For the last decade, I’ve had the privilege to work with some of the most talented hockey players in Minnesota. Being a stickhandling and shooting specialist, there is no doubt in my mind what separates the top players from the rest of their peers.
When it comes to the game of hockey, there are a few distinguishing factors that the top players have acquired over the years that makes them leaders and not followers. The players that move on to play college hockey are the ones who can possess the puck under pressure, make high-end hockey plays, and have a hard, accurate shot. These skills are mostly attained in an off-ice environment.
Off-ice stickhandling and shooting training is the secret sauce for these high-end hockey talents. A lot of players are unwilling to regularly work on their stick skills off-ice, but those that do quickly start widening the gap from the rest of the competition.
There have been a number of puck possession studies over the years to measure, on average, how long players actually have the puck on their stick during games. The best players have the puck on their stick for roughly one minute. Less skilled players are lucky to touch the puck during a game for 30 seconds.
Because of this study, I was interested to see how long players have the puck on their stick during practices. A few years back, I went to the rink over the course of a week and watched whatever team was on the ice. I picked one player and tracked how long he or she had the puck on their stick during the 60-minute practice. I tracked 10 different teams and players and each player averaged touching the puck for approximately seven minutes.
That gives you eight minutes of puck possession time for one game and one practice. Unfortunately, that’s not nearly enough to develop elite-level stick skills. That’s why a regular weekly routine of off-ice stick handling and shooting training is so important.
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