So everyone that plays or watches hockey knows stick handling is one of the top skills you need to master to be an effective hockey player. Stick handling is a fundamental hockey skill that you need to have in order to pass the puck, skate with the puck, and you won’t be able to score many goals if you can’t handle the puck. The best thing about this skill is that you don’t need to be on the ice to be able to work on it, there are a ton of different stick handling drills that can be done off the ice and all you really need is a ball and a good hockey stick. We will also highlight a few of our top stick handling tools and stick handling balls. We’re going to be going through a few ways every player can work on stick handling, that can be done both on and off the ice and for roller or ice hockey players!
And unless at 13 you were able to stick handle as good as Connor McDavid in the video below, there is always something to be gained for practicing stick handling.
We’re going to dive into all the drills and tools you can use to improve your stick handling, but before that we need to get the basics right.
- DON’T HOLD YOUR STICK TOO TIGHT. This is something every player can control, and its just a comfort thing not to hold your hockey stick too tight when handling the puck. Stick handling is about finesse and if you’re gripping your stick too hard the motion and ability to control the puck will not be smooth and will result in turnovers.
- CUSHION THE PUCK. Newer players especially when sliding the puck forehand to backhand will do this without receiving the puck softly, which if you think about it means never letting the puck fully stop. The classic drill of handling the puck like its an egg should be what you’re thinking about.
- KEEP YOUR HEAD UP. Stick handling with your head down focusing on the puck won’t help you in the game, you need to practice keeping your head and eyes up. This will help you avoid hits, make the right passes, and of course deke around the opponent to score.
Stick Handling Drills
The Figure-8 Stick Handling Drill
A simple yet effective puck handling drill is the Figure-8 drill which involves setting up two obstacles in front of you about 2-3 feet apart.
In your hockey stance you then stick handle the puck around the obstacles in a Figure-8 pattern, constantly changing directions. This works both your forehand and backhand puck handling skills which is essential as you shoot and pass with both sides of the stick.
Again the key to this drill is to practice it constantly, and the improvement will translate to the game very quickly.
Once you have mastered doing this standing still, try rotating around the figure 8 while puck handling to really take your skills to the next level.
The Triangle Stick Handling Drill
This is the most basic puck handling drill you can do, and the best part about it is it can be done anywhere with almost anything. You will set up three obstacles (pucks, pylons, etc) in the shape of a triangle, with two about 1.5 feet to the left and right of your skates while in your hockey stance, and the third 2 feet in front of you.
Then, in your hockey stance without moving your feet you stick handle the puck around all three obstacles, changing directions and patterns to challenge yourself. The key to this drill is as you get more comfortable handling the puck, you want to do it keeping your head up and not looking at the puck. It takes some time to work up to this but you want to feel the puck without looking at it. This can also be done off ice with any kind of ball.
The Anarchy Stick Handling Drill
A challenging drill that will keep players of any caliber and level is the Anarchy Puck Handling drill. I’m sure you’ve seen commercials of NHL players doing this and trust me when I say it isn’t easy, but the goal isn’t to be perfect. There’s no way to avoid making a mistake eventually, but this will really help your game in the long run. For this stick handling drill you want to set up at least 10-15 obstacles (pucks are ideal) randomly in about a 5 foot circle (more objects = bigger area). The goal of this is to stick handle through all the pucks trying not to hit any of them or lose control (With your stick, puck, OR skates). This should be done while skating and trying to keep your head up as much as possible. Watch Patrick Kane, one of the best puck handlers in the NHL show off his skills with this simple drill in the 20 second clip below:
How to get hands like Patrick Kane – Use the top hand!
You just watched the video above of the anarchy stick handling drill, when you look closely these players use their top hand to move the stick NOT the bottom. This has been a big shift in stick handling over the last decade where people used to be bottom hand dominant when stick handling. How can you practice this? Using either a PVC pipe, or even a center cardboard piece from a paper towel roll, hold your these in your bottom hand around the shaft of the stick. This will force you to use your top hand and help build hockey strength and stamina in your top hand forearm.
Stick Handling Tools
While definitely not required to work on your stick handling, the tools we are going to highlight below are excellent for pushing your comfort zone and boundaries as a hockey player. They are meant to help you increase the speed of your hands and develop skills to softly handle the puck in any situation.
A strong and sturdy stick handling tool, there is an endless amount of drills you can on or off the ice. You can practice with a puck or ball and its great for developing a toe drag from multiple angles and positions. Because of its unique shape, all you have to do is move a foot in either direction to get a completely new challenge for your stick handling skills. Even on ice while you’re in motion, using this will test the skills of any good hockey player. The 5 slots and half circle shape is sure to improve your stick handling in tight spaces.
Simulating a game situation is hard enough when you’re in a practice, but off ice it is almost impossible but the attack triangle stick handling tool bridges the gap. This tool gives the player a realistic feel when trying to get past a defender, with space to slide the puck under the stick or between the legs. Getting a good feel for stick handling towards a defender is made a lot easier with the attack triangles stick to disrupt you’re move if you aren’t precise.
This stick handling tool is made specifically for increasing your quickness handling the puck. The gaps are barely over a foot wide and stick handling through this at full speed is no easy task. You can create multiple layouts by connecting these at an angle or in a line for an even greater challenge. This a great stick handling tool because if forces you to leave your comfort zone and handle the puck quicker, and it always gets harder the faster you go. NHL players use these all the time in practice and warming up to get their hands ready for the drop of the puck.
Stick Handling Balls
For hockey training, there are different types of stick handling balls that all focus on improving a different area of your puck handling. Heavier balls will help your hand and wrist strength, while a lighter ball will improve reaction time and quickness. You can practice with different sets of balls to continually force yourself to make adjustments to control and handle the ball. Every stick handling drill we have described above should be performed while moving with your head up to really improve your in game hockey skills!
This CCM stick handling ball is designed to increase hand and wrist strength as the ball weighs 3X a standard ice hockey puck(18.9 oz). This forces the player to handle the puck slower than he normally would a puck, while also building up your strength. So when you transition to a real game, the puck will feel much lighter and your hands will feel faster. This is also a great tool to have before a game to warm up for 5 minutes.
Engineered to help you refine your stick handling skills, this ball weighs the exact same as a real hockey puck. It is great to mix in this ball so you never lose feel of a real puck, even when working on getting faster hands or increasing wrist strength. This will also show you how much quicker and responsive your hands will feel after moving between heavier and lighter balls.
With this stick handling ball, you’ll feel like Patrick Kane and Connor McDavid with how fast you’ll be able to move the ball around while maintaining control. The SpeedBall is exactly as its name sounds, lighter than a puck and designed to improve your quickness and reaction time. This stick handling ball boosts confidence as well with what your hands can do, enough to try different things and get creative in a game!