Chapter #4 - Stickhandling and Puck Control

Here's a summary of this chapter....

Stickhandling and puck control skills are required to maintain possession of the puck, advance the puck into the offensive zone, skate in close proximity to opponents without losing puck control, create open space for the puck carrier (and team), and maneuver close-in on a goaltender to set up a scoring opportunity. Stickhandling is the process of moving the puck with the eventual goal of setting up a scoring opportunity. Puck control, performed either individually or as a team, is the process of maintaining possession of the puck against one or more opponents.

Although many roller hockey players possess good skating skills, when the puck is introduced, their skating ability drops due to the added task of keeping the puck on their stick and moving it up the playing surface. A developing roller hockey player is not expected to learn the combined skills of skating, stickhandling, and puck control overnight. Eventually, through much practice, each player must demonstrate that he can skate and perform equally well with or without the puck if he hopes to advance. One of the most important yardsticks for gauging the potential of players, particularly at a young age, is controlling the puck while skating.

Proper placement of the hands on the stick is very important. Placing the hands too close together on the stick creates a weak grip and decreases a players stickhandling ability. The top hand (the right hand for left handed shooters) should be at the top of the stick, just below the knob. The grip by the top hand should be firm and yet relaxed. The bottom hand (left hand for left handed shooters) should be approximately 12" to 24" below the top hand. The grip by the bottom hand should be somewhat loose, allowing the player to cushion the puck as he stickhandles. An easy way to learn proper hand placement is to place the top hand around the top of the stick. Next, place the elbow of the lower hand against the top hand and grasp the shaft of the stick with the bottom hand. This gives you an approximation for proper hand position, allowing for strength, control, and soft hands (the ability to manipulate the puck quickly, accurately, and consistently by feel).

One problem players may have with any of the stickhandling and puck control techniques is allowing the puck to roll off the blade of the stick. This is caused by incorrectly positioning the blade of the stick (by the hands and wrists). When the bottom edge of the blade slants toward the puck, there is a tendency for the puck to roll or jump off of the blade. When the top edge of the blade moves too far over the puck, there is a tendency for the puck to flip over the blade. When the toe of the blade points outward to the side instead of straight ahead or slightly inward, the puck can easily roll off the blade. The toe of the blade should be turned in towards the puck so that it will not roll off.

Ideally, the puck carrier should have his body and head in such a position so as to maximize his vision, both peripheral and line-of-sight, recognizing that this is not always possible in tight playing situations. Skilled puck carriers have an ability of finding open spaces because they constantly try to "face the play" or place themselves in the best possible position in relation to their teammates and opponents. Once a player has learned the skill of controlling the puck on his stick, without looking at the puck too often, he will then be able to look ahead and increase his scope of vision, awareness, and options.

Contact Greg Siller @ Pro Learning Systems