Fundamental Hockey Skills – Puck Handling

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It doesn’t matter what skill or experience level you have with hockey, the one thing you can constantly improve on is puck handling. This is a fundamental hockey skill that you need to have to be effective at passing, advancing the play, and you likely won’t be able to score goals if you can’t handle the puck. The best thing about this skill is that you don’t need to be on the ice to be able to work on it, there are a ton of different exercises that can be done off the ice and all you really need is a ball and a good hockey stick. We’re going to be highlighting a few ways every player can work on puck handling, these can be applied both on and off the ice and for roller or ice hockey players.


Before we get into some simple drills you can do I just want to go through a few simple tips for puck handling.

  • Don’t hold your stick too tight. One of the easiest things you can control while handling the puck is not gripping your stick too tight. This is a common mistake for those new to the game if you are gripping your stick too tight your puck handling won’t be fluid and will be choppy.
  • Keep your body relaxed. You want your shoulders and arms to be loose and you don’t want your body to be rigid and tight as it will make controlling the puck more difficult.
  • Cushion the puck. When you’re sliding the puck from your forehand to backhand, you want to cushion the puck with your stick rather than fully stopping the puck. If you’ve seen Mighty Ducks (if you haven’t, give it a watch, classic hockey movie) you remember the egg drill, and handling the puck softly is a key element.
  • Keep your head up. One of the hardest parts of puck handling is the ability to do it while keeping your head up and looking at what’s happening in front of you. You don’t always need to have your head up when stick handling and playing in a game setting, but you must be able to scan and asses your settings every so often to keep on top of the play and see what your options are.
  • The most important thing to do is practice, as this is not an easy hockey skill to master and it’s going to take time and hard work.




The Triangle Puck Handling Drill

This is the most basic puck handling drill you can do, and the beauty of it is it can be done anywhere with almost anything. You will set up three obstacles (pucks, pylons, etc) in the shape of a triangle, with two about 1.5 feet to the left and right of your skates while in your hockey stance, and the third 2 feet in front of you.


Then, in your hockey stance without moving your feet you stickhandle the puck around all three obstacles, changing directions and patterns to challenge yourself. The key to this drill is as you get more comfortable handling the puck, you want to do it keeping your head up and not looking at the puck. It takes some time to work up to this but you want to feel the puck without looking at it. This can also be done off the ice with any kind of ball.


The Figure-8 Puck Handling Drill

Another simple yet effective puck handling drill is the Figure-8 drill which involves setting up two obstacles in front of you about 2-3 feet apart.


In your hockey stance, you will then stickhandle the puck around the obstacles in a Figure-8 pattern, constantly changing directions. This works both your forehand and backhand puck handling skills which is essential as you shoot and pass with both sides of the stick.


Again the key to this drill is to practice it constantly, and the improvement will translate to the game very quickly.


Once you have mastered doing this standing still, try rotating around the figure 8 while puck handling to really take your skills to the next level.



The Anarchy Puck Handling Drill

A great drill that will keep players of any caliber challenged is the Anarchy Puck Handling drill. I’m sure you’ve seen commercials of NHL players doing this and trust me when I say it isn’t easy. For this, you want to set up at least 10-15 obstacles (pucks are ideal) randomly in about a 5-foot circle (more objects = bigger area). The goal of this is to stickhandle through all the pucks trying not to hit any of them or lose control (With your stick, puck, OR skates). This should be done while skating and trying to keep your head up as much as possible. Watch Patrick Kane, one of the best puck handlers in the NHL show off his skills with this simple drill in the 20-second clip below:



(0:59 – 1:16 )



How To Get Hands Like Connor McDavid – Use The Top Hand

Have you ever seen a video of Connor Mcdavid or Nathan MacKinnon stick handle the puck?  When you watch closely, these players use their top hand to move the stick, NOT the bottom.  This has been a big shift in puck handling over the last decade where people used to be bottom hand dominant when puck handling.  How can you practice this? Using either a PVC pipe, or even a center cardboard piece from a paper towel roll, hold your these in your bottom hand around the shaft of the stick.  This will force you to use your top hand and build hockey strength and stamina in your top hand forearm.


We hope that this article was helpful and gave you some simple, effective drills to do both on and off the ice to improve your puck handling skills. Even when you’re practicing off the ice, try to simulate on ice as much as possible by using hockey gloves.


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