Improve your Ice Hockey Skills
As is the case with most sports, good Ice Hockey skills can only be acquired through regular practice. If you are looking for specific advice about how to develop your skills or ideas for practice drills, there are a number of books available which offer good advice. If you have a few friends you can practice with, investing in a coaching manual is a good idea. Whilst the book might not be aimed specifically at you as an individual player, there will probably be some good ideas for practice drills designed to develop particular skills.
If you are really serious about improving your hockey skills, you might want to consider attending a training camp. Many of these are designed for children, and some are residential. If this is something that interests you, take a look at the Planet Hockey website, which offers training programmes for both adults and children in locations throughout the world. You should be able to find information about any relevant local programmes through your local ice hockey club or skating rink.
Practising basic skating skills should always be a priority; if your ability to manoeuvre yourself well on the ice begins to slip, it is inevitable that your game will suffer. Some general tips on how to become more proficient at the fundamental skills of ice hockey are offered below as well as links to some specialist extra skills pages:
You should devote plenty of time, especially when you are a beginner, to perfecting your skating skills without worrying about your stick or the puck. In order to skate in a straight line, make sure that your knees are well bent, your head is up, and your legs are shoulder-width apart. Many first time skaters make the mistake of spreading their legs too wide or bending forwards too much. In order to maintain your balance and skate accurately and powerfully, you will need to pay a lot of attention to the way your body is aligned. If possible, ask someone to take a video of you skating; you will quickly notice bad habits which you were not aware of if you are able to watch yourself.
Of course, when mid-game, you will rarely skate in a straight line without having to negotiate any obstacles. A good way to practice the manoeuvres which will be needed frequently in an ice hockey game is to use a simple skating drill. Set up cones down the length of the rink and imagine that these cones are your opponents. Practice weaving around them as you skate down the rink. Once you are comfortable with your footwork, try completing the same drill whilst pushing a puck along with your stick. While tempting, try not to focus exclusively on your feet as you push the puck along as you will need to get used to skating with your head up. During ice hockey games, you will need to be constantly aware of the movements of your opponents and your own team mates. Skating with your head down during a game will make you an easy target for tackling and will make it next to impossible to cooperate well with your team mates.
You will probably need to devote a considerable amount of time to mastering the art of stopping abruptly. While this might sound simple enough, it is actually very difficult to come to a sudden stop when you have been skating quickly. The best method is to turn both skates simultaneously and decisively at a right angle to the direction in which you had been travelling.
There are a number of ‘power skating’ training programmes and advice manuals available. You should remember, however, that learning how to skate quickly and powerfully will only get you half the distance to your goal of becoming an excellent ice hockey player. Power and speed alone will not compensate for sloppy technique. The best ice hockey players do skate powerfully, but they also skate with accuracy and are able to execute difficult manoeuvres smoothly and efficiently. You will only become a formidable force on the ice if you learn the basics first and begin to think about increasing your speed and power later on. You will quickly discover that the two are not mutually exclusive; it is far easier to skate powerfully if you are using the correct technique.
Shooting and passing
Once you have mastered basic skating skills and have practiced skating with pushing the puck along with your hockey stick, you will need to think about shooting and passing skills. Again, it is important to keep your head up while shooting or passing. After all, you would not consider trying to shoot a basket in basketball or a goal in football without looking what you were doing. Always keep your eyes on where you are planning to send the puck.
You should also pay close attention to the way in which you hold your stick. To maintain proper control, you should keep one hand (usually the hand you use to write with) lower than the other, just above knee height. Do not keep both hands together towards the top of the stick; a hockey stick is not a golf club, and should never be held as such. Once you have assumed this position, keep your knees well-bent and push the puck towards your target. Do not be tempted to draw the stick back and smack it. Your stick should be in contact with the puck when you begin the pass or shot and you should push it firmly away from your body and follow through with your stick.
The best way to develop your ice hockey skills is to divide your practice time well. You should make time on a regular basis for fine-tuning the fundamental skills, including shooting, passing and skating. Even professional hockey players regularly devote time to working on the basics. You should also spend time working on your individual weaknesses. If you know that you are not good at receiving passes or tackling opponents, for example, find a partner and go through some simple drills designed to develop the skills that need improving. If you are a member of a club or team, your coach should be able to recommend practice drills. If you do not have a coach, a coaching manual which includes lots of ideas for drills would be a good investment.
Above all, make sure that you practice regularly. If you want to be really good, half an hour practicing shooting twice a week is unlikely to be enough. Set aside half an hour, or an hour if possible, each day to devote to practice. If it is impossible for you to practice on the ice daily because you have to travel to your local rink, there are still practice drills you can do off the ice. Many sports shops sell nets designed to allow ice hockey players to practice off the ice. One of these could allow you to practice basic shooting skills in your own garden. You could also try roller blading, which will help you to improve your balance and skating technique.
General fitness training should also be an important part of your routine. Ice hockey is a physically demanding sport, and you will need to be fit in order to play it well. Regular aerobic exercise is the only way to achieve the required level of fitness. In-line skating is an excellent option for ice hockey enthusiasts, as it combines aerobic exercise with the practice of skills which will be useful when playing the game. Running and swimming are also excellent ways to improve general fitness. You might also want to consider devoting some time to resistance training and weight lifting in order to improve your muscle strength.
Try not to allow your physical fitness to deteriorate after the season ends. While you might want to take a short well-earned break after a tough season, try to get back into your fitness routine quickly. You cannot reasonably expect to start training a week before the season begins and play as well as you did at the end of the previous season.