Stickhandling is one of those hockey skills you never truly master, so you must continue to work at it as much as possible. Even NHL stars famous for their incredible dangles still spend hours each week practicing their ability to control and manipulate the puck in any situation. Most of us started out in the garage or on the driveway with just a stick and a ball—which is just fine for getting started learning proper hand and wrist control—but the ability to mimic real-game conditions is what will take your stickhandling skills to the next level. Here’s how you can put together a training setup that will work best for you.
Stickhandling Training Equipment: The Basics
Start by tooling up with some basic hockey training aids. If you’re going to start with just a stick and a flat surface, the first thing you need to do is protect your stick from damage. Asphalt, cement, or even tile can rough up the bottom of your stick blade. The Hockey WrapAround attaches easily to your blade, and it’s light enough you’ll hardly know it’s there. It also makes whatever surface you’re practicing on feel more like real ice.
Although any ball will work, using one specially made to feel more like a hockey puck will help when you make that transition back to ice. A specialized stickhandling ball has the same weight as a puck and doesn’t bounce off your stick blade, allowing you to focus on your technique rather than on trying to control an unruly ball. Many players prefer a training puck, such as the Green Biscuit or Smarthockey Slider Puck, which are designed to feel as realistic as possible. They’re actually slightly lighter weight than a real puck because they take into account how friction on a hard surface is going to affect the feel. Plus, they mimic the ‘dead’ feeling of a real puck when it hits the blade.
Train and Play Hockey on a Realistic Surface
When you’re ready to step up to a more serious hockey training system, the first thing to start with is the playing surface, which you’ll want to make as realistic as possible. If you already have a shooting pad, you can use that, but your range will be limited, not allowing you to practice stickhandling away from your body. Your best bet is building a surface to your specifications with dryland hockey floor tiles. Depending on your available space and budget, you can cover just enough space for your workout, expand the training area to allow you to move around, or create a wall-to-wall indoor ‘rink’ in your basement or garage. Once you’ve got the tiles laid down, you can use the surface for stickhandling, passing, and shooting practice.
Use Hockey Stickhandling Practice Tools
Once you’ve got your training area set up, there are numerous training tools to help you hone your hockey stickhandling skills. The only way to continually improve is to challenge yourself with increasingly complex hockey drills. One way is to lay a bunch of pucks, cones, or other obstacles in front of you and practice stickhandling around them. (Some call this game ‘minefield.’) Your goal is to move the puck as quickly as possible around the obstacles without hitting them or losing control of the puck. This can be really fun, but it might not teach you some of the subtler moves required for great stickhandling, such as toe and heel drags.
To make sure you’re really focusing on blade work, it helps to have obstacles specifically designed to improve your skills, such as the HockeyShot Extreme Dangler or the Snipers Edge CCM SweetHands hockey stickhandling aid. These tools can help with speed, timing, hand-eye-stick coordination, precision, and consistency. When you want to create even more options, the HockeyShot Speed Deke Stickhandling Trainer offers you the ability to customize it to the shape you need for a specific drill. Finally, the Fast Hands Stickhandling Training System focuses on close control, helping you work on using all parts of the blade to manipulate the puck in complex patterns.
A home hockey stickhandling training station is a great way to spend off-ice time to work on puck control, and the work you do in your garage will pay off when you next lace up your hockey skates. There are endless drills you can do to improve your hands and develop better puck control. The great thing is that you’ll never outgrow your stickhandling setup; you’ll need to continue working on these skills for as long as you play hockey.