Tip No. 1
Learn To Jam
Formerly a rare power play strategy, “jam” plays are now commonplace. Attacking teams rush in front of the net from all angles while attempting to keep the puck moving to rotating pivot men, hoping to free up an open man one-on-one against the goaltender. The strategy is risky because there is often no one back in time to prevent a short-handed rush if the puck squirts away from the corners or behind the net.
Tip No. 2
Play Without The Puck
A good player’s actions and movements away from the puck are just as important as – and sometimes more important than – his play with the puck. If you’re playing with a Gretzky, or some other clever director, it’s imperative to play smart without the puck. “That’s why he’s accomplished what he has, because of anticipation,” Colin Campbell says of The Great One. “And if you’re going to play on the same line as him, you better know where to be and when to be there.”
Tip No. 3
Dish Or Dump?
Fromer defenseman ESPN commentator Brian Engblom on carrying the puck out of the zone: “If the defenseman has been able to get the puck under control and gather speed coming out of his zone, he must be very careful to make the right play in the neutral zone. If it’s congested, often the right play is not to pass it at all, but instead, get to the red line and dump the puck into the opposition’s zone. If he makes a bad pass in the neutral zone and it is intercepted, he is caught travelling in the wrong direction and is susceptible to a breakaway, or out-numbered attack on his partner (who’s backing him up).”
Tip No. 4
A popular misconception is that most goals are scored on direct shots. “They’re not,” says Nelson Emerson. “Especially on power plays. Most of the time, you score on tips (redirections) or rebounds off missed shots.
Tip No. 5
One Hand Can Help
“Try to keep one hand on the stick as much as possible,” says Steve Duchesne. “I like to use my stick a lot in tight situations to take the puck from the forward or intercept a pass. Freeing one hand from the stick also really helps my balance and my speed because I can extend both my legs and arms when I am skating. Also, like most other defenseman, I like to use the crossover a lot when going backwards. But crossing over too much can get you burned because a smart forward will watch your feet and when you crossover one way he goes the other direction and it can be very hard to untangle your feet. So when the forward is near it is better to go straight backwards and let him make the first move.”
Tip No. 6
Work On ‘D’ Skating
Steve Duchesne says that it’s important for defensemen to work on their skating skills. “The stop and go, forward to backward movement and quick turns are all important for my position, and I train these skills by working on turning and stopping in practice. Good balance is important for all players. Staying low, using your legs and keeping all your weight over an edge will help the balance, especially when checking. Too many players try to check with the upper body (only using the shoulders), but a good, solid hit comes from the lower body – the strength in the legs – and also a strong abdomen and lower back.”
Tip No. 7
“The biggest thing is positioning. You’ve absolutely gotta protect the dangerous scoring areas of the ice,” says Dean Kennedy. “An opposing offense will try all sorts of things to try to confuse you, but the one common thing is to keep proper positioning. You have to be able to put the opposing player where you want him, as opposed to letting him go to the place he wants to be,” he adds. “That’s half the battle right there.”
Tip No. 8
Bigger Isn’t Always Better
A bigger goaltender has more reach, has more range and probably can fill more net than a smaller goalie. However, bigger goaltenders often don’t have the same agility, speed, or ability to move as a smaller goaltender. A 6’4″ goaltender isn’t necessarily better just because he’s bigger than a goaltender who’s 5’10”. Sometimes bigger goaltenders, when they venture out to cut down angles, actually take their biggest blocking area – their chest and arms – out of the net. For a bigger goaltender, it’s a long way to the ice when they drop to use their pads. When big goaltenders drop, they often open more holes than small goaltenders. While in general you would believe that bigger is better, it is not always the case. Don’t give up on a smaller guy just because of his size.
Tip No. 9
Cover The Corners
“It’s an under-appreciated part of the game,” notes Coach Brian Sutter. “Teams that can come away from those battles in the corners at both ends of the rink with possession – or more importantly, without giving the puck away – are the teams that are successful.”
Tip No. 10
Keep Them Outside
The common team strategy when play comes back in your own zone is to attempt to fan the puck as well as the offensive players toward the outside – and outside the corner areas. A team on the defensive then might try to infiltrate the middle of the ice upon possession and institute a break going the other way. This hourglass effect allows centers to control play on the offensive end after playing a key role defensively.
Tip No. 11
When To Be Creative
For teams on the offensive, when the battle takes place in the zone of the opponent, there’s a great deal more room for error and, therefore, for creativity. “Usually, if you can move the puck anyplace that the other guy doesn’t want it, you’re in good shape,” says Troy Murray. “Most of the time, they’re concerned with keeping the puck away from you in front of their goal. That can actually work for you as an attacker, because that can end up as a one-timer and a rebound.”
Tip No. 12
Angle & Anticipate
“I try to take an angle that hurts their ability to come out of the corner with the puck,” Brian Leetch says. “I try to anticipate where they’re going next. And then once I’m in there, I just do what’s necessary to get the puck out of there and to a teammate. Anything I can do to dislodge the puck and pass it to a teammate or clear the zone, basically.”
Tip No. 13
Goal Stick Options
On many occasions when a goaltender uses the half-butterfly save, the goalie could get the stick involved and prevent a dangerous rebound from coming out into the slot, but does not. He allows pucks to hit the pads and bounce right back out. If there is no deflection or screen, try to get the stick more involved by using it to deflect the puck to the corner, backed up by the pad.
Tip No. 14
Shoot The Puck!
Consider the top goal scorers in the NHL. Not one of those guys got where they are without shooting 300-to-400 pucks a day. This may be on the ice or off a sheet of plywood, with or without formica, or even on smooth concrete, but top scorers will always put in this intensive type of training.
Tip No. 15
Goal Scoring Attitude
Scoring is both mental and technical. Shooters expect to score. They bring this goal-scoring attitude to the game. Win or lose, if they don’t score, they’re not happy with themselves. A shooter doesn’t make that “last pass.” He shoots and he expects it to go in.
Tip No. 16
Set Up Well To Shoot Harder
How’s your wrist shot? If the entire forward line rushes to block your shot with smiles on their faces, you’re probably doing something wrong. Proper body alignment is as important in hockey as it is in golf. If anything is out of line you won’t get full power on your shot. Make sure that your feet are lined up so that if you lay your stick down in front of your toes, it points directly at the net. In so doing, your opposite shoulder from the way you shoot (if you shoot left, it’s your right shoulder), should be pointing at the net. Now, open up your front foot to give yourself more mobility left to right. Start with the puck behind your back foot to give you a full follow through, then after your follow through make sure your stick is pointing at the target.
Tip No. 17
Force The Issue
Al Sims doesn’t want teams on the power play to carry the puck into the offensive zone: “With our penalty-killing, we tried to establish a precedent based on an aggressive system. We definitely want the other team to have to dump the puck in rather than carry it in. We don’t sit back and wait. We try to force the issue.”
Tip No. 18
Sticky Situations In Net
Shooting on the stick side creates unique problems for a goalie. Not only is the stick cumbersome, but it limits a goalie’s range of mobility. It is awkward for a goalie to sweep his stick to the outside. In most cases the heel of the stick rises, creating a clear path for the puck. On the other hand, skate saves are practiced about as often as an American League pitcher takes batting practice. Therefore, attempting a skate save could net the same result.
Tip No. 19
“You have to have good chemistry. Everybody has got to come together and play together. You don’t have to like everybody on the team, but when you go out and play, you’ve got to respect that person for what he can do for you, and to help your team, and you’ve got to go to battle with that guy. You don’t necessarily have to like him off the ice, but on the ice you definitely have to respect him.” – Bernie Nicholls.
Tip No. 20
Protect Your Noggin
Future Hall-of-Famer Dave Taylor says use your head: “Your helmet is the most important piece of protective equipment you’ll wear. If it’s not on your head at a critical time, as was mine when I was checked hard to the ice in my last game, then you’re likely going to be injured. And with a head injury, it could be very serious. Your helmet should not only have a secure chin strap, but should be properly adjusted to fit the head. Too loose a helmet could produce some obviously poor results. A helmet that is too tight can cause headaches.”
Tip No. 21
“The first thing you’re concerned about is blocking out: body position,” says All-Star defenseman Rob Blake. “Putting a body on that guy trying to set up in front or on the wing must be accomplished. It doesn’t matter how big or small you are. If you can put a body on a guy and prevent him from getting position, he’s not going to be able put in a rebound or otherwise hurt your team.”
Tip No. 22
Hard Work Works
“It’s all about hard work, and where hard work and dedication can take you,” says Manon Rheaume. “It’s never been easy. But I’ve always wanted to play hockey. I love hockey. I’d rather play hockey than do anything else. If you have that kind of desire, I think you can achieve what you want to achieve.
“That would be my tip to the young players out there, men and women. Don’t be afraid to work hard. And don’t expect to succeed if you don’t.”
Tip No. 23
Knee Bend For Balance
This much is certain: the more you bend your knees – whether you are skating forwards, backwards or turning – the better your control, balance, speed and power. However, knowing that you should bend your knees is one thing, and doing it is another. Therefore, you must make a great effort to exaggerate the bending of your knees while practicing your skating. Bend the knees lower than what feels comfortable for you, or lower than how you usually skate. Challenge yourself to bend your knees too far.
Tip No. 24
Skating Imagery: try to think of crossovers as “crossunders.” Many players from novice to pro are under the misguided idea that they need to lift their outside foot very high off the ice so they can cross it “over.” Instead, concentrate on keeping your feet very low to the ice pulling the inside leg under the body to achieve better fluidity, speed and balance when performing corners.
Tip No. 25
Back To Basics
How do you get out of a slump? “That question has one of the most clear-cut answers,” says coach Brian Sutter. “The first thing you do is go back to the fundamentals and basics. If you want to have success in any sport, be it hockey, football or baseball, that’s what you do. Winning teams do that every day.”
Tip No. 26
The Most Advanced Skates?
True advances in in-line hockey won’t be that obvious. Top-end skates will feature boots comparable to the best ice hockey boots. Aluminum frames will become “me, too” and all the skate manufacturers who have been asleep for the last two years will jump in this direction. Subtle, but highly effective advances like the “pro-mount” method of attaching frames will start to get noticed. And internal alignment systems for boots will become important to elite players.
Tip No. 27
One of the best ways to penetrate a shot-blocking defense is through a lot of cross-ice and perimeter passing. For example, the offensive defenseman at the blue line can make quick, crisp passes to the other defenseman, back and forth, as well as faking passes to the forwards in deep. If the passes are on target, sooner or later the opposing player attempting to block a potential shot will go down (slide) or go out of position, allowing the offensive player to move forward and take a shot or make a pass to someone in the slot. The key here is to keep the puck moving, quickly and accurately.
Tip No. 28
Price vs. Performance
While you certainly don’t want to get ripped off when buying goalie gear, you do need to accept the cold, hard fact that goaltending gear is expensive. What you definitely don’t want to do is buy the cheapest stuff and watch it fall apart after a season or two. Is a low-end $110 catching glove a bargain if it wears out after a short time? When buying equipment always balance the price versus the performance you can expect from it.
Tip No. 29
Kill Now, Score Later
“The biggest mistake young players make in penalty killing is that they have that opportunity for a short-handed goal in the back of their minds,” says forward John MacLean, a 14-year NHL veteran who is the acknowledged leader of one the league’s better penalty killing units. “The first thing, the only thing you should be thinking about is to prevent the other team from scoring. It’s that simple. Too many players leave the zone too early and a one-man disadvantage suddenly becomes a two-man disadvantage.”
Tip No. 30
Get Off On The Right Foot
For a powerful shot, always shoot off the proper foot. This is the opposite foot from the way you shoot. (Left shooters want to shoot off the right foot, and vice versa). Some guys, like Mark Messier, have perfected shooting off the wrong foot. Many goalies don’t anticipate this and the quick, accurate shot beats them. Watch the Robitailles, Neelys and Hulls, however, and given the time to do it, they will always shoot off the opposite foot.
Tip No. 31
Don’t Forget The ‘D’
“Most of the time a short-handed goal is scored, it’s not because of what the defense did but because of carelessness on the part of the (team with the man advantage),” says Coach Ron Wilson. “The tendency when you’re on a power play is to go all-out at the opposition’s goal, but it’s still critical to get back and play defense when you lose possession of the puck. Teams, especially at this level, aren’t always content to ice the puck.”
Tip No. 32
The Legs Drive You
A hockey player’s legs are equivalent to a car’s transmission. They are what propels him back and forth, side to side. Without strong legs, an individual’s game suffers immensely, and his mobility is severely limited. “I’ve seen a lot of small guys that have big legs, and they’re usually the one’s that are big hitters,” says 50-goal scorer Brendan Shanahan.
Tip No. 33
Take It Easy
Goaltender Kirk McLean on the ups and downs of hockey: “Sometimes it can be hell out there, but teams are going to have their bad nights and personally you’re going to have your bad nights. That’s just part of hockey. If you can take your highs with your highs and your lows with your lows and try to keep the whole thing on an even keel, that’s what it’s all about. You’re going to last longer if you can do that.”
Tip No. 34
The Backward Crossover
Don’t be intimidated by the backward crossover. Once you get over the fear of losing your balance or falling down, you will find that the backward crossover is easier than the forward crossover because both feet are on the ice when you land the crossunder foot, rather than having to land on one foot on an outside edge like when you are going forward.
1. Make sure to bend the knees deeply and to keep your back straight; feel like you are sitting on a stool.
2. Use 100% body weight to drive your outside leg (inside edge) into the ice to full extension, cutting what resembles the letter “C.”
3. Pull the inside leg to full extension under the body and behind the outside leg, forming a big “X” with your legs.
4. After the inside leg (outside edge) has gone completely to full extension, return it parallel to the ice, reaching as far in with the leg as you can (to a wide base), landing on an inside edge so that you are ready to pull the leg under the body and then to an outside edge to form the “X” again.
Tip No. 35
Don’t Count On A Soft Spot
Even though more goals are scored low to the stick side than to the glove side, a goalie’s stick side isn’t always a softer spot. On most occasions the goalie’s stick leg is significantly better in terms of skate saves or half-butterflies than the goalie’s glove-side leg. Why? Because on the stick side the goaltender does not have the luxury of getting the stick involved in many of the saves – it’s leg, and leg alone. On the glove side, the goalie has the ability to use the stick as a crutch. This additional saving aid prevents the goalie from utilizing the glove-side leg as often as the goalie utilizes the stick-side leg. Should the goalie lose his goal stick during the game, you’ll find the goaltender is far better to the stick side than the glove side.
Tip No. 36
If you’re playing in a roller hockey league and you’re paying any more than $25 for insurance, you’re paying too much. USAC/RS and IISA both have very reasonable insurance programs.
Tip No. 37
Know Your Opponent
“It’s very important to know what the opposing teams like to do and what their style is. You have to know your opponent so you’re not taken back by anything they do on the ice during a game.” – Stu Grimson.
Tip No. 38
Making A Difference In Net
It’s easy to point a finger at somebody else, or place blame on something else, when in reality the goalie should be held responsible. But it is also the coach’s job to recognize that often there are many other mistakes or circumstances that lead to a goal, and that blame should not necessarily be placed on the goaltender. The goaltender, however, has to approach the game in a manner where he feels he can make a significant difference. Not just be there, but make a difference. It’s the nature of the position.
Tip No. 39
Pay Your Own Way
The most despicable thing anyone can do during a pick-up game is avoid paying their fair share for the ice time. Therefore, to avoid any embarrassing situations, offer to pay for your ice time when you first arrive! By doing this, a level of trust and integrity is established between you and the people running the pick-up. Other players will notice, and just maybe this good habit will spread. As one pick-up veteran put it: “A hockey player is only as good as his or her checkbook.”
Tip No. 40
Are You Well Balanced?
Where should the skate blade’s balance point be for most skaters? Many skaters will be satisfied with the rocker left alone, with the balance point in the center. However, if you are a defensemen, you may want that balance point moved forward along the curve of your blade in order to set your center of gravity back, providing an advantage for backward skating. Forwards may want the balance point moved rear of center in order to shift the center of gravity forward, providing an advantage for forward skating.
Tip No. 41
Speed vs. Control
How should the hollow of your blade be handled? When the hollow is shallow, making the bottom of your blade relatively flat, you are more likely to hydroplane along the ice. Forwards, and most recreational skaters, who want to get speed out of their skates will demand a relatively shallow hollow. However, when the hollow is deeper, the blade will cut deeper into the ice, providing for more control.
Tip No. 42
Get Your Hands Up
In roller hockey, your hands should be high on the stick when stick handling. There should be a gap of only six to eight inches. This allows the widest possible reach. If your hand is too low on the shaft you’ll have less side-to-side stick-handling movement. Since roller hockey is a wide open game, usually played without body checking, you can do more wheeling and dealing.
Tip No. 43
Working to keep your name off the cut list can be gut wrenching, mentally. Sleepless nights are common during this trial period of one’s career. Nights can be never-ending and days seem like weeks. One NHLer, Guy Leveque, says camaraderie and adaptability can help you weather the storm. “When you come to camp for the first time, not knowing anybody and trying to impress the scouting staff, it’s hard for a young guy. The biggest factor is knowing guys and knowing how to adapt to the NHL style.”
Tip No. 44
Get Back Here!
Concentrate on back checking. Since in roller hockey you’re only playing four-on-four, if you don’t get back, the other team is probably going to have a man advantage. Too many two-on-ones turn into three- or four-on-twos because the two players up don’t stop and get back quickly. Don’t circle the net and cruise – get back!
Tip No. 45
Snap, Don’t Slap
The back-hand wrist shot and snap shot are easier to execute in roller hockey than in ice hockey because the puck is lighter. Too many players concentrate on the slap shot when they should develop a lightning-quick snap shot. Practice both these highly effective shots and watch your points go up.
Tip No. 46
What Me, Check?
The easiest way to check a guy without actually “checking” him is the bump. The key to a good bump is to hit the player hard enough to jar the puck loose without knocking the player down, or even too significantly off stride. This makes the contact seem incidental.
Tip No. 47
A Little Hook Helps
The keys to getting away with a hook or a hold are knowing when to do it, and knowing when to let up. If it’s done properly, you will slow the player down just a half stride, which should be enough to let you catch up. Equally important is the location of the hook or the hold. Hook a player’s feet and he’s going down – and you’re going to the sin-bin to feel shame. Hook his shoulder for a split second, and you’re even with him again – but remember who this guy was, so that next time you can play him a little more honestly and don’t have to risk a penalty.
Tip No. 48
A Slap On The Wrist
By far, the most effective location to slash someone is on the gloves. With proper timing, a medium hard slash to the gloves will knock the puck off most players’ sticks, and they don’t even get off a shot.
Tip No. 49
No Cheap Shots, Please
Anyone who has played for some time knows what a cheap shot is: spearing, butt-ending and elbowing can all seriously injure a player, so it’s best not to initiate this type of action. However, a good “payback” for someone who cheapshots you is the big hit. If you level someone who is playing chippy, and “pop their top,” they’ll know why you did it and you probably won’t see them again. You’ve made your statement; take your two minutes and get on with the game.
Tip No. 50
Fight “For The Team”
New Jersey Devil tough-guy Ken Daneyko would rather win a game than win a main event: “My philosophy, then as it is now, is to be a team guy; stick up for your teammates. Some rugged players make a big deal out of having bouts and beating up on other guys. It’s important to a lot of them, but has never been important to me. I can recall instances where I beat up someone who was supposed to be tough, and yeah, it gave me a lot of confidence. But the thing is, I never made a whole lot of the incident. And the reason I didn’t is that I never considered standing up to someone anything more than just part of my job.”
Tip No. 51
When the puck goes to one of your defensemen for a shot from the blue line, tap the goalie’s pads so he starts looking for a rebound that isn’t there, but don’t forget about that big defenseman…because he’ll be looking for you.
Tip No. 52
Making A Scene
If you’re playing against a guy who is a little bigger and stronger than you, don’t play his game; you’re not going to out-muscle him. Rather, when you want to set up in front of the other team’s net, don’t just stand by the big defenseman and wait for him to clear you out, take your stick and whack him right on top of the laces and holler, “I’m here!” He’ll probably chase you around, distracting the goalie – who’ll be wondering “what the heck is going on here?” Meanwhile, your side will have a better chance to put the puck in the net!
Tip No. 53
Summer is a good time to build a team. Many players form a summer-league team and things work out so well that they decide to stay together into the winter season. The less competitive atmosphere of summer leagues allows many teams and players to “experiment” with different players and positions. Maybe you’re a forward and want to change to defense, or may-be you had a life-long ambition of playing nets. The summer is a good time to try a new position.
Tip No. 54
To gain an explosive start, you should picture in your mind what a sprinter looks like when the gun goes off. The sprinter is trying to thrust forward – not upward – to gain that extra advantage at the start, and their initial strides come from the balls of the feet. It is similar in hockey. We want to feel like we are thrusting forward, taking quick strides that may look like short strides to the naked eye but are, in fact, best performed when fully extending the pushing leg. Remember to stay low throughout the move, trying to cover as much distance as you can while still making very rapid strides.
Tip No. 55
Spur Your Sponsor
Don’t waste time thinking how great all the guys are going to look in those new uniforms. Instead, compile a list of benefits to a sponsor. Remember, the odds of finding a sponsor ready to hand over the cash just because he likes you are almost non-existent. Sponsors want to know what’s in it for them. If you can convince a prospect that it’ll help his or her business, he’ll consider your offer much more seriously.
Tip No. 56
A Hybrid In Net?
No goaltender is purely one style or another. They are a hybrid…a combination that depends on the way the goaltender plays different situations. Ideally, in developing his or her own personal method or system of playing goal, a goalie should take the pluses of various styles on the “Style Continuum” while avoiding the minuses.
Tip No. 57
Icing Is Your Friend
Coach Tim Army says icing the puck isn’t always such a bad idea. “If you’ve been out there for a while, say 35 or 40 seconds, it’s a lot easier to play offense in those situations than it is defense. Not all players realize this, but sometimes it’s actually better to ice the puck, take a face-off and get some fresh horses out there. Under those circumstances, players shouldn’t be afraid to take a whistle. But if you’re fresh and the same situation arises, playing it off the glass and looking for an opening might be a good move.”
Tip No. 58
As a player skates in – preferably with his head up, he should be able to judge from the goalie’s positioning whether going top-shelf is a viable option. Should a goalie be just inside the top of his crease or back in his net, the odds are good that the upper corners will be open. If the player is in too close, chances are he won’t have enough room to lift the puck. Between the hash-marks of the face-off circle or just before the base are ideal release points for going high. The shot most used in this instance, is a wrist or snap shot.
Tip No. 59
Handcuff The Keeper
Goalies tend to get somewhat handcuffed when a puck is shot slightly above the ice to the outside of their pads, and underneath their glove or blocker. Whatever the reason, goaltenders prefer to kick their legs out rather than to the side. Once a goalie kicks his leg to the side, his arm also tends to rise in the process, leaving a hole between the pad and underneath portion of his arm.
Tip No. 60
Former L.A. Kings winger Dave Taylor on properly-fitted equipment: “Some players like to wear their pants large and that could cause a problem. When you go down, the padding needs to be in the appropriate places. Large pants could rotate and cause the padding to move out of place. With shin guards, length is very important. Too long is not good. Too short is worse, creating a gap above the skates where the puck seems to always find.” Wearing equipment that fits is the best way to prevent injuries.
Tip No. 61
I Could Pass, But…
Say two players are breaking in two-on-one, and the player on the left passes to the player on the right. The goalie will follow the pass, but generally anticipate a return pass to the left. If the player on the right holds onto the puck, however, the goaltender will often become a victim of his own anticipation, cheating back across and leaving plenty of net to shoot at. The same strategy can work if the puck-carrier is along the boards with a teammate cutting towards the slot. Sometimes using your teammate as a decoy can give you extra room.
Tip No. 62
Let It Go!
Often players will set up a screen so the goalie can’t get a clear read on the shot. If the goaltender goes down to get a better view, it’s a good bet a rebound will ensue. When this happens, a player should release the puck quickly and avoid trying to make an extra move or two. Get the puck on net, and see what develops. Being fancy doesn’t count on the scoreboard.
Tip No. 63
If you’re coaching, especially younger kids, don’t use skating as a negative or a punishment. This automatically sets the wrong tone for the players. Try to be creative when disciplining your team. Simply threatening your team with laps or other skating drills sends the message that skating is only practiced as a last resort. If specific drills are called for – to emphasize stamina, endurance or technique – use them as part of the regular coaching regimen.
Tip No. 64
Brian Engblom says that pre-game work pays off: “Work hard in the pre-game warm-up. Skate really hard and get a good sweat going. It will help your nerves settle down. It will also prepare you to work hard and be intense right at the start of the game. If you try to work your way into the game by skating off slowly and then building up your intensity, it will probably already be too late.”
Tip No. 65
Way Back? Far Out!
A struggling goaltender will often tinker with his positioning. He may stay very deep in his net, receiving false security from being close to the goalposts. But being too deep leaves a lot of room for shooters. At the other extreme, the goaltender might come out way too far – running at shooters – sometimes to the hash marks. The goalie believes that by cutting down the angle a lot, shooters cannot score. But often the goalie gets caught out of position by moving forward at the attackers. Shooters: watch the goalie’s habits in the pre-game warmup. Goalies: don’t overcompensate one way or the other just because you’re struggling.
Tip No. 66
Don’t Think Too Much
New York Rangers sparkplug Adam Graves on approaching the game: “Hockey is an emotional game and you play with enthusiasm. You can’t go out and say ‘Well, this shift I’m going to do this and that shift I’m going to do that.’ You just go out and play as hard as you can and you do what you can, and you play on instinct. It’s too quick a game just to be sitting back. It’s not like football where you make plays and then go and execute them and then you come back and talk about the execution. It’s one of those things that – boom, boom, boom – it happens so fast that you play on emotion and you play with heart, and that’s where I think you become more successful.
Tip No. 67
It’s Good To Share
One of the biggest annoyances when skating in a pick-up scrimmage is having to put up with someone who refuses to come off the ice. A well-run pick-up will normally consist of two lines per team, and will have a means of changing lines, most likely by a timed buzzer. But sometimes there are extra players, so three or four other people might be on the bench. Be considerate of them. They paid their money to play, too.
Tip No. 68
Clean, Not Mean
In addition to controlling the amount of physical contact during a pick-up, one should also play clean. Pick-up should be a time to develop hockey skills, not combat tactics. On too many occasions altercations during pick-ups erupt from someone’s recklessly swung stick, or from a spear that would kill a vampire. Play like this degrades the pick-up, and players who conduct themselves like ninjas should not be tolerated.
Tip No. 69
Top 10 Pick-Up List
1. Upon arriving at the rink, pay for your ice time immediately.
2. Bring two jerseys, a light and dark color so teams can be easily divided.
3. Assume that the scrimmage will be played with minimal body contact.
4. Don’t hog ice time, skate short shifts.
5. Play a “team game.” No one likes puck hogs.
6. Be considerate of your teammates as well as opposing players.
7. Obey rink rules. Avoid entering the ice until the Zamboni operator finishes cleaning his job.
8. Be flexible with the teams picked and the position you might be asked to play.
9. Arrive on time. It’s annoying to rearrange teams after play has already started for the benefit of one person.
10. Be friendly to all players. A friendly atmosphere keeps conflicts to a minimum.
Tip No. 70
Building Wrist Rockets
Strong wrists make for strong shots. If you don’t belong to a gym, there are a number of different, affordable wrist exercisers on the retail market, ranging from the Weider Power Wrist Builder to a simple but very effective rubber squeeze-ball. You can also make a simple device with a broom handle, a string and a weight. Tie the string to both the weight and the broom handle. Then, with the weight on the ground and the broom handle held with both hands at shoulder height, simply raise the weight by rolling the string onto the broom handle until the weight is at the handle. Then slowly unroll the weight back to the ground. This is an effective technique left over from the days of helmetless hockey.
Tip No. 71
Rob Blake on when to go for the big hit: “You have to use a controlled aggression. When I was younger, I was always real aggressive, jumping up and trying to cause problems. That’s a common thing for younger players. Being overly aggressive at all costs, and not necessarily being where they are supposed to be on the ice at any given time. When you’re younger, you’re always looking for the big hit. But you have to know when that’s going to happen. You have to learn to play smarter, to know when is the time to make the hit and when is the time to hold your ground so you don’t get stuck at a disadvantage.”
Tip No. 72
Keep It Down
Whenever possible, shoot low. Unless the goalie is a butterfly-style keeper against whom you might want to shoot high, top scorers almost always shoot the puck low. If you think about it, this makes sense because most goalies can move their arms to cover the top of the net, but if they’re not in perfect position, there are very few who are quick enough to adjust and cover a good low shot.
Tip No. 73
Try And Stay Balanced
A skater should always be evenly balanced. If the balance point or center of the radius is too far back, the knees and ankles will be forced to bend excessively. There will be a noticeable loss of power in the skater’s stride. If the radius is too far forward, the legs are locked into a rigid position. There will be a noticeable loss in the long, full stride; the skater may be limited to short, choppy strides. Improper positioning of the balance point will also cause muscle fatigue, frustration, and a loss of skater confidence.
Tip No. 74
He’s In Alone!
Stopping a breakaway is a three-step process:
Coming Out: When the goaltender determines there is a breakaway, he should come out well above the top of the goal crease and get set. This leaves little angle for a shot, and forces a sharp player to deke.
Backing Up: When the player reaches the top of the circles, the goaltender begins his backward motion.
Save Selection: This is the save choice the goalie makes. Whether it is a stack of the pads, a half-butterfly, or just getting hit in the chest, a decision based on the situation and visual cues must be made.
Tip No. 75
Stealing The Puck
How do you get the puck away from an approaching forward? It depends, says defenseman Rob Blake: “Basically you look to where he’s holding the puck. If he has it to the side, it’s easier to get a hold of. You can either lift the stick or you can slide and get it from him. If he’s got it directly in front of him, the best (play) is to hook him around the elbow…just throw him off a little bit.”
Tip No. 76
What’s The Plan?
What should you be thinking about as you break in alone on the goalie? Not much, says Trevor Linden: “When you go in on a breakaway, it’s more of just a reaction-type play. You’re not thinking about it. It happens so quickly. You’re there, you’re on top of the goalie and you make your play.”
Tip No. 77
Anticipate In Net
“The goalie has to play against the power play differently than under normal circumstances,” says Coach Rick Wilson. “When both teams are at equal strength, the goalie can focus exclusively on the puck, because he’s got defensive help to offset plays on the opposite side and behind the net.
“But during a power play, the goalie is as responsible for anticipating as the defenders are. Not that he wants to leave the net unguarded to play a man without the puck, of course, but he often ends up making decisions that the puck makes for him under more routine circumstances.”
Tip No. 78
Don’t Let ‘Em See You Sweat
How does a goalie approach the pressure-packed breakaway situation? Kay Whitmore says, make him think: “You try and stay as calm as you can, and make it look like you’re following him backwards. The more you make him think, the better for you. Most guys who score know what they’re going to do from the start. If you can make him change his mind and do something that he doesn’t want to do, that turns the tables in your favor.”
Tip No. 79
Aggressiveness Is The Key
How can you make a difference at both ends of the ice? “I think being aggressive is the key,” says Paul Coffey. “You can’t be afraid to take some chances. Of course, you have to be aware of when is a good time to take a chance and when it’s a good time to play it safe, but aggressiveness is very important.”
Tip No. 80
Good Refs Rule
Referees are a vital part of any successful game or league. If possible, it’s better to have non-playing refs. One thing is certain, bad refs equal a bad league. If they’re too permissive and liberal, fights and violence will result. If they call it too tight then the level of competitiveness suffers. There’s just no substitute for experience.
Tip No. 81
A skate that is “out of square,” has one edge that is higher than the other. This can lead to a skate turning much more easily in one direction than the other. This is analogous to driving a car that needs a front end alignment. The way to determine if your skate has its two edges square to the side of the blade is to turn the skate upside down, hold it up to where you can look across the length of the blade, and place a quarter over the two edges. If the side of the quarter and the side of your blade comprise a “T”, then your skates are correctly in square. But if one side of the quarter sits higher than the other, you have a high edge, and your skates are out of square.
Tip No. 82
Holding the skate upside down with the toe in one hand and the heel in the other, and holding the skate up to the bright lights inside the rink, pivot the skate toward you in the same fashion that you would turn a thermometer toward you when you are trying to read it. If there are dull spots on the skate, they will show up as little spots and lines of reflected light. This method is superior to, and safer than, the old method of running the back of your fingernail across the blade leaving fingernail shavings on the blade. Injuries are reported about once a month by people who use this rather inaccurate method.
Tip No. 83
Did They Do It Right?
Here’s how to tell if your skates have been sharpened properly: First, take a look at the bottom of the blade and observe the “grain” of the sharpening along the length of the hollow. Do the lines run straight along the length of the blade, or are they crooked and run crossways between the edges? Straight lines indicate that the skate was ground correctly. Crooked lines will lead to friction and slow you down. Another test is to carefully run a pen along the length of the hollow and check to see if the line you have drawn runs straight and smooth.
Tip No. 84
Be Flexible In Net
Flexibility increases a goaltender’s speed and reduces injury. Flexibility exercises can be done alone, or with a partner, by having the second person apply slight pressure to the goalkeeper while in a variety of stretching positions. When doing any flexibility exercises, never bounce, always stretch. Ask a coach, trainer or physical therapist for specific stretches designed for hockey players.
Tip No. 85
What Me, Cheat?
Does an All-Star really cheat? “Sure,” says Dale Hawerchuk: “You try and get away with cheating as much as you can on a draw. I know the word cheating sounds bad, but I don’t mean it in the way you may think about cheating. Cheating on a draw usually means that you position your feet differently on every draw. You try and get as much of an edge on winning it as possible.”
Tip No. 86
Be Safe & Sure
How does former NHL rearguard Brian Engblom think you should play it? Safe, that’s how: “Inside your own zone, you must make sure of every pass and not be careless about over-stickhandling the puck under pressure. Play the percentages, but above all, play by the clock and the score. Giving up a goal against in the first minute, or last minute of a period is deadly to your team’s momentum. Being fancy with the puck, in a close game, will lead to defeat much more often than to victory.”
Tip No. 87
Give Yourself Options
When you’re on a breakaway, speedster Cliff Ronning urges you to keep your options open: “When I come down, I’ll always try to put the puck in the middle of the ice and have my body off the post. That way you can shoot or deke.”
Tip No. 88
David or Goliath?
Coach Dave King offers this advice on stocking a roster: “I don’t think you can have a team of real small players or real big players. You want balance. On every team you want speed, finesse, and some body-checkers. You can’t just be all big and slow because you wouldn’t be effective. You look at the good teams in the league, they’ve got skill and they’ve got size.”
Tip No. 89
Coaching Confidence In Net
Confidence is a vital ingredient, especially for goalies. Coaches often don’t realize how they can ruin a goaltender’s confidence with harsh words, bad practice drills, or yanking the goaltender – causing an embarrassing moment. That’s not to say that a goalie need not be mentally tough. But while all stoppers must overcome the negatives (giving up bad goals, being yanked, etc.) of the game in order to excel, self confidence is critical.
Tip No. 90
Overcome the Shadow
Sidney Crosby knows what it’s like to be a marked man on the ice. Instead of being discouraged, Sid looks at it as an opportunity; “Being a successful hockey player is overcoming when guys are shadowing you and out-thinking them. It makes it that much more worthwhile when a guy is shadowing you and you get a quick opening and you put the puck in the net.”
Tip No. 91
Set Goals, Be Positive
Few athletes know more about winning than Mark Messier. What does it take, Mess? “I believe that you make your own dreams come true. You have a determination to achieve your goals. Too many times, things don’t go well and athletes beat themselves up until they finally just talk themselves into depression. You have to instill a positive feeling. A player may try to cheat his way through the season but you can’t cheat your way to the Stanley Cup. You have to know what you want – you have to set goals for yourself and for the team.”
Tip No. 92
Dean Kennedy on playing the man: “You have to close the gap between yourself and the man as he gets closer, from the (opponent’s) blue line through the neutral zone and past your blue line, you have to keep tight while simultaneously keeping yourself between him and the goal…and maintaining protection of the middle of the ice.”
Tip No. 93
How Big A Butt?
When you decide to make a butt end on your newly purchased hockey stick, you should consider that the larger the butt end, the more weight you’re adding to the stick. Although it may seem this weight is negligible, it may make a difference after two periods of hard play. At the same time, you might want to assess the way you stick handle and the type of game you play. You may actually need a large butt end to prevent your stick from slipping out of your hands.
Tip No. 94
When constructing a butt end, there are two basic configurations. The most common one is a square butt end that mirrors the shape of the stick. The other is a rounded butt end resembling an upside-down bowling pin. Both are easy to make, and can be modified to be as elaborate as the user wishes. When building up butt ends, it might be a good idea to use paper to shape the handle, saving on the amount tape used. If you choose to make a finger gripping surface, coiled tape can be used in lieu of rope. This will keep the weight of butt end to a minimum.
Tip No. 95
Position & Posture
Dave Taylor on face-offs: “I’ve always been taught that there are different postures for each face-off location. For example, in the defending zone you should be playing to control the puck and be thinking defense first. Too often teams try to ‘break-out’ from the face-off and end up giving up a goal because they not only lost the draw but left the opposing team unchecked.”
Tip No. 96
Seeing The Ice
The best forwards achieve their status not only through hard work but by being “heads-up” hockey players and “seeing the ice.” This is an expression that describes players who instinctively sense the movements of other players on the ice and are able to play off of those movements with a similar instinctiveness. It’s also referred to as “feeling the play” or “chemistry” between linemates. Some players have this natural gift. Others can work toward it by learning to use their eyes to read the play.
Tip No. 97
Self-Help In Net
While not every rebound is controllable by the goaltender, the goalie must get better at controlling more of them. Geometry tells us that very often, a shot from the outside third of the ice results in a rebound into the slot (angle of incidence equals the angle of reflection). Goaltenders must work on directing pucks away from traffic, thus shrinking the number of “gimme” or “garbage” goals from in front of the net. The goalie should not rely totally on the defense to clear all rebounds.
Tip No. 98
High-Power Power Play
Where does All-Star center Pierre Turgeon like to station himself on the power play? “I like to be behind the net, especially (since) the defenseman has to make a decision on which way he’s going to go. If one of the two defenseman comes behind the net to get you, there has to be one guy open in front. I just like to get there and look to see the play and all of the people in front. When the defenseman forces you on one side you can get out of the other, so the net you can use as a screen. Most of the time when we have a lot of chances to score, it comes from behind the net. We know it. We try to talk with Derek King and Steve Thomas and say get the puck in the corner. The main thing is putting it behind and start it from there because we get a lot of scoring chances from behind the net.”
Tip No. 99
Skate Like The Great One
Wayne Gretzky had so many other skills that it’s sometimes easy to forget his skating ability. While he was not the fastest player in the league, he was one of the quickest. His forward skating speed could be matched, but the rest of his skating abilities were unparalleled. Why was he so quick when it counted? He stayed low to the ice. The more you bend your knees the better all your skating will be. #99 also turned and stoped on a dime. When making one of those tight turns he was so famous for, his upper body was centered directly over his skates, rather than leaning in with the inside shoulder. He also had a fast start: By getting up on the inside edges of the toes like a sprinter coming out of the blocks, he could explode forward. Watch and try to emulate some of The Great One’s skating techniques and your game will improve. But remember, there will only one #99.
Tip No. 100
Power Play Preparation Pays
“The key to an effective power play first depends on who you’re playing (against),” says Nelson Emerson, a right winger who often mans the point on the power play. “In the NHL, we watch films and learn teams’ tendencies. Obviously, that kind of preparation is difficult at other levels, but the main thing is you should do everything you can to know the team you’re going up against as well as you know your own.”
Colin Campbell agrees: “We prepare them for what they’re going to see. Are the opposing players passive or aggressive? Do they (attack the puck) or stand back? We give them as much information as we can without blurring the whole scene.”
Tip No. 101
‘D’ Best Passes Are Simple
Brian Engblom on puck-handling at the blue line: “To move the puck effectively, the best passes are short ones. A defenseman should always be looking for the simplest play possible. He should use his partner as much as possible, when being forechecked aggressively. If he hangs on to the puck too long an intelligent forechecker will systematically limit his options and run him out of room, forcing him into a turnover.”