Puck protection is an important skill that any hockey player can always improve. By practicing and learning new and different techniques, you will quickly master the art of being an effective puck carrier. No matter your proficiency level, following these tips and drills will help you improve your puck possession skills and ultimately grow as a hockey player.
Puck Control Tips
Always keep the following tips in mind while handling the puck. Once you have these concepts down, you’ll have a solid foundation for effective puck protection.
Look Up. Don’t solely focus on the puck. It’s important to look for opponents and teammates while using your peripheral vision to keep an eye on the puck. Keeping the puck in front of and away from your body rather than in close will help you keep your eyes up and focussed on the action. It will also increase your range of motion and ability to effectively pass and shoot.
Use Your Body. Your stick is not the only tool for protecting the puck. Using your body to shield the puck from opponents is an effective approach. Turning your back toward your opponent creates a barrier between the puck and the other player, giving you more time to strategize your next move. Keep in mind that using your body does not mean checking the opponent: think shield, not weapon.
Don’t Overdo It. Stick handling the puck too much can cause you to skate slower or become distracted. When skating uncontested through the neutral zone, keep the puck in front of you and push it forward without over-handling it. It’s important to balance your attention between skating, stick handling, passing, and shooting.
Puck Protection Drills and Methods
The saying is true: practice does make perfect. No matter your level, you need to practice certain skills in order to keep yourself on your game and improve as a player. Here are a few of our favorites to help hone your puck protection skills.
Open Ice. When carrying the puck through open ice, avoid skating directly toward opponents. Look for safe zones in the open ice as you make your way down. Practice keeping your eyes up and focused on your surroundings while carrying the puck to help develop greater rink vision.
Protect with the Stick. When attempting to skate past an opponent, use your reach to keep the puck as far away from them as possible. Practice keeping the puck on the side of your body furthest from the opponent. So if you pass them on your right, use your left hand and your stick to keep the puck on the left side of your body and out of their reach. If the puck is too close to your opponent and unprotected, it will be far easier for them to knock it out of your control.
Protect with the Body. In addition to your stick, your body is another great tool to protect the puck. When moving past an opponent, be sure to lead with the leg closest to them so as to angle away from their stick. This way they will have a harder time reaching around you to get the puck. You should also slightly turn your back toward the player and dip the inside shoulder downward so you can use the back of your hand to knock – don’t grab! – their stick away. If you leave your shoulders straight forward, the puck is more vulnerable.
Stance. When you’re in close quarters against an opponent, the right stance is key to protecting the puck. When practicing the proper protective stance, remember to keep your feet a bit wider than your shoulders, and your backside extended outward. This will serve to keep your balance steady, as well as create a good distance between you and the opponent.
Join the Team
The best way to practice your puck protection skills is to work with others and learn from experienced players and coaches. We at Shinny know that any player of any age can become a great hockey player, so we encourage you to join the league. Shinny is for players 21+ of all skill levels so it’s never too late for you to join. We believe that hockey is a great way for adults to stay active, make friends, and have a good time. Contact us today if you have any questions about the league and sign up at any time!