All too often, players focus exclusively on developing puck control directly in front of their body. While it is important to be able to stick handle in front of you, and this is a good place to begin, one should never underestimate the benefits of developing good puck skills in all areas around your body. I call this your “Area of Control”, and over the next few blogs, you will learn how to develop your puck handling proficiency.
Let’s begin by defining the areas around your body. If you stand with both skates pointing “north”, then we can label the spot directly in front of you and natural stick handling distance from your body as “Position 3”.
Let’s define the spot diagonally in front on your forehand side “Position 2”. So for left-shots, this will be to the left of “Position 3”, and for right-shots, this will be to the right of “Position 3”.
The reflection of “Position 2”, diagonally on your backhand side, will be “Position 4”.
Directly “east” and “west” of your skates are “Position 1” and “Position 5”, on your forehand side and your backhand side, respectively.
Using these 5 positions, you can begin to develop strong puck control skills at various points around your body. Practice stick handling in each of these positions by rolling your wrists, ensuring the puck is being “captured” underneath the stick. Be sure to keep your feet pointed “north” while developing puck skills in each position.
While executing this simple drill, your wrists and forearms may get tired or even outright sore. This is expected when recruiting muscles to do more work, or in a different way than they are used to working. Take frequent breaks and stretch out these muscles.
Make sure that you are maintaining a strong “Ready Position” or “Hockey Stance”, with knees well bent. This will help to improve your range of motion (especially when stick handling in positions 4 and 5). Holding this position may be tiring on your legs, but it will save your back from experiencing stiffness. Just like with your forearms, take frequent breaks and stretch. Over time you will build up the necessary muscle endurance to execute these puck skills and hold this position longer.