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
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….
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.
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.
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
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.