Stick-handling is one of the most important skills in hockey, and practicing this skill will give you the confidence you need to concentrate on other areas of the game – aim for 10,000 stick-handle touches over a weekend!
Quick top 10 tips for stick-handling
Your top hand should be doing most of the work and the main action of holding and cradling the cup. Practice by placing an empty toilet tissue tube in your lower hand and concentrate on just using the top hand to move and control the puck. Use your bottom hand to control where around your body the puck is – try in front, and pulling it from side-to-side.
Your bottom hand should be the guide – if you’re using the toilet tissue tube method above, then the stick should pass easily through it – try handling the puck or ball closer to your body, and then further away, as well as side-to-side. Don’t just practice in front of you – most of the time in a game the puck won’t just stay in front – keep up the variation, try and make it difficult for yourself!
Keep your shoulders and arms loose. If you tense up, or raise your shoulders, you’re not going to have the range of motion. The more you practice, the more comfortable you’re going to be.
Have a friend, a family member or even your dog come, protect the puck whilst still keeping full control and stick handling – get them to move around and see if you can protect the puck from them
Practice your reach – handle the puck 30cm from your feet then out at your front full reach, handle a bit then pull it back in. Try the alternate side.
Move the puck around your entire body. Doing this will help you practice keeping the puck from your opponent, whichever side they may come. If you start to get a little bored, change it up, put obstacles in your way and move the puck around these.
Keep the puck moving in a game, the puck is hardly ever still, so keep soft, supple movements, wherever you decide to play the puck around your body, keep it moving.
Keep your Head up if you’ve got your head down, you can’t see where you’re going or where an opponent is. Look down first and get a feel for where the puck or ball is on your stick, do a couple of stick handles and then look up and do a few more, and back down again. Gradually, you’ll get a feel for where the stick or ball is playing on the blade and will hardly have to look down.
Practice as close as you can to game conditions.. maybe fake ice and a green biscuit puck. Or a Swedish handling ball and hardwood floor – if you’re practicing on a slope, or with a tennis ball, or a bouncy ball, you’re not going to get the right ‘feel’.
Practice as much as you can! The more you practice, the better you’ll become. Muscles have memory, but they also forget! So keep it up regularly and soon, it’ll come as easy as walking or tying your shoe laces. Just make sure what you’re learning is good and practicing what you should be – so watch some good videos from HowToHockey for some more ideas!