If you love being part of a team that functions like a well-oiled machine, ice hockey ranks right up there as one of the most fun and challenging team sports you can engage in. Even for those who are fairly new to the game, it’s pretty easy to understand, and the rule book isn’t all that complicated. Once you’re feeling comfortable on the ice, it’s time to learn how to control the puck, and even more importantly, a great slap shot.
The Right Stuff
In ice hockey, the relationship between your skills and equipment is an important one. It’s pretty simple—if you have the proper equipment, it’s a lot easier to master the skills. Ice skates that fit well and are at least semi-comfortable are essential. Talk to your coach as well as to other, more experienced players for recommendations about the skates you should use, and always use a reputable pro shop.
The proper skates will help you to become a better skater, and the ability to skate well is the first part of improving your slap shot. Your skating provides a base for shooting. Choosing the right stick will also have a significant impact on your accuracy, and slap shot. For help on choosing the right hockey stick, see this article.
Types of Shots
There are 4 basic shots in ice hockey (although some might argue that there are 5). While it would be great to master all of them, getting really good at one or two as you work to improve your overall game will help you to be more competitive more quickly.
Regardless of the shot you choose to take, the mechanics of the shot are the key. While skating and controlling the puck, an effective slap shot requires the perfect alignment of your body, your stick, and the puck. The position of your your legs, your torso, your arms and hands, and the stick itself will all have a tremendous bearing on the shot you take and the accuracy of it. Where you’re looking will have an impact as well.
Here are the basic ice hockey shots:
Slap Shot—For most people, this is the slap shot. Typically taken at speed, the shot starts with a wind up and ends with a fast, powerful shot. A well-placed slap shot is impressive (it even sounds impressive) but takes practice to do with confidence.
Backhand Shot—Perhaps a little harder to master than the slap shot, a backhand shot is made across the body, typically when you just don’t have time to set up one of the three front hand shots. It’s used when the opportunity presents itself, and when well executed, can be very effective.
Wrist Shot—The wrist shot may not have quite the power and sizzle of a well-hit slap shot, but they are typically much more accurate. With the leverage of a hockey stick and the speed of the ice—and your ice skates—a wrist shot creates a significant amount of energy and speed, and much better accuracy than a slap shot or a backhand.
Snap Shot—Take a snap shot when the opportunity presents itself. A snap shot is done virtually instinctively—you see an opening at the net and you snap off a shot. If you have to think about whether to take the shot or not, it’s already too late. A snap shot should happen instead of a thought. Ultimately, the best way to practice snap shots is in a live game situation.
Improving Your Slap Shot
Ice hockey is a sport that depends on mastering the basics. Spend time on your skating skills, shooting technique, and conditioning. Stay active in your mind as well. It’s important to see the entire rink and stay aware of your teammates as well as the opposing team. Here are a few quick takeaways that will make your best ice hockey slap shot even better.
Shoot In The Zone—You have to be in the proper zone to take a shot, and we’re not just talking about a zone on the ice. You have to be mentally prepared—at all times—to take a shot. You need to be able to the that shot without even thinking about it. When you can shoot instinctively, you will automatically begin shooting better, with more accuracy and power. Practice, practice, practice! Before you know it, you will be shooting without having to concentrate so hard.
Eyes on Target—When baseball players swing, they are taught to keep their eye on the ball. But you’re not playing baseball—you’re shooting a hockey puck. And in that regard, shooting the puck is almost like shooting a gun. You want your eye on the target. Many beginning hockey players watch the puck as they are controlling and shooting it. That’s a mistake. Learn to control the puck by feel, instinctively. When you shoot the puck, or even when passing to a teammate—keep your eyes on the target. You want to look at where you want the puck to be, not at where it is.
Get Physical With The Physics—There are a lot of physics at play in the game of ice hockey. The angle of the body on the ice, on your skates, the way you hold your stick. Hockey is a game of angles and inches. Increasing your core strength and stamina will serve you very well on the ice. Assisting you in making accurate slap shots. Again, practice is your friend!
Improve Your Skills With Shinny USA!
At Shinny USA, our pickup hockey games are all about fun. We have players of all skill levels, and the more experienced players are eager to pass on what they’ve learned so that everyone improves. Playing hockey is the ultimate way to get in shape, enjoy a fast-paced sport, and make new friends while you’re at it. We invite you to join us, and make sure to visit the blog frequently for more articles like this one that will help you improve your game!