During the off-season, training for hockey can be difficult. Without ice time or a season to engage in, how are you supposed to get any better? Simple enough, if you take away the ice, suddenly the entire world is your rink. For any aspiring hockey player, a lack of rink time might be discouraging, but there’s plenty you can do in your own kitchen or driveway!
All you’ll need here is your stick, a golf ball, a couple cones, and the willingness to succeed! There are a handful of special stickhandling balls being used out there, but for the sake of these drills, you won’t need anything particularly fancy. The golf ball works well given its ability to roll on most of the surfaces you’ll be practicing on. The fast speed at which the golf ball will roll is great for working on your hands and reaction. The smooth roll of the ball will develop proper wrist-roll action as opposed to the choppy motion of handling a puck on dryland.
With that in mind, here are a few of CoachUp’s favorite dryland stickhandling drills.
This is a drill you’ll want to be able to do in your sleep! Start with the golf ball in front of you and quickly handle the puck, swiftly shifting between your forehand, backhand, and at different blade levels as well. Then, after 20-30 seconds, move the golf ball to the right side of your body and repeat. After 20-30 more seconds, move the golf ball to the left side of your body and repeat. Soon enough, you’ll be able to do it all like clockwork, even switching between locations without stopping the process.
Pro-Tip: At first, it will seem unnatural to do it without looking, that’s OK! But as you get more comfortable, try looking up as much as possible. Eventually, you’ll be able to do that too. Just like dribbling in soccer, you’re a much more dangerous athlete with your eyes up and body ready for whatever comes your way!
Top Hand Only
You’ll use only your top hand for this drill as you’re working on strengthening the hand necessary for stick control. This will be your left hand for a righty or right hand for a lefty! Keeping a strong top hand allows you to control the angle that your blade hits the ice and thus is very important for puck control. Taking your bottom hand off the shaft during your hockey training while practicing your stickhandling and catching passes will teach you how to properly control your movements. Repeat the movements from above, but make sure that other hand doesn't sneak back onto the stick.
Place two cones at a distance apart in which you can stand still in the middle and comfortably reach both ends. Then move in the Figure 8 rotation around the cones under control and at a maintainable pace. Again, control is crucial -- if you want to be your greatest version, don’t move too out of control, you won’t get any better! Amp up the pace as you improve and the results will follow. Wrap your stick and the ball around the cones, using toe drags, backhands, and flicks when appropriate.
(Related: Read about being a mentally tough goaltender here.)
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg! There are plenty of dryland stickhandling drills out there just waiting for you! But if that’s not enough, get creative. In the end, it will help you to focus on specific muscle memory activities and skill sets, but the best thing you can do is simply have a stick in your hand.
Putting in extra hours with your stick, even in the off-season, will only benefit you in the long run. Dryland stickhandling drills are fun because the possibilities are endless. Is your kitchen too stuffy? Take it to the streets! Weave around car tires, brush, and sticks with a variety of moves. Basically, don't be afraid to make the world your rink.
If you’re interested in being taught stickhandling by a skilled professional, consider booking one of CoachUp’s private trainers to help you along the way. Soon enough, you’ll start looking like Patrick Kane instead of Brandon Bolig and that alone is worth the effort.