Do You Know Your Hockey Blind Spots?

Blind Spots

I was inspired to write this article by a quote I come across from a friend of mine, Melinda Harrison, a former Olympic swimmer who specializes in helping athletes transition from the world of sport to their next great venture.

“If you do not see the wave coming, it can smack you down and pull you under leaving you feeling tossed around, upside down, gasping for breath and picking out sand from areas you never knew existed,” she wrote.

I knew this feeling well in my professional sports career. I was tossed around often. In fact, these waves were blind spots that eventually derailed a professional sports career that had promise. I found myself metaphorically picking sand from areas I never knew existed (far too many times), and I didn’t understand how it was happening.

What are the blind spots in your game? Those waves you don’t see coming that leave you tossed around and falling short of your capabilities.

Right now is a great time of the year to roll up your sleeves and reflect on what happened during 2016 — and what you might do in 2017 to get more enjoyment and make some positive strides in your game. How was your hockey year? Happy with it? Wanting more?

In a reflection exercise, I highly recommend you consider your own blind spots, and what might be unconsciously holding you back from moving forward and getting more out of your game.

Blind spots damage performance

Working with world-class performers every day, I can assure you that understanding blind spots is important in performance. Almost every performer I have worked with has them, and I expect you do, too. Part of my job is to help these world-class performers identify their blind spots, making sure they have a clear view of what’s beneath their awareness and might therefore be holding them back.

blind spot warning

Let’s highlight the idea of blind spots by using my own professional sports career (professional golf) as an example. This may help you start thinking about your own blind spots and get the wheels turning. I had a few tendencies that were constantly beneath my awareness that kept me on the treadmill and not striding forward on a steady, consistent career path.

A few examples:

  • Focusing too much time on the long game in golf, obsessing about it and not allocating more effort to the game from 100 yards and in from the green. I neglected to keep the object of the game in mind (shooting the lowest score possible!).
  • Failing to develop my self-awareness. I had limited awareness how my emotions were knocking me around and creating a blurry focus, especially under the pressures of professional golf.
  • Not fully understanding the critical impact of others’ expectations on my day-to-day performance.
  • No clear path forward. I did not have a well-defined vision or detailed steps in place to guide day-to-day progress and development.

goalie-visor

You can imagine how these blind spots could make sustainable progress in my career difficult. Each of the areas above needed attention in order for me to have a better opportunity to reach new levels.

What are your hockey blind spots?

What is holding you back that may be beneath your awareness? In the next short while, I encourage you to think about your own blind spots, and also consider some feedback from others who may know your game. Chances are an honest assessment of your blind spots, and some outside feedback, will shed some light on the factors that are limiting you.

To help you further, here are a few, common hockey blind spots that I have seen in players I work with at a variety of levels. Could any of these apply to you?

  • Always having to be coached and not putting time in on your own to develop your skills – individual training and skill development is a key to excellence.
  • Getting far too caught up in the technical aspect of the game and neglecting the creative component.
  • Allowing small dips in performance to greatly impact your confidence.
  • Not having the discipline to work on weaknesses – working on strengths is fine but weaknesses need to be developed so they don’t limit you.
  • Effort in practice is nowhere near effort in games – when effort in practice should be higher than games.
  • Having trouble taking your game from the practice ice to the game ice and not understanding why.
  • Losing focus over small mistakes and not being able to get it back on track the rest of the game.
  • It’s either perfect or nothing – you insist on perfection and are never happy with your performance.
  • Not enjoying the game as much as you should and not knowing why.

These ideas should help you get started on your own assessment. What might be holding you back that you are not aware of? Take some time to think about it in the the next while. Reflection is an important characteristic in high performers and a key to improvement. Identifying your blind spots is a great first step in understanding what may be holding you back in your game on the ice.

Stick-Handling – Off-Ice Skills Series

Stick-Handling

Do you want to be as smooth as Sidney Crosby, or control the play like Jaromir Jagr? Consider these next stick-handling techniques and your game will elevate to the next level. As a young hockey player, most coaches will tell you to keep your head up, and this is very true. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t always sneak a peek at the puck. In fact, if you can understand and differentiate the times when you can and can’t look at the puck, this will allow you to become an elite stick-handler. You might ask yourself, well when don’t I look at the puck? This is largely the case when you are skating up the ice. As a hockey player you need to be able to read and react, and skate to open ice. However, when it comes to executing a difficult deke or dangle, this would be a time where taking a glance at the puck will definitely help. Keep in mind, before you take a glance down at the puck, you need to be aware of your surroundings. You don’t want to come across the middle of the ice with your head down and have the opposing defenseman step up to clean your clock, sending your jockstrap into the rafters.

kane skating pass others

When it comes to stick-handling, you want to be comfortable with the puck, becoming familiar with how it feels on the blade of your stick. As you become more and more comfortable, try stick-handling with your head up. Just because your head is up does not necessarily mean you cannot see the puck. In fact, if you have the puck in your sweet spot, meaning out in front of you with your arms extended slightly. You will be able to see the puck in your peripheral vision. This will enable you to stick-handle effectively, while skating up ice.



To become more comfortable with stick-handling, it’s important to practice moving at all positions around your body. For example, you can begin by stick-handling on your forehand or strong side, then move your arms across your body and continue to stick-handle on your other side. Another way that will elevate your puck control, is to stick-handle in place, then move your feet and body around the puck.

kopitar making a move on the goalie

Remember, practice is everything. Just by following these simple stick-handling techniques, you will become more and more comfortable with the puck, giving you the confidence to go on that end-to-end rush like PK Subban or Erik Karlsson! Consider using HockeyShot’s Extreme Dangler or Extreme Stickhandling Ball. Both products are an effective training tool that will fine tune your stick-handling to the likes of NHL pros.

Passing – Off-Ice Skills Series

Passing

Passing is a fundamental skill in the game of hockey. Some of the most successful hockey players in the world are masters when it comes to making and receiving a pass. After reading this article, you will have the basics on what it takes to become a true playmaker and fill that stat sheet.

drop pass

One of the first things you will be taught as a young hockey player is to cup and cushion the puck. For any of you who have ever watched the movie The Mighty Ducks, Coach Bombay got his team to practice passing eggs to one another. It may seem silly, but Coach Bombay was enforcing the principle of cup and cushion. When it comes to passing, it’s important to treat the puck as if it was an egg, because if you do not cup and cushion the pass, the puck will likely bounce off your stick, resulting in you losing possession of the puck. To better understand the concept of cup and cushion, consider the following. Cupping refers to a hockey player closing the blade of the stick, preventing the puck from bouncing off the face of the blade. While Cushion refers to a hockey player’s stick meeting the puck, then embracing it upon impact. Keep in mind, by shifting your weight upon impact from front to back, this will likely increase your chance of receiving the pass.



Those are the fundamentals of receiving the puck. Now, we will take a look on how to make a solid, crisp hockey pass. Like shooting, passing requires you to envision the target and to lead your stick in the direction you want your pass to go. One of the most important things to remember is to lead with the tip of your blade and to keep your stick low. To be a complete hockey player and a true playmaker, it’s crucial to practice passing on both the forehand and backhand. Keep in mind, passing on the backhand still uses the principle of cup and cushion. However, when making a pass it’s important to remember to keep the puck close to the heel. The natural curve of the blade will force the puck up and off the blade.

After considering these passing techniques, it’s time to practice and perfect your skills. Consider HockeyShot’s Extreme Passing Kit and Sauce Combos, which includes a small-to-large surfaces/ clamp-on puck rebounders and mini nets.

One-Timer – Off-Ice Skills Series

One-Timer

The one-timer can be a fun and exciting shot in hockey. However, it takes a lot of practice to perfect and execute correctly. Basically, the one-timer is a quick release shot, where your teammate passes you the puck and instead of receiving the pass, you position yourself to execute a slap-shot, without stopping or cradling the puck for control. Essentially, you are receiving and shooting the puck all in one fluid motion.

seguin taking a shot

The one-timer can prove to be a quick and effective shot, leaving little time for a goaltender to set-up and position him/ herself to make the save. First and foremost, it requires a great deal of skill to complete a one-timer. But, with a lot of practice and determination, you can turn a lot of heads by blasting that game-winning goal past the goalie. The key to a good one-timer is, you need to have a good slap-shot as foundation. Once your slap-shot is established, it’s important that you can consistently execute the slap-shot and have good timing. One thing to keep in mind when taking a one-timer, is that you need to have a short wind-up. If your wind-up is too big, chances are you will not have enough time to catch up to the puck, having the puck slip right past you. That being said, your wind-up should be short, where your stick stays below your waist. As you become more comfortable with one-timers, you will be able to time passes better, leading you to have bigger wind-ups, leading to quicker and harder shots.



Another thing to consider when practicing one-timers, is to practice receiving passes from different angles. Not all passes are going to result in you winding up to take a slap-shot. Some passes will come across your body and will force you to quickly cradle the puck and fire off a wrist-shot, all in one motion. Remember, it’s imperative that you are aware of the direction of your target, and that you lead your skate in the direction that you want to shoot. By having a strong push-off with your back foot, this will lead to a quicker and harder shot. And as always, practice makes perfect. HockeyShot provides a lot of off-ice training aids that will help improve your game.

crosby shooting

To improve on your one-timers, consider training aids like the HS Passing Kits or Dryland Flooring Tiles. Both products will give you a smooth surface and can help you time passes, ultimately leading you to have that one-timer that is feared by every goaltender in the league!

Quick Release – Off-Ice Skills Series

Quick Release

The major difference between an average goal scorer and an elite goal scorer, like Patrick Kane or Tyler Seguin, is their ability to get the shot off quick. By having a quick release, this will allow you to have a step up on the goaltender, preventing him or her from getting set-up in the net to make the stop. When it comes to having a quick and effective release, it’s important to consider the following:

kane making a move before shooting

First, to have a quick release, you need to shorten your wind-up. Like a one-timer, if you have a big wind-up, you are giving the goaltender time to move into position for your shot. All that you need to do is to drag your stick back to the back heel of your skate and release the puck using the push/ pull motion. The push/ pull motion is probably the component that makes the quick release so effective. Essentially, the “push” refers to a hockey player pushing or extending his/ her arms out from the body. Next comes the “pull” effect, which is the notion that a hockey player pulls his/ her top hand back, while pushing forward on the lower hand. Keep in mind, the flex of the stick can play a vital role in this concept. A stick that has a lower flex will result in more whip or torque, resulting in a stronger release. However, a stick that is stiff or that has a higher flex, will result in a weaker shot. Although this all sounds very technical, this does not necessarily apply to younger hockey players, as they do not have as much strength as older hockey players.



Lastly, a quick release shot can prove to be even more effective when you change the angle of the shot. By changing the angle of the shot, this does not necessarily mean changing the angle of shot elevation, rather, it means changing the angle of the release point. For example, if you were approaching the goaltender and were ready to take a shot, the goaltender can anticipate the location of the shot by simply watching the blade of the stick. However, if you were to approach that same goaltender later in the game and were ready to let go a quick release shot, you could be deceptive by slightly changing the release point by doing a slight toe drag, moving the puck closer to your body, then releasing it. Just by moving the puck several inches can significantly change the possible locations that the puck can travel, causing the goaltender to readjust to the new release point. Again, this all sounds very technical, but you can practice the quick release from different angles by simply placing pucks in a square grid on your forehand, and shooting the pucks from inside, outside, ahead and in back of your stance.

datsyuk taking a shot

What are you waiting for? Pick up a HS Shooting Pad and HS Extreme Shooting Tarp today and work on beating the goalie quickly before he can see the puck coming!

Shot Accuracy – Off-Ice Skills Series

Shot Accuracy

Some players in the NHL score goals off the pure strength and power of their shot. However, some NHL’ers score goals on pure finesse and shot location. Consider players like Phil Kessel or Alex Ovechkin, who just always seem to find the back of the net. There are many factors involved, however, all natural goal scorers have one thing in common, they know where to shoot and how to get it there.

ovi on ice

One thing that may be a surprise to many, but has proven to be an effective technique on scoring, is the ability to visualize where you want the puck to go. Many goal scorers at all levels have the innate ability to visualize themselves scoring before they even take the shot. So when you are out practicing in your driveway or in your back yard, picture yourself shooting the puck short-side or going bar-down. You will be surprised that a simple mental trick of visualization will lead you to filling that net. That being said, there is still more to consider when working on your shooting accuracy. For instance, you can’t have an accurate shot if you aren’t looking at your target. If you want your shot to go top right corner, have your eyes locked onto that corner and let it rip. Not only do you want your eyes or body to move in the direction of your target, but it is essential to move your stick in that direction as well. If you want a low shot, make sure that you have a nice, fluid motion, keeping your stick and blade low as well. Like any other shot, your shot location or release point is vital. As mentioned in the shot power article, being aware of one’s “sweet spot” will be the difference between you scoring or being robbed by the goaltender.



Lastly, it’s important to be aware of your body’s movement and mechanics. This can only be done by continuously practicing your shot. There is no such thing as too many practice shots. Next time you are practicing your shot, become familiar of the movements and techniques required to get your shot at the desired location. Even the best hockey players in the world miss the net from time to time, so don’t be discouraged if you miss your shot. An accurate shooter will always read and adjust their mechanics, almost always nailing their second shot.

Hopkins shooting at targets

Practice makes perfect, so go out there and have fun and visualize yourself scoring! Here are some HockeyShot training aids that will help you snipe more goals: HS Extreme Shooter Tutor and HS Extreme Goal Targets.

Shot Power – Off-Ice Skills Series

Shot Power

There are not too many players in the NHL that would dive in front of a shot from Shea Weber or Zdeno Chara, and I don’t blame them. But what makes them such a threat on the power play is their ability to power a shot through to the net. To have a powerful shot, there are many things a hockey player needs to consider. The most important component of having a powerful shot is the stance of the hockey player.

chara taking a shot

Keep in mind, you need to have a relaxed stance and have the ability to transfer your weight from one foot to the other. A good rule of thumb is to have your nose go from toe-to-toe. Secondly, you want to have a strong push off your back foot and step toward your intended target. Keeping that in mind, it’s imperative that the mechanics of the shot and the stride are in one cohesive, fluid movement. Lastly, like the quick release, shot location is key to having a strong shot. As a hockey player, everyone is different, which makes it that much more important to find and be familiar with your “sweet spot”. Basically, your “sweet spot” is the location where you are most comfortable to release your shot, and more often than not, is the spot that allows you to have your most powerful shot. Like any other skill, practice is the only way to improve. To improve on your shot and shot power, be sure to take lots of shots. It’s not uncommon for many young hockey players to take up to a hundred shots a day.



HockeyShot has everything you need to release a bomb from the blue line! We recommend the HS Extreme Hockey Radar and Hockey Stick Weight to get you started.

Four Types of Shots

Teach Yourself Great Wrist Shot Technique

There are many times where making an accurate wrist shot will be your best option to hit the net. You might have deked out a defenseman or two, or you might have just received a pass from a teammate. You may have studied some of the current great wrist shot artists, such as:

  • Joe Sakic
  • Phil Kessel
  • Alex Ovechkin
  • Hayley Wichkenheiser

There are two types of wrist shots:

  • The Quick Release – To surprise the goaltender, defensemen, and your Mom in the stands.
  • The Most Powerful Wrist Shot – When they know you’re going to shoot, but they don’t know where.

The types of wrist shots, with credit to Coach Jeremy Rupke and his mad skills, depend on:

  • Where you are, relative to the net.
  • The preparation status of the goaltender.
  • How well defended you are, when you have possession of the puck.

Here are the necessary steps to taking a great wrist shot, whether you are in Stealth Mode or Power Mode.

Quick Release Wrist Shot

You’re within the hash marks, chest pointed at the net, and the puck on your stick. You’re on the power play, so the goalie is a little unsure if you’re going to shoot, pass or drive around the net. The game is tied, so you want to score.

When you’ve decided to shoot, and accuracy is more important than power, getting the puck off fast is ideal. You won’t get robbed by a defender, the goalie isn’t quite sure what your plan is, and surprise – not strength is your biggest ally.

Chest pointed at the net, knees slightly bent, and puck on your stick starting just slightly behind your skate, you transfer your weight to your skate nearest the puck. Get some flex on your stick if you can, but more importantly, sweep the puck forward, give your wrist snapping motion when you are finishing the sweep forward, and follow through toward your target with a quick release. The follow through should end where you want the puck to go.

This shot is all about surprise, so if you score with this shot, make sure to smile and wink when you score. Subtlety is important, so don’t ride your stick like old-school Tiger Williams.

Most Powerful Wrist Shot

The differences between the powerful wrist shot and the Quick Release are that in the Powerful shot:

  • You start with the puck further back, for a longer drag along the ice before you release.
  • You will transfer your weight to the leg opposite the puck, so you can get a long push forward to your shot, use your lateral muscles on your torso and legs, and really get a good flex and release in your shot when you snap your wrist and propel the puck forward, you shoot with some good force.
  • Ovechkin Shooting

The powerful wrist shot can still take your opposing goalie and defenders by surprise, but if you shoot at a variety of targets throughout the game with this shot, you can keep them guessing, and you can shoot from the blue line or towards the boards, and look like a real hero in the process. If you’re a defenseman, you’ll want to master the MPWS big time.

The slap shot seems to get a lot of the headlines in hockey, but finesse players like Ovechkin, Crosby and Kessel make great use of the wrist shot, and tally lots of goals.

Practice your wrist shot often, from a broad range of angles and distances from the net. It doesn’t have the sound effects or break as many sticks as slap shots, but when you master it, it can be an effective goal scoring weapon for your arsenal.

Practice your wrist shot often, from a broad range of angles and distances from the net. It doesn’t have the sound effects or break as many sticks as slap shots, but when you master it, it can be an effective goal scoring weapon for your arsenal.

How to Make a Great Snap Shot

You robbed an opposing forward of the puck, and you’ve deked out his teammates. As you skate up the ice, you see that you’re all alone. You cross the blue line, and the goalie has the audacity to come out to challenge you for the puck.

You deke left, and as you raise your stick to make a wrist shot, the goalie poke checks the puck from you, robbing you of a great scoring opportunity. If only you had practiced your snap shot, you could have tapped in the game winning goal.

It’s a good thing you found this article, because next time, you’ll know exactly how to make a great snap shot, and you’ll make the best of your in-close scoring chances.

Here are four steps to a great snap shot.

  1. Puck Position

  2. You want to get a snap shot away quickly, because in most cases, you have a defenseman barreling down on you, or a goalie to contend with. Handle the puck in close to your body, at the most slightly behind your skate so you can build up some speed by dragging it forward.

    Like a backhand shot, the snap shot relies more on surprise than power. It’s a great shot to make on a penalty shot as you cross the goal mouth, or after a battle in front of your opponent’s net. Old fashioned snap shots were just choppy slap shots, with a foot high lift of the stick. You can bank on the slight raise of the stick, but leave the chopping for firewood.

  3. Sitck Position

  4. Instead of the old quick chop shot, push the puck forward and toward you, and then bring your stick down on the ice, just behind the puck. To build up some flex in your stick, you’ll want to have your hand half way down the stick. Your chest should be facing your target.

    You want to strike the puck at the centre of the blade for good control. As you push forward with your bottom hand, pull back on the top end of the stick to maximize the flex.

  5. Weight Transfer

  6. Snap shots are best when you transfer your weight to your leg closest to the puck, whether you are skating or standing still. Time is of the essence, so build pressure fast on your stick and shoot ASAP.

  7. Scoring is a Snap

  8. Depending on the amount of height you need to score, a quick roll of your wrists upwards may be required. Roll your wrists back to make the blade of the stick angle back to give the puck some lift as it hurtles over the goaltender’s stick. Or, snap shot can be exceptionally effective if you feign a shot in one direction, allow the goalie to go into the butterfly position, and then snap the puck over the shoulder.

    To get really good at the snap shot, practice it frequently with Extreme Targets or with a bucket of pucks with a net kitted with a puck rebounder.

    Build up your snap shot targeting skills, wrist rolling muscle memory, and get used to making fast, accurate shots on goal.

How to Make an Effective Backhand Shot

If you have been admiring Sydney Crosby’s or Patrick Kane’s amazing backhand shooting techniques, or even if you want to get better at making backhand shots in general, you’ve come to the right place for some tips.

It’s the least common shooting technique, but if you’re in front of the net, and need to get a quick backhand shot off, you won’t want to have the puck dribble off the heel of your stick, or look like a doofus by missing the net entirely.

Here are five steps to making a great backhander that should make you look good come game time, as long as you practice as often as you can. You will usually be making a backhander when you are skating in front of the net, and don’t have the time or position for a forehand shot.

Other times you might be skating in from the opposing side of the net, and you have to deke around opposing defender. Lastly, there’s the Gretzky-style around-the net backhander which looks really cool.

datsyuk taking a back hand shot

  1. Line the Puck Up on Your Stick

  2. The best place for the puck on your blade is in the middle, on the backside of your stick. You might need to push the puck ahead of you, or start the puck close at arm’s length to the side of your stick, though it depends on the power you need in your stick.

    The further ahead the puck, the longer your sweep of the puck backwards, and the harder your shot will be. You’ll want to have a good stance before you shoot though. Give the puck a little cupping coverage to make it feel cozy, and add the element of surprise for the goalie, so he doesn’t know where the puck is at.

  3. Weight Transfer

  4. Most backhand shots are done when you are standing still. You’ll want your stance to be with your feet shoulder-width apart for balance. You will likely not have time or need to do much weight transfer for a backhander, but build up some weight first on your leg opposite the puck, and as you shoot at the net, transfer your weight to the leg closest to the net.

  5. Flex that Stick

  6. Time is of the essence on most back handers, but try and build up some downward pressure on the edge of the blade, and build up some “potential energy” and get some flexing in your stick. As you swing the stick blade towards your target, the flex of the stick will release, and propel the puck back, and hopefully catch the netminder completely by surprise.

  7. Need Some Altitude?

  8. The angle of the blade on the stick will determine the height of the shot – the flatter the blade, the lower the shot. If you want to pop the puck over the goalie’s stick, you’ll need to angle the blade away from where you’re shooting, and try to shovel the puck upwards. You might be able to catch one or two of Mama’s cookies as the fall from the top shelf. Follow through matters too, but don’t delay too many games by flipping pucks over the boards. That cute Puck Bunny looks better with her teeth intact.

  9. Follow Through to Finish Your Shot

  10. kane fallowing through on shot

    If you haven’t already slapped the blade of your stick against the post, the goalie’s jockstrap, or the netting, you should follow through, and point the stick where you want the puck to go. The higher you finish the shot, the higher the puck will go.

    There you have it, the perfect backhand shot. If you are a visual person, and need some images or videos, you can check out our friend Jeremy Rupke from HowToHockey.com, and he’ll show you how it’s done.

5 Steps to a Slapshot Goalies Will Fear

There aren’t many things as satisfying to a hockey player as making a great slapshot which punches the twine behind a goal keeper and makes the goal light glow. A hat trick, a post-game plate of chicken wings, or the roar of the crowd might edge it out slightly, but a slap shot goal is up there in the list of hockey’s greatest moments.

If you want to achieve these precious moments on a regular basis, you’d better learn how to make a really effective slap shot. There are subtle variations with this shot, depending on whether you are standing still by the puck, or skating down the ice with the puck towards the goal. We’ll point off the subtle differences along the way.

Here are the five steps to a great slapshot. One that will make that satisfying “smack” against the ice. You might just hear the goalie whimper as the puck hurtles at him (or her) too.

Slapshot by Stamkos

Timing and Position

Standing Still

If you are standing still beside the puck, get into the classic hockey pose, with a firm grip on the end of the stick, and your pivoting hand about midway down the shaft. Knees slightly bent puck midway between your legs, one skate towards the net, the other trailing. Be prepared to make some weight transfer magic happen. Start with your weight loaded on your back skate, which should be just trailing behind the puck

Bring your stick up behind you about a 3 o’clock position, straight out behind you. You can lift your stick to 1pm even, if you’re at the blue line, but you might not have the time for that much swing.

As you bring your stick back though, doing a quick check for Ming vases behind you if you’re practicing in Mom’s living room. (You aren’t though, are you?). Checking for one of your teammates, or even a snarling, opposing defender.

On the Move

When you’re skating hard for the net, choosing moment when you should make your slapshot can be challenging. You don’t want to swing early and miss, or late and flip the puck over the glass. Instead, take your shot when your body is positioned over the puck about center of the stride.

The longer the stick is in contact with the puck, the more powerful the shot. The speed of your body to the puck will provide greater puck velocity towards the net, so let ‘er rip!

From here, a moving shot or a standstill shot are the same.

Making Contact

You want to lift your stick and move the stick back on a downward arc, to strike the ice first with the edge your stick blade. Pivot your weight to your forward skate as you move the stick towards the ice.

You will want to make contact about the distance of a $100 bill in front of the puck. If you practice with an actual $100 bill, let me know when you are practicing! Start putting downward pressure on the stick.

Flex and Recoil

Your stick should start to flex and curve as you push along the ice. Think of it like drawing back an arrow in a bow. Make contact with the puck, as close to the middle of the blade of the stick. Slide the stick forward quickly, to take advantage of flexibility of the stick, then it will recoil.

Follow through

With your stick pointed to where you want the puck to go.

On low follow through finishes, you’ll end up with a low shot, and alternatively, when you raise your stick and follow through to point towards a top corner, think of that being where your puck will go as well.

If you find it difficult to make the right contact with a moving slapshot, try checking out our video on the stationary slapshot and perfect that first. Once you gain confidence on body, puck and stick placement, you’ll might be ready to shoot like Zdeno Chara, instead of looking like Alex Ovechkin in this video.

How Can You Build Your Hockey Confidence?

Some keys to help you become a more confident player

Every night in the NHL, you’ll see fantastic displays of skill – players trying things in the middle of games, taking calculated risk and using their great abilities. Recently, I attended a game in Ottawa – the Chicago BlackHawks visited the Ottawa Senators and Patrick Kane put on a confidence clinic – trying things in the game that other players may not think about. And, it paid off for Patrick as he dominated the game and put on a great show for the fans. On one play, Patrick picked up the puck at his own blue line, skated through several players in the neutral zone, cut down low in the offensive zone, skated behind the net and sent a no-look pass to his line-mate in front of the net – who easily tapped it past Ottawa net-minder, Craig Anderson. It was an impressive display of talent and the belief in the talent to dominate the puck and use his abilities to help his team win.

kane playing in a hockey game

How can you learn from Patrick’s confidence and make yourself a better player?

One of the key areas I work on with any athlete including hockey players at all levels – is confidence. Understanding it and building it. Confidence is a player’s bullet-proof vest. It is for Patrick Kane and it can be for you.

What is Confidence?

Well… it’s a feeling. It’s about trust and belief in your abilities and decisions… and expressing those beliefs and decisions in challenging circumstances.

You know the feeling of confidence… you’re playing great and everything is going right for you. There is an easy belief in what you are doing and you know you can do it.

You also know the other feeling… you just don’t have it and nothing is going right. There’s little faith in what you are doing and you’re not quite sure.

player hunched over on the ice

“I’ve Lost My Confidence.”

When my phone rings, players or agents on the other end, voice panicked, it’s often them telling me the player has “lost their confidence”. If it’s a hockey player, the player is struggling to perform when it counts, has lost the scoring touch or maybe gripping the stick too tight.

I always ask these players where they think their confidence has gone. Most are in elite leagues in the world and have risen to the top in hockey. It’s funny that these players don’t really know where the belief has gone. Something small has triggered some little doubts and the spiral downwards begins from there.

And, this is where players get confused. Confidence requires some understanding – and some work. Sports and life is about patterns and cycles. Sometimes you “have it” and other times you don’t. No exceptions. So you must work on important areas like confidence and understand how to build it and how to find it. The mental/ emotional game is like your physical practice (skating, passing, shooting etc.) – do the work and it will pay off.

Is Your Confidence Proactive or Reactive?

So here’s a perspective of confidence I work on with leading players helping them understand that maintaining confidence is within their control; and confidence is more of a choice than they know. They must take responsibility for their own confidence.

And this perspective can help you.

Great players are proactive with their confidence. When Patrick Kane or other dominant players are playing well, you can be sure they remind themselves that they have done it before and they have built the foundation at all levels since they were young players to handle any situation at the level they are playing at – including the NHL. Proactive confidence is a decision that you will be sustainably confident from all of the great, positive experiences you have had in the game (and there will be many), all the work you have done on your game and the coaching and support from others. This is the foundation of your belief in yourself as a hockey player. Proactive confidence is a choice that you are relying on a solid foundation and are sustainably confident. Your confidence will not be shaken by small, unavoidable cycles of not your best play.

On the other hand…

Some players insist on sabotaging their own belief in themselves. Reactive Confidence is a decision that one small collection of challenging circumstances/ difficulties will overcome your successes/ support and crack your hockey “foundation”. In this scenario, you declare that your confidence is shaken by small failures. I don’t know how many times I have heard a great athlete declare after a stretch of poor play that their confidence is gone. Really? Where does it go? Hockey players also allow others to have an impact on their confidence in a negative way – coaches, parents, other players. Reactive confidence is essentially a choice to lower your confidence and allow challenges and other distractions to penetrate your foundation.

Does this sound familiar to you?

I see this everyday – even among the best athletes in the world. For some reason, they aren’t playing well and the foundation of confidence they have built over years suddenly disappears and a few mistakes become the basis for their confidence. After some reminders that their confidence is about everything they have achieved and all the work they’ve done – there is an “ah ha” moment and confidence mysteriously returns! The decision is made by the player to recover it. They take full responsibility for their confidence – knowing they have control over it.

This is important for you to know. If you can feel confidence slipping away, you have the choice to reel it in and not allow emotions to run the show.

goalie making a save

Building Your Confidence

It’s important to continually build the foundation so small, short-term failures will not penetrate your long-term foundation.

What can you do to work on your confidence and build it?

  1. Preparation – “build it and it will come” – it is a secure feeling skating around in the warm-up knowing you’ve put the work and effort in – in each part of your game – to deal with the situations you’ll have on the ice. Make your practice functional – related to the situations you’ll need on the ice. Have a plan. Keep it simple.
  2. Be proactive and allow all the great experiences you’ve had in the game to be the foundation of your confidence. Decide that temporary low points in your game will pass quickly and will not have any impact on your “foundation”.
  3. Understand your strengths, limitations and triggers very well. It’s easier to win believing in something you understand vs. something you don’t. Know yourself well in order to understand what you can and can’t do when it counts.
  4. Get great coaching matched up to your values and needs. The greatest thing a coach can do for a player is believe in them and believe in their abilities bolstering their own confidence. A great coach’s belief in you can matter.
  5. Create a clear and defined goal plan. If you know where you are going and have the steps in place to get there – there is a sense of security that you are on the right track. Knowing exactly where you are going and how you are going to get there builds confidence.
  6. Create a positive, supportive internal voice. Your own voice should be the most supportive and create a positive internal environment. A negative voice can erode confidence in your abilities and create doubt in your capabilities. Be your own best friend and speak to yourself well.
  7. Focus on your good shifts, not the bad ones. You’ll have good shifts and not so good ones in a game. Evaluate why poor shifts don’t go well after the game – but focus on your great shifts during the game and build on the energy from the good shifts.
  8. Focus on your development as a player and the process to reach the next level. Get a little better each day through disciplined work in practice. Focusing on a very solid process will inevitably lead to great results.
  9. Finally – have fun! Great players enjoy themselves on the ice and love the game. When you enjoy something, you usually do it well.

What is one of the key things you can do to be a better hockey player?

Build your confidence.

Working on your confidence is an investment in you as a player, but, this skillset is transferable to everything you do in life – business, career, relationships and any other “performance” activity you engage in. Consider it an investment in your future. Confidence may be the single greatest asset for you as a hockey player.

Just Play!

Use the Think Box and Play Box to Play Your Best

If you are a hockey player, you know that overthinking on the ice causes problems. Too many thoughts lead to hesitation, confusion and a lack of uncertainty in your abilities on the ice.

So, I’d like to introduce you to a strategy that might help you get into a nice playing frame of mind. The strategy was initially developed by my friends Pia Nilsson and Lynn Marriott – world-class golf coaches – using the Think Box and Play Box with leading professional golfers. For you, the Think Box and Play Box is a practical approach for your hockey routine to help you use your thinking brain to your advantage, introduce you to your “supercomputer” and let all of your training, coaching and experience do the work and allow you play the way you are capable of – using your well-developed instincts.



In all of the work I do with some of the world’s leading athletes, including professional players in the NHL, we’re always working toward the idea of “just playing” or “just play”. Take out the interference, narrow the focus and allow talent, coaching and training to hit its mark.

The Supercomputer and the Calculator

You see, you want one of the world’s most complex supercomputers, your subconscious mind, to run the show when you play. This supercomputer contains everything about you, your experiences, your memories and can do a million things at once. It seamlessly runs all of your body’s systems and functions beneath your consciousness. For perspective, it is estimated it is 30,000 times more powerful than the conscious thinking brain.

Conversely, you want the calculator, your thinking brain or prefrontal cortex, to stay out of the way. It is slow and weak and can only process a small amount of information at one time. The tendency for athletes is to overload this thinking brain with so many thoughts that you hesitate, get confused and don’t allow the supercomputer to run the show. This is what you commonly know as overthinking. In high performance, when many things are happening at once and the landscape is constantly shifting, there is no place for slow processing – especially in a fast game like the game of hockey.

So, instead of responding to what’s in front of you on the ice with your well developed instincts and enjoying the game – your thinking brain gets in the way, you become anxious and too many thoughts in the calculator short circuit your performance…

“Why didn’t I take the shot?”
“Where should I be?”
“Should I jump in or not?”

Sound familiar?

The Think Box and the Play Box

I’d like you to consider a strategy that you can use in your game that will allow you to use your supercomputer and keep the calculator in check.

Think box model

Before you jump on the ice from the bench – you will from now on be in the Think Box. In the Think Box you can consider coach suggestions, review the last shift, think about what you want to execute on the ice. You want to distill all of this down to one key thought for the thinking brain.

players in the think box (bench)

When your time to hit the ice arrives, immediately when you pass through the gate from the bench to the ice or jump over the boards, you are now in the “Play Box” where your supercomputer or subconscious is in charge. You are on autopilot trusting your instincts, experience and training. Once you get into the Play Box (the ice), keep one thought in the thinking brain to get things started in a positive way – and then just play and allow the subconscious to run the show. It knows what to do – trust that everything you need is there!

So, consider the Think Box and Play Box for your games. When you’re in the Think Box, getting instructions from your coach and getting ready to jump on the ice – put one, simple key thought in your thinking brain to help your shift. When you cross the line onto the ice and enter the Play Box, trust your supercomputer containing all of your training and experience to make the adjustments and run the show.

I think you’ll find that “just playing” will lead to better performance, take out the indecision and help you enjoy your game that much more.