full control of the puck whenever it is close to them

If you can control the puck around your entire body you will not have to slow down and wait for a pass, you will be able to reach back, tap the puck forwards and take off. Stickhandling around your entire body will give you a huge advantage over other players who only practice stickhandling in front of them, and you will be able to stickhandle around a lot more players.

Practice your Reach

This is very important in stickhandling. A lot of players keep their top hand (the hand on the top of the stick) by their side, this is very restricting and gives you a limited range of motion when stickhandling. The proper way to hold the stick is with your top hand in front of you, this allows you to move your stick (and the puck) all the way around your body. Practice moving the puck as far as you can to the right, and then bringing it back, and then moving it as far as you can to the left and then bringing it back. For even more reach practice let go of the stick with your bottom hand when you are reaching to your backhand side.

Practicing reach in hockey

You can see here how much ice I can cover, simply by moving the puck from one side to the other. Having this knowledge can help a hockey player in many situations

Practice the Toe Drag

The toe drag is such a powerful move in hockey, you would be crazy not to master it. How often have you seen NHL players embarrass NHL defensemen with a ridiculous toe drag? It happens quite a bit,  I have attached a video of a nice toe drag by Michael Ryder .

If players can use this move on NHL defensemen and get away with it, then once you master it you should be able to use it to get around your opponents. For more information on the toe drag see my article and video How to Do a Toe Drag

Hockey Toedrag

Here I am practicing a toe drag around another puck. There are many different types of toe drags which I will cover in another article

Take it to the Ice

Now that you have practiced stickhandling and mastered controlling the puck around your entire body you are ready to take it to the ice. Keep in mind you should always be practicing your stickhandling and deking, but try to leave the moves you have not mastered yet to the practice, and only use moves you have mastered during games (especially playoff games)

Always Move the Puck

This is a good general rule, by moving the puck you are always prepared to make a deke or move on the opponent, and the opponent will always be thinking about what you are going to do next. Moving the puck is also known as dribling (moving the puck back and forth quickly) There are dekes that require you to keep the puck stationairy (like the bait and switch, will add article soon) but for the most part you should always be moving the puck.

Use Your Body

Stickhandling should not just be arms, stick and puck. Use your entire body in the process. Your body is a great tool to block other players from getting the puck (see protect the puck below) Your body can also be a good tool in deking, remember to use your head, shoulders and legs. Here’s a quick breakdown for you – Use your head for fakes, shift your head left or right when you deke left and right with the puck. Use your shoulder for fakes, you can dip your shoulder left or right when you deke left or right. Use your feet for dekes – You can incorporate your feet in any number of dekes, you can drop the puck back to your skates and then kick it back, pull the puck behind you, then pull it in between your skates and kick it forwards.  You can even use your legs for fakes, think about when you fake a shot on the goalie, if you lift your one leg as if you are transferring weight you can really sell the fake. (I will upload a sweet goal by Teemu Selanne where he does this)

Stickhandling Tips Video

This video explains how a player should be able to control the puck and shows a few quick drills you can use to practice being a better stickhandler

How to Get Around the Defense

For more on this check out my deke of the week videos – A good way to beat most defensemen is to beat them with speed. Instead of skating up to them, or waiting for them to come to you and then deking them, just blow past them with your speed.

When skating around the opposing players puck location is very important. Many players will skate with the puck in front of them all the time. To get an advantage over the opponent you should position the puck on the side furthest from the opposing player while stickhandling. This means if the opposing players are on the right side, move the puck to your left side and skate around them.

Another way to deceive the defense is to make them think that they can get the puck from you. For example, say the defense is in front of you and on the right hand side. If I move the puck to the left side to soon then the better defencemen will move with the puck and stop me. Sometimes I will stickhandle with the puck so it appears the defencemen will easily be able to get it off of me (if the defence is on the right side, I stickhandle on the right side). I skate full tilt towards them, so they think all they have to do is knock the puck off my stick. I then quickly move the puck as far to the left side as I can, while turning, or crossing over to the left side, this gives me about a 15-20 foot difference between where the puck was, to where it currently is, and lots of room to skate around the defence.

Protect the Puck

Remember when driving to the net, or trying to push around another player that you should protect the puck. You protect the puck by putting your body in between the other player and the puck. Another good trick is to hold your hockey stick with one hand, and use the other hand to block the opposition from getting the puck off of you. I will add more tips on how to protect the puck soon (man I have so much information I still need to add!)

Well those are all of my stickhandling tips for now. If you have any tips of your own that you would like to add feel free to add them in the comment section below.

pass the puck

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Jeremy Rupke

Coach
Hi my name is Jeremy. I LOVE hockey and I am passionate about improving and helping others improve. My goal is to break every hockey skill down into easy to understand articles and videos. I explain everything step-by-step to help others improve. If you want to learn more about me you can read my about page. Thanks for reading and sharing!

{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

Gill November 15, 2014 at 8:31 pm

Hi Jeremy great article, I had my son who is 12 read it, I was wondering do u hold your stick tight and hard. He’s really weak on his stick, I’m thinking its a mindset. Could also be maturity (hasn’t hit puberty) but kids smaller than him seem to be stronger on there sticks.

Thanks

Reply

sahil August 3, 2013 at 12:38 pm

hey Jeremy i have practised a lot on my roll up shooting pad and i can stick handle just fine when moving the puck at a moderate speed but the puck rolls up on me when i try to do fast dribbling. keeping in mind that i cup the puck is this a fault of the shooting pad that doesnt allow me to stickhandle fast?

Reply

Jeremy Rupke August 4, 2013 at 8:11 pm

That’s normal if you have quick hands and use a regular puck. For fast moves I like to use the Green Biscuit on the shooting pad.

matt April 15, 2013 at 8:01 pm

Do you hold your stick in your top hand all the way to the edge of your hand or do you have the end of it in your palm ….and use it as a pivot

Reply

Jeremy Rupke April 17, 2013 at 3:34 pm

All the way to the edge, I tried pinky over the top but didn’t really see any advantage.

matt April 15, 2013 at 8:00 pm

Do you hold your stick in your top hand all the way to the edge of your hand or do you have the end of it in your palm ….and use it as a pivot

Reply

matt March 29, 2013 at 1:35 pm

Jeremy what muscles are involved in stick handling and can you give me some off ice exercises to make me a better stick handler? thanks.

Reply

Steven August 13, 2012 at 2:22 pm

Hey Jermy,
what fake is better on a breakaway?
From forehand to backhand or from backhand to forehand?

Reply

Jeremy August 14, 2012 at 6:00 am

The answer is relative to you as a player. I would recommend using whichever one you are the best at, but one may be better than the other depending what way you shoot and how you are approaching the goalie.

Asher October 27, 2011 at 4:34 pm

Hey Jermy, should i use my top hand for shots too?

Reply

Jeremy August 14, 2012 at 6:02 am

Absolutely, when you take a shot you use your top hand right at the end of the shot when the puck is just about to come off the ice. You should pull back hard with your top hand and push with your bottom hand

Albert August 13, 2011 at 12:56 am

it’s good news for new plyer !
But I have some question …
Just abou Deke
I still don’t what is that

Reply

Albert August 13, 2011 at 1:29 am

I lost some world = =
good news for new “player”
and…I still don’t “know” what is Deke

Steven August 13, 2012 at 2:29 pm

A Deke is … a Fake
on a Defender or Goalie!!
For example: a Fake from left but you
go to the right and you won the 1 on 1
battle against the Defender! So you
did a Deke on the Defender that you
can bypass him !!!!! ;)

Kurt May 19, 2011 at 6:33 am

Jeremy, where did you get that tube for the lower hand?

Reply

Kevin October 14, 2011 at 10:02 pm

I want one so badly but can’t find it two aghghgghghgghh

Jeremy October 14, 2011 at 10:05 pm

Hey Kurt, just use a water bottle or pop bottle, cut off the top and bottom and put it around the stick. It works the same and is free, you can also use a toilet paper tube

brian April 9, 2011 at 6:55 pm

you have a great site

Reply

Ryan March 9, 2011 at 12:23 pm

Great tips as always Jeremy.
I’m curious, for a Forward, you use a very long stick. Obviously it doesn’t impact your stick handling or shooting, but for less skilled players, it does.
I know it’s all personal preference.
I’m just wondering what are your reasons for using a long stick.

Thanks!

Reply

Jeremy March 12, 2011 at 7:18 pm

Hey Ryan, I don’t really consider my stick that long. Off ice it might look longer, but on the ice it sits under my chin. I did try a shorter stick this year and didn’t like it at all. I like the stick a bit longer for more reach, getting passes and intercepting passes, it’s also good for getting the puck off other players. The real advantage of a short stick is that you can control the puck close to your body, but I usually just choke up a bit on the stick when I need to bring it in close.

Ryan March 16, 2011 at 12:35 pm

Thanks for the clarification Jeremy. I exaggerated a little, your stick isn’t that long and you’re right, you’re in sandles :)

I use a fairly short stick and yeah it does make it harder to receive passes not on the mark. I also have no reach on D end.
I do like it for stick handling, quick shots and the control I have on passing and shooting.
Over time, I’ve added an inch or 2 back. They’re still short, but I think I’m finding my comfort zone.

Bryce March 4, 2011 at 3:32 pm

I’m not too old, but these tips and tricks are cool fun to show off and easy. really clearly explained thanks alot.

Reply

Coach July 30, 2010 at 8:54 pm

Good tips. Here’s another. Too many players stickhandle the puck in front of them as they approach the goalie from straight on, or a slight angle. They have to move the puck to their forehand when ready to shoot and this movement tips off the goalie. Instead, learn how to stickhandle on the stick side on the approach to the net so that a quick shot can be snapped off at any moment without tipping off the goalie.

Reply

Jeremy July 31, 2010 at 12:24 pm

Thanks Coach, this article is more about general stickhandling tips and advice so I left that bit out, but if you read my article how to score a goal then I mention this, here is a quote

“When on a breakaway the proper place to have the puck is on your stick side. If you are right handed then you should be stick handling the puck on your right side. If you have the puck on your stick side than you can shoot, pass, make a drop pass or deke. This will keep the goalie thinking about what you are going to do next.”

Jacob March 10, 2010 at 6:41 pm

Thank you! I have that same problem I never knew til now!

Reply

Offense March 10, 2010 at 9:37 pm

I know, I played just stickhandling in front of me for quite a while until I learned I need to control the puck around my entire body. After learning this, and practicing my game improved A LOT. Be sure to pass this tip on :D

Brian Gallagher February 11, 2010 at 6:43 pm

Read your article, pretty good tips, I for one have mastered the toe drag…I find when I stick handle I keep the puck always close to me, I’m 6’2 and my stick is about 5’2… That way puck is always near me and I gaurd it with my feet a lot…seems to work for me.

Reply

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