The slap shot is one of the more exciting moments in a hockey game, partly because you can see the whole process unfolding—the player setting their feet; the big, dramatic backswing; and the loud impact of the stick with the ice and the puck—before the puck rockets toward the goal. But in order for that shot to have maximum speed and accuracy, a lot of things must go right. Like a long golf drive, a good slap shot is the culmination of proper mechanics, body position, and weight transfer, none of which come naturally. The way to develop a powerful slapper is to practice a lot and pay attention to the specific elements of the process. Here are five things to focus on as you work to improve your long blasts.
1. Starting Foot Position
To generate the most power, start with the puck in front of you and slightly behind your front foot. You don’t want the puck directly between your feet because you’re going to shift your weight forward and move the stick and your body through the puck for maximum power. Ideally, when the blade of the stick makes contact with the puck, your body and your bottom hand should be directly over the puck. You also don’t want the puck outside your feet because then you will end up reaching for it and the stick won’t flex as much, which will rob you of power.
2. Hand Positions
A common mistake is placing your bottom hand too low on the stick during a slap shot. It’s understandable because it makes you feel like you are exerting the most arm power on the shot that way. However, most of the power in a slap shot does not come from your arms: it comes from the flex of the stick and the weight transfer of your body. The last thing you want to do is restrict the flexing of the kick point on the shaft, which will rob your shot of power.
Instead, start with your hands slightly wider than shoulder width. Most sticks have a mid or low-mid kick point, and the flexing of the shaft there will generate the most power. Therefore, you want to leave that part of the stick free to do its job.
It seems logical that the bigger the backswing, the harder the shot, but that’s not necessarily the case. You want to ensure that all the power and momentum of your body and the stick are focused in the same direction, so it’s the efficiency of the backswing that you should work on. During the backswing and the shot, you want the stick blade to be moving in a straight line toward the target—not coming around in an arc like a golf club. If you twist your body during the backswing, so the blade ends up behind you at the top of the swing, the energy of the forward motion is dissipated somewhat because it isn’t pointing toward the target.
Start with a low backswing—say, shoulder height—to establish this straight-line velocity, and then gradually go with a bigger motion as you become more comfortable. If you feel as if you start twisting too much with the bigger motion, drop the height of the swing to reestablish the straight-line power, and then work your way back up again. In some situations—especially if you play high-level hockey—you won’t have time for a big wind-up, so you want to practice generating as much power as possible out of a lower backswing.
4. Weight Transfer
As you make your backswing, shift your weight to your back leg. The key here is keeping your knees bent; if you are too upright, the force of your weight transfer will go down into the ice instead of toward your target. As you begin the forward swing, push off the back leg and let your hips slide forward toward your target. Again, try to keep all motion in a straight line toward the goal. When your stick blade makes contact with the ice behind the puck, this weight transfer to the front leg should put your hips right over the puck. The power of your body mass going forward will help flex the stick and add power to the shot.
5. Impact Point and Follow Through
At the bottom of your shot swing, the blade of your stick should hit the ice before it makes contact with the puck, to give the shaft of the stick more time to flex. Aim to hit the ice five or six inches behind the puck. Your bottom arm should be straight during the forward swing, to ensure the maximum transfer of energy to the puck. The impact point should be between the middle and the heel of the stick blade.
As you strike the puck, look at the point you’re shooting at. For a golf swing, you want to keep your head down, but for a slap shot you want your eyes directed exactly where you want the puck to go. Taking a slap shot without looking at where the puck is going can actually be dangerous, so keep that head up!
Finally, you want to follow through after the puck has left your stick. In general, the higher the follow through, the higher the shot. You have a better chance of hitting the target or getting a deflection if you keep the shot below waist-height.
Practice these aspects of good slap shot technique, and you’ll improve both the power and the accuracy of your blasts. More than likely, the results will be more goals and assists. And be sure to check out the Playing & Training Tips in our Hockey Resource Center to learn more about the four types of hockey shots.