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4 Areas All Hockey Players Must Train

Hockey players must train these four areas to have the best chance to reach their potential!

1. Skating

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.

3. Strength

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).

4. Hockey IQ

Hockey IQ or hockey "sense" is a topic often discussed, but is rarely broken into what it actually is and how it is trained. IQ is an acronym for intelligence quotient which simply means someone's ability to process information and come up with solutions or predict outcomes.

You can be best skater, have the most skill with the puck, and the strongest player on the ice, but if you don't understand the game you will always be short of reaching your true potential.

So...what is hockey IQ?

In short, it's your ability to read and react to what is happening in front of you and knowing what to do next. It's understanding where you need to be on the ice relative to where the puck is, where your teammates or opponents are, and where they will be. The reason why Wayne Gretzky was (and still is) the greatest hockey player of all time was due to his ability to know what was going to happen next.

How do you train hockey IQ?

There are a lot of ways that you can accomplish this. First, you need to understand the game. If you are a defenseman you must know where you should be in all areas on the ice. If you are a forward you need to know your responsibilities on face-offs, in the defensive zone, and on the rush first before putting them into practice. Understanding where you should be on the ice in different positions should be something that all hockey players strive to learn. This is not to say that because the puck is in one area of the ice that you have to be in a certain spot every time. Hockey is a game of structure, but it is also a game of improvisation.

A big reason why players at the highest level review game film is so they can identify mistakes and strengths/weaknesses in their game. They do this to see what they did well and what they can improve upon. After they review the film they make the necessary adjustments to increase their chances of making a better play when those same or similar scenarios occur in the future.

There are new technologies that allow players to train their brains to improve cognitive performance via virtual reality. Although this form of training can lead to increased cognitive performance it's important to understand that this is just one aspect of training your hockey IQ.

Hockey players and athletes alike should never fall into the category of putting all your "eggs in one basket" when it comes to their training. A high performing hockey player takes every area of their training seriously and you should too!


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