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Teaching One-Handed Puck Control

October 18, 2011 General 11 Comments

Teaching one-handed puck control
By Fred Pletsch
Nov 5, 2001, 19:58

Fred Pletsch

Conventional hockey wisdom teaches young puck-chasers to always have two hands on your stick. But watch an NHL player on a breakaway or Mario Lemieux making another defenseman look like a neon orange pylon and you realize there are situations where having two hands on your stick can be a hindrance rather than a help.

“Going around a defenseman to the outside is a situation where having one hand on your stick is the desired solution to the problem,” explains Jim Webster, an astute hockey man with playing and coaching experience at the professional, European, college and junior levels.

It’s a very common hockey move where a forward comes down the ice towards a defenseman, maybe fakes a shot, and pulls the puck to his backhand. “You want to try and keep the puck as far away as possible from the defender and that’s much easier to do with one hand on your stick.” says Webster. “It increases the distance between the puck and the defenseman by another two feet. You also get your body between the puck and the defenseman in a puck protection situation.’

Pittsburgh puck-handling wizards Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr provide all-star examples of players proficient at manipulating the puck with one hand on their stick, according to Webster, who used few tricks of his own to finish third in the Central Hockey League scoring race one season while a member of the New York Islander organization. “They can put the biscuit quickly from way out on the forehand to way out on their backhand with one hand on their stick and, with their reach, the puck can move about 10 feet from one side to another. So if a youngster can put it all the way out with his stick totally extended, he is able to move the puck from one place five or six feet to the right or left very quickly and that makes it very hard for a defenseman to stop him.”

Webster details a learning progression system, the kind utilized in the Huron Hockey School curriculum, for teaching the skill.

“Start by spreading your players out. Give each one a puck, and make them assume the forehand shooting position with the puck on the forehand side of their stick,” details Webster. “Then, on command, have them pull the puck quickly and laterally all the way out and extend their arm and stick on the backhand side, full extension, while still being able to control the puck.” This procedure is repeated until players are comfortable with it. “Again, take it back to your forehand side and pull it all the way out onto your backhand with one hand on your stick.”

Once this element of skill is mastered it’s time to incorporate skating. “Next, have your players skate towards a series of pylons and, at each pylon, they’re asked to pull the puck way out to their backhand and see if they can get their body between the pylon and the puck.” At this stage, the pylon serves as the rear-guard the puck-carrier is trying to shield the puck from, adds Webster.

The final act in the series of progression is to have your player go up against a “dummy” defenseman. “A coach could stand there and all the kids could skate towards him and they would have to go around him to their backhand side, trying to keep the puck away from the coach with one hand on their stick,” concludes Webster.

If ice time permits, it’s sound coaching to introduce the three phases of this skill over three separate practices. Especially at an early age, it’s best not to overwhelm your players with too much to grasp at one particular practice. At the same time it’s a good idea to review phase one at the the second practice before proceeding to phase two.

You should keep two hands on your stick when you’re directly involved in the play, looking for a pass, or carrying the puck in traffic. But there are also definitely times when the youngster should be encouraged to learn how to manipulate, or at least control, the puck with one hand on his stick.

The puck protection technique outlined by Jim Webster is a very common move that’s easy to teach and one he believes we shouldn’t be ignoring at a young age.

Fred Pletsch is the Sports Director at radio stations CJSS/CFLG-FM in Cornwall, Ontario. He served as the play by play voice of the Cornwall Royals for nine seasons.

This first appeared in the 06/1994 issue of Hockey Player Magazine®
© Copyright 1991-2001 Hockey Player® and Hockey Player Magazine®

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