Hockey fans, welcome to our second edition of The Digital Deke: Online Hockey Blog, presented to you by TN HOCKEY CO. In our first blog, we talked about the importance of good habits, and how they trump good skills, alone.
Today we are going to break down the secret to hockey success. Now I know what you are thinking; you need far more than two things to be successful at hockey, and you aren't wrong. However, the foundation of all good hockey players nowadays can be attributed to these two habits: Keeping your head up and moving your feet.
If you think about it, and truly understand the game, hockey is more simple than you think. If you look at the best players in the world, what makes them special? Typically, you attribute speed and hockey IQ to their success. Well, how do you have a great hockey IQ and great speed?......... The two habits I listed above, keeping your head up and moving your feet. Let's break it down below:
1) Keeping Your Head Up
This, to me, is the most important habit a hockey player can have. If you, or your young player, can master this, your ability to perform on the ice will reach new heights. Think about it, hockey IQ, although it involves more than just keeping your head up, doesn't exist if your head is down. They key to hockey IQ is playing with your head up, as much as possible. The best players in the world are the ones that always have their up, reading and adapting to the play. They are able to anticipate plays because they are able to survey the ice through this very important habit. I tell parents all the time, I would rather spend more time perfecting basic skills with the players head up, then practicing elite skills with their head down. There needs to be a progression, but here are some basic exercises/drills that you can practice at home.
Take a puck/ball and stick handle in front of you. Start off by looking ahead, straight in front of you. Once you can do this for 3 sets of 30 seconds, progress to this next step. Continue to stick handle in front of you, but this time, turn your head all the way to the left, bring it back to middle, then turn all the way to the right. This is significantly more difficult as the puck will become difficult to see, if not at all, in your peripheral vision. It is a basic drill, but you can progress by stick handling to your forehand, and backhand side, doing the same thing.
Bonus Tip: It is not good enough to just keep your head up and not have it on a swivel! That classic hockey term is very important because it means you are always checking over your shoulder, looking side to side, to ensure you know everything that is happening on the ice! Watch some old clips of number 99, nobody has done it better than the great one, in an offensive sense.
2) Keeping Your Feet Moving
The next habit that is crucial to success is keeping your feet moving. If you think about how quick the game has become, it is imperative you move your feet. This not only applies to straight ahead speed, but lateral movement and edge work. If you look at the best skaters in the world, they have one thing in common: they move their feet. Look at Connor McDavid....when he has the puck.... he absolutely flies because he keeps his feet moving. His ability to play the game with speed allows him to be successful. He's a great example but he is also an amazing player, but if you watch most NHL players, they are always moving. Keeping your feet moving allows you to beat people with speed, get to open areas, recover if you get beat, I could go on.
There are tons of drills that work on this, but in my opinion, this is more of a personal choice habit... All players are capable of moving their feet, some just choose to be lazy and not do it. Having your feet moving at all times requires work, and if you aren't willing to do that, chances are, you won't be scoring as many goals as you can!
So there you have it, the two fundamental habits that hockey success, today, is built from! Next time you're on the ice, do two things for me: Have your head on a swivel and try to play with your head up at all times, and keep your feet moving as much possible. You'll see how many extra opportunities you get! If you can pair these two habits with an elite skill set, you are going to be on your way to achieving your hockey dreams!
Be sure to check in next week when we tackle our first off-ice topic: Youth Off-Ice Training! Thanks, and see you next week!
Yours in Hockey,