Welcome hockey players, and parents, to our first Digital Deke Hockey Blog and Online Conversation, brought to you by TN HOCKEY CO! The goal of The Digital Deke is to help hockey families navigate the overwhelming nature of modern day hockey skill development.

Our first topic is a beauty, and is definitely something I struggle with daily, as a Director of Hockey Skill Development. The question I am posing is..... What is more important, having a Good Shot or Good Shooting Habits?

Most young players, and parents for that matter, have a plethora of hockey development options; whether that is online, at a training facility, at the local rink, I could go on. One of the major issues I see in the hockey development arena is the the ability of the players, and parents, to accept that most YouTube and Instagram videos are basically useless in an actual game of hockey. Now, some of the videos out there are truly amazing, and the skill required to complete these feats of hockey wizardry are through the roof. However, the problem is... they aren't practical and, often times, produce bad in-game habits. This blog is designed to advise players, and parents, how to balance their skill development goals with fun, situational and elite in-game skills and habits.



Now that I've gotten through that intro, let's get back to the question posed, what is more important, good shooting skills or good shooting habits? As a director of skill development, I believe good hockey habits far outweigh good skills, and I'll tell you why... Look at Alexander Ovechkin. How does he score most of his goals? He shoots, and he shoots a lot. He is the best goal scorer of this generation because, in my opinion, he has the best shooting habits. When he gets into a shooting area, he shoots. When he is on the point on the power play, all he does is shoot. That is a habit. If Ovi didn't have that habit, he wouldn't have over 700 goals. I see so many players with great shots, but they never shoot! They get into the slot, they dipsy doodle around, try too many moves, and eventually get checked. They want the highlight reel goal, which is a VERY BAD hockey habit. That is why Ovi is so great at what he does, he uses his habit of shooting to his advantage. If you watch him, he buries a ton of goals where he actually doesn't get 100% of the shot, but he gets it off quick, and a lot of times, it goes in. Now I know what you're going to say, well Ovi has an elite shot, and yes, he does; That's why he is one of the best all time. But the foundation of his success is the habit of shooting, and the will to score. 

The moral of the story is, hockey habits are paramount. I remember when I first got into skill development, I worked under a well respected Director of Amateur Scouting for the Detroit Red Wings, no big deal, just a couple Stanley Cups at the time. Because I was an aspiring hockey player, I asked him what he looked for in an NHL prospect, his answer was simple, "GOOD HABITS." So players, and parents, this is coming right from the mouth of an NHL exec....I'm not making this stuff up! So let's use our shooting example, how do you build in good hockey habits into your skill development, practices and games. 

Whether you are at home, practice or at a Training Facility, every time you take a shot, you shoot to score. Why practice at 30% of your maximum effort? In a game, you'll have that bad habit of shooting at 30%. I'd rather see a player shoot 100 pucks a day at 100% than 500 at 50%. When you're practicing always imagine you have the puck in the slot, in OT, in the 7th game of the Stanley Cup Finals. I bet you'd shoot that one hard! 

When you are training on the ice, shoot from slot, always! Don't wait until you are right on top of the goalie. Get accustomed to shooting from the slot, and high slot, that's where most of your shots will come from in a game. There's a time and a place to work on breakaways and dekes, but trust me, you'll score more goals in your career from the slot, then on breakaways.

Bonus Tip: After you shoot, drive the net for your rebound. This is something that drives me crazy. Most kids shoot, and then stay still, watching their shot. After you shoot, you should always have the mentality that there is a rebound. If you build that habit, watch how many second chance goals you get!

Once, a player gets to the point where they have a basic understanding of shooting, all shots should be taken with the player's head up. This is another NASTY HABIT I see, even with older players; shooting with their head down. It is a lot easier for a goalie to make the save when your head is down. They will cut the angle and you will have no idea that your chance of scoring has diminished. Furthermore, it doesn't allow you to fake the shot and pass if the opportunity exists.



Drill for Practicing at Home: 

This drill is great for accuracy and building great shooting habits; It also is helps tremendously with conditioning; which we will tackle in another blog! Pick a spot in the net, preferably a corner. Get your head up and take the shot at 100%. After the shot, run and touch the net and run back to your shooting position. This builds three crucial shooting habits: 1) Shooting at 100% 2) Shooting with your head up and 3) crashing the net for rebounds. I can almost guarantee, if you practice this way, you will score more goals on the ice. 

That concludes our first Digital Deke Blog! I hope you have enjoyed the read and will be able to incorporate some of these tips into your, or your child's, skill development program! Look out for next week's blog: The Secret Way To Hockey Success.

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Yours in Hockey,




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