When it comes to skills in hockey, there are some that are very obvious including skating, shooting, stickhandling and passing, which we have discussed in previous blogs. One extremely important skill that is often overlooked and understated however is puck control. It’s pretty obvious at first glance what puck control is, but when you dissect the skill, what does it really mean to have great puck control?
The best way to really understand puck control is to watch a game, pick out a player who seems to have the puck on their stick a lot, and study not only what they are doing, but more importantly how they are doing it. Once you take the time to do this, you will realize that there is a distinct difference between simply ‘possessing’ the puck and actually ‘controlling’ the puck.
This is especially evident with the younger age groups where, for example, bigger players can use their size to possess the puck without really having to control the puck. The good players however learn that in order to be a great hockey player, they need to have the ability to control the puck. This means being comfortable with the puck on your forehand, backhand and able to maneuver with the puck seamlessly as opponents apply pressure.
So what can you do to improve your ability to control the puck? One of the biggest factors in successful puck control is simply being comfortable with the puck on your stick and around your body. This skill is best developed the old fashioned way, with lots of practice with the puck on your stick. And it doesn’t even have to be a puck, stickhandling balls work just as well. But the bottom line is the more you develop hand-eye coordination and a comfort level with the puck, the more you will master the skill of puck control.
Next time you are in the basement or garage firing pucks against your shooting tarp, take the time to also stickhandle and ‘dangle’ with the puck. We’ve all seen the players who seemingly have the puck on a string, almost like a Yo-Yo. They are able to move from forehand to backhand, laterally and back through their skates. This is puck control at its finest, and a skill much different than puck possession.
Consider incorporating the following into your training
- Practice your ‘reach’ with the puck, moving laterally side to side. Short distance then increase.
- Practice turning 360’s with the puck on your stick, controlling it the entire time.
- Practice moving the puck from behind you to your front.
- To help gain a feel for the puck, try spinning the puck continuously. Run the blade of your stick along both sides of the puck to make it spin, while keeping the puck in place.
The more you can practice controlling the puck with movement the great success you will have not just possessing the puck, but actually controlling the puck.
The best passers and the best goal scorers have all learned the art of puck control. Take the time to watch the best players. Take the time and learn the difference between possession and control. Then ask yourself, do I simply possess the puck or do I have the skill necessary to control of the puck?
Remember, always work hard and dream bigger than everyone else!