A slide board—like the Hockey Shot Slide Board Pro—is a slick, flat surface that mimics the feel of skating on ice, but you can set it up in your garage or basement. By wearing special boots, you can slide from side to side and do myriad exercises and drills. The slide board comes in 8- and 10-foot models, and you can adjust the end bumpers to make the board just the right width for your stride. You can use the slide board alone or with other training tools, such as a shooting pad, a passing rebounder, or a training ball. Here are three great hockey drills you can do at home that will pay dividends on the ice.
1. Working on Your Skating Stride
The most basic function of the slide board is that it helps you to work on your skating stride—including your hockey stance, leg extensions, and balance.
- Start with the outside of your left foot against one of the bumpers, holding a proper hockey stance, with your knees bent, your feet shoulder width apart, and your weight slightly forward over your thighs.
- Shift your weight over your left foot (the one against the bumper) and move your right foot toward your left foot.
- Push off with your left leg, shifting your weight to the right and allowing the right foot to slide across the board. Make sure you fully extend the leg that’s pushing off, pointing your toe as it comes off the bumper (just as you would with your skates on). Maintain your low hockey stance and balance throughout.
- When the sliding foot comes in contact with the opposite bumper, reverse the process.
- Keep your feet close to the surface of the slide board, resisting the temptation to pick up the foot at the end of the push-off, which may throw off your balance.
This is a great low-impact workout that will activate your skating muscles—which running drills can’t really do—and can help you increase your stride length. By fully extending the leg and pointing your toe at the end of each push-off, you will increase your flexibility and your power.
2. Stick-Handling Drills
While it is possible to work on your stick-handling while standing on firm ground, you’ll soon realize that everything feels different when you’re trying to make the same moves in skates. Striding on the slide board while you practice your stick work will add realism to the process, allowing you to gain a better feel for controlling the puck as you “skate.” You can use a stick-handling ball or a Green Biscuit on the bare floor in front of you, but you’ll get better practice by placing a shooting pad in front of the slide board to better imitate conditions on the ice.
Start with simple puck control, moving the puck from one side of the stick blade to the other, as if you were just skating straight down the ice. Then begin to add complexity: Place three pucks in a triangle in front of you and practice moving your puck through and among them as you skate, increasing your dexterity and building up your wrist muscles. Add a passing rebounder, like the Hockey Shot Extreme Passer Pro, to one end of the shooting pad, which will allow you to practice making and receiving passes as you are “skating” on the slide board. Feel free to make up your own handling and passing drills, increasing the level of difficulty as you become more comfortable.
3. Shooting Drills
A shooting pad is designed to help you develop the skills and muscle memory to take good shots on the ice, but if you use the pad in conjunction with a slide board, the more realistic feel will work better for developing a proper weight transfer and release point on your shot. For instance, to practice your slap shot, set up your slide board and your shooting pad in front of a goal, perpendicular to the goal mouth. Start with your back foot against the bumper, in a proper hockey stance, with the puck on the shooting pad and slightly behind your front foot. Make your backswing, and then push off with your back foot as you begin to move your weight through the puck toward goal. Your follow-through will send you down the slide board, as if you were on the ice, and you should finish with your stick blade pointed toward your target. (For more on this, see “5 Tips to Improve Your Slap Shot.”)
When it comes to improving hockey skills and fitness, there’s no substitute for ice time, but you can’t always be at the rink. Plus, the off season might mean that you have no access to ice at all, depending on where you live. For those times when you simply can’t get on skates, a good slide board setup is a great way to improve your strength and flexibility. And when you do finally strap on the skates again, you’ll have developed good skating technique, balance, and stick technique that will help you raise your game.