Stick Handling Skills for Youth Hockey Players
Mastering effective stick handling skills is beneficial for young hockey players to achieve greater control of the puck. Doing off ice drills, such as the one demonstrated in the above video will help increase a player's skills as they learn how to fake or "deke" the defense. In addition it improves a player's eye-hand coordination, as they learn to flip the stick and use the blade to control the practice hockey ball. In game use, the blade can be used to offensively deflect pucks into the goal or knock them out of the air in a defensive move. Over time, the stick becomes an extension of the player's hands as they learn to instinctively react to the play at hand.
How to Improve Stick Handling
The old saying, "practice makes perfect" has merit. Practicing stick handling drills repetitively for at least 10 minutes a day has a considerable effect on a young hockey player. Whether practicing on the driveway, in the garage or in front of the TV, the time spent doing these drills as shown in the video will pay off.
To do the drill, the player should stand with his knees slightly bent, the same way he would on the ice. The left hand should be on top of the stick and the right hand about 12-14 inches down so the hands are shoulder width apart. The key is to practice the way you would play on the ice. Practice touching the hockey ball back and forth, counting how many touches in 30 seconds. A young player can strive to get 100 touches in 30 seconds. Work your way up to not only touching the ball, but controlling it. Practice side to side and backwards and forwards. Focus on your control and work your way up to higher speeds.
Just as a pianist does not rely on looking at the piano keys to play music, and a good typist doesn't look at the keyboard to type, a hockey player must learn to react to the puck without looking at his stick. No matter the age of a player, practicing these drills will make a player's skills drastically improve. However, mites that practice stickhandling will have a huge advantage over other kids when they are squirts and older.
Hockey Practice Equipment
To do these drills, practice with a street hockey stick and a weighted or "smart" hockey ball. If those are not available, simply use a tennis ball. A street or weighted puck can also be used if your practice area is very smooth, like a garage floor. Shooting pads can also be purchased, or for a much cheaper option, the same boards can be bought at hardware stores.
How to Buy an Ice Hockey Stick
The hockey stick is an extension of the players's arms. Not just any stick will do, you must make sure you have a stick that is the right size for your player or else they will not be able to have good control. There are many factors to consider when sizing a youth hockey stick, but a general rule is the very top of the shaft of the stick should come between the tip of the nose and the chin. In this range, it enables the player to maneuver the stick more easily on the ice.
The Best NHL Stick Handlers
Martin St. Louis of Tampa Bay scores more goals off deflections than any other NHL player. After two seasons of scoring nearly 100 points, he slipped last year to 74 points due to changes in the lineup. Zach Parise of the Minnesota Wild and Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins are no longer in the recent top 10 NHL scorers, but they are both know for their quick hands on the ice. Sidney Crosby began playing hockey when he was two years old by shooting pucks into the dryer.
All three of these players have had seasons of scoring greater than 100 points due to their league dominating stickhandling skills obtained from hours, weeks and years of practice. The pros are able to react instinctively to use their sticks as extensions of their arms. Encourage your youth player to practice stick handling drills and they too will see improvement in their game.