The keys to making and receiving passes on the backhand side are proper technique and fundamentals. What makes backhand passes challenging for some players is using the side of the stick blade that is concave, meaning it does not naturally cup the puck, so controlling the puck is more difficult than it is in a forehand pass. The same holds true for receiving a pass with the backhand side of the stick blade. Everything from your stance to how you hold your hands to where the puck is on the blade will determine the effectiveness of the pass. Here are the keys to making and receiving passes on the backhand side.
Passing the Puck
- Start with a good “hockey stance,” with your knees bent, your weight centered slightly forward, your hands in front of you, and your head up. Your lower hand must be far enough down the stick shaft to give you stability and good control. If your hand is too high on the shaft, it will be more difficult to keep the puck on the back of the stick blade, making it more difficult to make a sharp, on-target pass.
- Keep the puck on the heel of the stick blade, the third of the blade closest to the shaft. This offers you the most stability and control, and it is the flattest part of the blade. If the puck is in the center or near the toe of the blade, it can spin or slide off as you make the pass, hurting your accuracy.
- Move the puck so it’s even with or beyond your back foot (the one opposite the direction you wish to pass). This starting position is vital to making the proper sweeping motion that results in an accurate, sharp pass that keeps the puck on the ice, making it easier for your teammate to receive it.
- Cup the puck with the stick blade. Angle the blade over the puck to keep it in place on the blade.
- Make the pass by sweeping the stick blade toward your target. As you do this, keep your hands out in front of you, and shift your weight from the back foot to the front foot. Do not smack the puck or attempt to simply push it in the direction you want it to go. This sweeping motion will cause the puck to spin toward the toe, and will make the puck spin, as well. A spinning puck is more stable and stays on course better.
- At the end of the sweeping motion, your stick blade and your nose should be pointing directly at your intended target. This is a key to accuracy. By making your stick, your hands, and your body line up, you keep the puck on its proper trajectory: This follow-through is crucial.
Receiving the Puck on the Backhand Side
- Again, start with a good hockey stance, which offers you the stability to control your stick blade properly and position it where it needs to be to receive the pass.
- Receive the puck on the heel of your stick blade. If the puck hits the middle or the toe of the blade, it is much more likely to bounce off. A sharp pass that hits the toe of the blade can also cause the blade to twist, sending the puck ricocheting beyond the receiving player. The heel is the flattest and most stable part of the blade, and it can deaden even a fast-moving puck.
- As the puck hits the heel of the blade, cushion the impact by allowing the blade to move with the puck—decelerating the puck, rather than stopping it cold. As you move the blade with the puck, tilt it slightly to cup the puck. This action immediately positions you correctly to make your own backhand pass should you want to.
A good backhand pass in hockey allows a player to pass the puck to the stick side without having to rotate their body and use the front of the stick blade. A center racing down the ice with a winger on each side must be able to pass to either side quickly to make the most of a three-on-two, for instance. Using the back side of your stick blade to make and receive passes will make you a more versatile player, and gives you more options when you’re on the ice. Practice with another player, passing the puck back and forth using the backhand only. When you feel you have the fundamentals down, start practicing while you’re skating. Find a player who holds the stick the opposite way you do, and work your way down the ice as you pass. Gradually increase the speed of this drill until you can make an accurate backhand pass at top speed.