The next time you watch a NHL or PWHL game, take notice of how the very best players seemingly have the puck on a string, almost like a yoyo, and are able to move the puck from forehand to backhand, laterally and back through their skates. The hand-eye coordination and muscle memory is so refined for players at this level that they don’t really even need to think about which move to do, they can just react instinctively to the space available to them. This describes the hockey skill referred to as puck control.

Simply put, the most 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, to enhance your hand-eye coordination and comfort level with the puck.

Puck control is an extremely important yet often overlooked skill for rising young stars to develop. That said, one’s ability to master this skill is a major differentiator for whether players can continue to move on to play at higher levels.  

So why don’t players practice puck control as much? And what can we do to overcome that?

We believe three primary reasons (and solutions) can help your player crack the code:

First, and let’s be honest…stickhandling practice is not as fun as shooting pucks, at least not initially. Practicing puck control takes a lot of repetition, you will fumble the puck many times, you might knock over your stickhandling aids, and not quite as gratifying as hitting a top shelf target. But as the higher level players already know, effective puck control is a prerequisite to being able to create shots for yourself and teammates as you rise the ranks, so the most motivated among us would recognize that and train accordingly.

Second, what is the best way to train? If you introduce a series of circuits, fun drills and mix up the patterns, you can avoid the repetitiveness. The best resource we know is which offers resources and drill ideas to assist with this to keep things interesting. Here are some examples from OHT / Coach Lance: 

  1. Practice your ‘reach’ with the puck, moving laterally side to side. Short distance then increase.
  2. Practice turning 360’s with the puck on your stick, controlling it the entire time.
  3. Practice moving the puck from behind you to your front.
  4. 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.

if you are not turned off by “old school” methods, consider the stickhandling circuits video created about 30 years ago by Terry Cullen (

Third, how do you know when you're done? The solution is to create goal orientation around stickhandling practice as well, such as completing 500 touches, 15 minutes, complete 3 reps of 8 different circuits, etc. Consider a similar challenge as the 10,000 puck challenge, which can be completed over a summer for just 20 minutes and ~100-120 pucks per day. Challenge your teammates to a summer-long competition, either for bragging rights or for something trivial like a milkshake.

Lastly, consider whether you have the proper training tools for your environment. The flooring is a critical aspect of your ability to perform stickhandling practice at home. Based on our experience, dryland hockey tiles and synthetic ice offer the best surfaces, as they are both slick and allow you to perform the drills with the widest range of of motion. They also have the benefit of protecting the floors and your stick. Shooting pads may also work, but depending on the size you might not have the full range of motion required to complete all the stickhandling drills. If your home has a concrete floor in a garage or unfinished basement that might also work, but keep in mind that a) hard rubber pucks generally don’t interact well with concrete so you might have to use a street hockey puck; b) stick tape tends to leave scuffmarks on floors; c) concrete is a hard surface and has potential to damage the bottom side of your stick blade, so you might also need a Wraparound. Our recommendation is to just buy 1 or more boxes of dryland tiles. Stickhandling balls can also produce good results, yet still not exactly the same as an actual puck.

Once you have flooring you like, consider how training tools like the Sweethands or Attack Triangle can offer more opportunities to practice different stickhandling patterns. With the Sweethands you can form in a semi-circle, break into sections, or practice figure-8s in each direction. And with an Attack Triangle you can do the same, plus practice a slip under the stick, and more. 


It often takes hours of repetition to develop the touch and feel of the puck so that it becomes second nature, just like it does for professionals. If you truly motivated about achieving greatness, however, then consider how small amounts of time training your hands here and there in fun and creative ways will pay cumulative dividends over time and help you reach your hockey goals.


Edited in May 2024 from original article written by Lance Pitlick in April 2015. Based in the Minneapolis area, Lance is a former NHL player with Ottawa Senators and Florida Panthers, played collegiate hockey with the Minnesota Golden Gophers, is a foremost training professional with stickhandling and shooting both in-person and through, and is the founder and former owner of Snipers Edge Hockey. 

May 20, 2024 — Sniper Sam

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