Hockey players must train these four areas to have the best chance to reach their potential!
There's no denying that hockey has evolved over the last few decades to a highest skilled, more fast paced game. Skating has and always will be at the top of the list of skills that a hockey player must have. To quote well known skating coach Kim Muir, "if you can't skate, you can't play!"
Skating involves many different skills including starting, stopping, turning, pivoting, and transitioning among others. More fine tuned skills such as balancing on your edges, puck protection, and deception are reserved for those once they have become proficient in the fundamentals. The end goal for every hockey player should be to have complete control of their body as they maneuver around the the ice both with and without the puck. The game becomes significantly harder when even one of those skills previously mentioned is lacking.
A lot of young hockey players nowadays are taking their hockey development more seriously by doing extra skating lessons, which is great! They may not like it at the time (which I did not), but this is probably one of the greatest things players can begin to do from an early age for their long term development.
You do not want to be one of the players that neglects to train in this important area because although it may not show up in the short term, over the course of a few seasons it will become quite clear whose been putting in extra work in their skating. Make sure you are working with a coach or receiving some sort of instruction throughout the year.
2. Puck Skills
The average time a player has the puck on his or her stick throughout a game is less than 2 minutes and in most cases it is less than 90 seconds. That is why skating is #1 on this list. More than 95% or more of a hockey players time during a game will be without the puck, but that doesn't mean that the skills with the puck are not very important to their development.
A hockey player's ability to control the puck is generally what separates the bad players from the good players and the good players from the great ones. It's what gets put on your highlight tape, on Sportscenter top 10, or goes viral on TikTok (or whatever kids are using these days).
The level of skill in today's game is far greater than what it was even 10 years ago. Almost every player on every team is highly skilled with the puck and it shows in the plays that are made each game. Heck, even 10 year olds are pulling off moves in games that even I cannot do!
With that being said it's very important for hockey players to be spending time training their skills with the puck. This involves both stickhandling and shooting. Work to improve your ability to move the puck around your body with ease so that you can maintain a high level of awareness to make a play when necessary or avoid a check coming your way.
At the end of the day, you will get out what you put in when it comes to your puck skills. Ask any player at the professional level how many hours they have put in to increase their stickhandling abilities and improving their shot and I can guarantee that they cannot tell you because that number is too high.
Do you need to be the strongest player on the ice to be the best? No. Which is why strength is #3 on this list, but is still ahead of #4 because it is necessary for a number of reasons. A few of those include: being stronger influences your speed, power, balance, mobility, and your level of conditioning.
"The best players understand that they must take care of their bodies off of the ice so that they can perform at their best on the ice."
There's no denying that a weaker player generally gets knocked off the puck by a stronger player. A stronger hockey player is more often than not able to stand their ground when a weaker player is trying to move them around (ex. a defenseman moving a forward out from in front of the net).
A big discussion in the strength and conditioning field (which I will now refer to as off-ice training) is the role that off-ice training plays in injury prevention. Listen, there is NOTHING you can do to completely prevent injuries. Hockey is played in a confined area on a slippery surface. Now, can off-ice training reduce the likelihood of a player getting injured? ABSOLUTELY. A coordinated, strong, mobile, well conditioned athlete off of the ice is a quicker, powerful, and more resilient player on the ice.
If there is one thing that hockey players should be doing year round that is off-ice training and specifically strength training (which if we're being honest everyone should be strength training year round).