Hockey Skills Every Player Should Master
Without a doubt, there are certain skills that a player must have in order to be a good player. The player that takes the time to master those skills is the player that scores the goals, stops the shots, and/or plays the best defense. Agility, speed, flexibility, stick handling, and playing smart are all skills that can be learned and applied to your game.
Agility - Your genetic makeup will determine how agile you are, but only you can push yourself to your potential. Agility drills will dramatically improve your game -- you'll be quicker to respond on the ice, and that will put you ahead of your opponents. We've put together some agility drills for you, but if you want more, check out books like Training for Speed, Agility, and Quickness (which is obviously also good for speed and quickness!).
Speed - So you want to skate fast, do ya? There's more to being a fast skater than you would think. You don't just skate to one end of the rink and back, or out of your net and back, you also need to move side to side, around in sweeping or tight circles, change direction quickly and skate quickly from a dead stop. So how do you train for these movements? We've got some speed drills for you!
Flexibility - This skill is very important for goalies. Goalies virtually need to be able to imitate a rubber band, stretching impossibly to various sections of the crease to make the second, third, and fourth save. The first save should be made from a stance, but often you're required to make more than one. Stretching exercises will help -- make sure you perform them every day to maintain flexibility. The Complete Guide to Joseph H. Pilates' Technique of Physical Conditioning is a good guide to obtaining and maintaining flexibility, strength, and toned muscles.
Stick handling - Both players and goalies should exhibit excellent stick handling skills. Players moreso than goalies, but when a goalie comes out of the net to play the puck, it certainly helps quite a bit! The only way to get better is to practice, practice, practice! Take any extra time you have during a practice or before a game to do a few small drills, or when you're at home, use a hockey stick and a ball or puck. We have a few other stick handling drills for you to try, and remember, practice, practice, practice!
Playing smart - Being able to predict the play of the other team and make the right play at the right time is a skill that is definitely worth learning. This skill may come naturally to many people, especially those that watch a lot of higher level hockey. Being a smart player is usually something that is developed over years of playing. When you're in a game, you'll make mistakes and you'll make good plays -- the important thing is to learn what works and what doesn't. Watch a lot of hockey and play a lot of hockey, and you'll become a smart player if you pay attention. If you're a hockey fan, it shouldn't be too hard!