Puck handling, or stickhandling, is more than moving a puck back and forth in front of them. For the beginners, that’s fine for you to get a feel for the puck, but as you get better, you have to practice more than that.
Feel the puck with your stick in all different scenarios. Get the sense of the puck using your backhand and forehand, when it’s near the toe of the blade, or near the heel of the blade. Coaches recommend you get to know these feelings so it will improve your handling of the puck.
Practice controlling the puck not only when it’s in front of you, but when it’s anywhere within reach of your hockey stick. That includes on each side, forward and behind you.
Here are some key tips for improving how to handle the puck:
Protect the puck. Use your whole body to protect the puck. Your hips, legs, arms, feet, back of your hand, Move the puck to the other side of your body and whole body are legitimate ways to block an opponent from getting to the puck.
Keep moving the puck. If the puck is always in motion, it’s much harder for an opponent to figure out how to steal it. Keep your opponent guessing so they won’t know whether you are planning to pass or shoot toward the goal.
Use your reach. Just by moving the puck from one side of your body to the other side with the reach of your stick, you can get five to 15 feet of separation between you and your opponent. The trick is to keep control.
Don’t tighten your grip. Don’t hold the stick too tight. Keep a loose grip with the bottom hand most of the time so the shaft can slide and allow the stick to move closer to your body or reach out.
Control with the top hand. Your top hand should be doing most of the work. Sometimes beginners use the bottom hand too much until they get the feel of the stick, but that could result in the use of the stick being choppy. The top hand should move the puck with a smooth move, and use the bottom hand for support.
Keep your shoulders and arms loose. Shake out the shoulders and arms before playing and try to keep them loose so you can easily move the puck around your body. Your should should have a maximum range of motion.
Move the puck all around you. The puck should be able to move around your entire body, not just in front.
Keep your head up. It’s one of the biggest corrections that coaches make in hockey. Playing with your head down too much will make you miss plays, flub passes and cause you to fall. Staring at the puck is not a good strategy.
Practice a great deal. The more you practice, the more muscle memory your body will have in how to handle a puck. Then, the rest of your skills can be developed because handling the puck with your stick is second nature.