Ice hockey players are desperate to get the puck on their stick, and once it’s there, they need to be able to control it. That’s what stickhandling is all about.
When the puck is on your tape, you need to let your reflexes take over whether you’re in the defensive end trying to clear the puck out, rushing through the neutral zone on a fast break, on in tight against the goalie. You won’t have time to think out there.
You just have to hope that your training has prepared you for the moment. Let’s look at how the sharpest stickhandlers work off-ice to keep their game ready.
Durable Training Tools
It takes many hours of practice to get that puck to stick to your blade like glue. Modern training gear from leaders like HockeyShot Canada offer dangling tools made of durable steel that will withstand the punishment that comes from being near pucks and sticks over the years.
If you stickhandle without any obstacles to deke around or between, you won’t be ready for the type of harassment defensive players put on whoever has the puck. The point isn’t just to be able to weave the puck in and out or to be able to do it quickly; you need to have your head up the whole time.
What good is keeping the puck on your stick if you can’t spot the late trailer coming into the zone? Some puck handling training tools are designed to mimic the shape of hockey sticks, while others pose obstacles that can be arranged in endless combinations to create whatever drill you need.
Some training tools can be modified to work with pucks or balls to suit whichever kind of hockey you’re playing. Whichever obstacles you pick, make sure they’re durable enough to take punishment.
Deke, Then Dish or Shoot
What do you do after you control the puck? The options are simple: either you pass or shoot. When you train, you need to mimic the stickhandling scenarios you’ll face in a game.
That’s why it’s crucial to deke with your head up, then make an accurate pass or a shot. Training equipment like “passers” will bounce the puck back to you, so you can deke, dish the puck off, get it back and take a shot on net.
If you combine this with shooting tarps —either targets or cut-outs in the top corners and five-hole — you’ll be mimicking game-conditions in your practice to the maximum. Keep stickhandling like this for hours, and before long, you’ll have the puck on a string.
Defensive players can’t lose the puck when they’re skating out of the zone or doubling back behind the net. Forwards can’t cough it up during a scoring chance. There’s almost nothing a coach wants to see less than a turnover anywhere on the ice, so keep practicing your stickhandling with modern off-ice gear to develop expert control of the puck.