Hockey Tips and Advice
Always Wear Protective Equipment
Some players think it's okay to play without helmets or proper equipment. This is very dangerous. You should always wear the required equipment (and more!) when playing hockey.
Helmets are probably the most important piece of ice hockey equipment you will purchase. The areas to consider when choosing a helmet are protection, comfort and fit ( Never too big, Never too small :-). You should always look for equipment that feels comfortable. Although most helmets are lined with a protective foam, some do feel better then others.To maximize your protection, adjust your helmet to ensure a snug fit and that the chinstrap is adjusted so that it gently makes contact under your chin when fastened. There are several acceptable brands of helmets which offer quality protection and these may be recognized by the following standard CE / CSA / HECC sticker they carry. If the helmet is ever dented or cracked the helmet must be replaced.
To obtain the correct head size measure around your head with a flexible tape measure directly where a sweat band would rest.
Helmet Cages and Shield
The traditional Cage Face Mask is both strong and durable. It provides excellent ventilation for cooling and breathing with adequate vision. The Face Shield provides excellent vision both straight ahead and peripherally. You will sacrifice air flow with a full face shield when compared to a cage. To insure that you are purchasing a good quality mask, be sure that your mask is CE / CSA / HECC approved when purchasing it. If the face mask or shield becomes dented or cracked the mask has lost its strength and must be changed immediately.
Did you know a hockey puck can reach speeds of 80 to 145 kilometers per hour in recreational play? Did you know the maximum impact force of an air-borne puck at its highest velocity is 525 kg. Collisions with flying pucks or with other team-mates are inevitable on the ice. However, even though injuries are part of the game, the risk and occurrence of injuries can be drastically reduced by wearing an athletic mouth guard. Mouthguards are an essential piece of hockey equipment which should never be overlooked. They not only significantly reduce the incidence and severity of injuries to the teeth and mouth, but they also act as a shock absorber against more serious injuries like jaw fractures and concussions.
Quality protection is essential in a shoulder pad for a collision sport like hockey. What's most important is that the center of your shoulder lines up directly with the center of the shoulder caps. Properly fitted pads will provide protection for the Collar Bone, Chest, Ribs, Back and Upper Arms. It is important that the shoulder pads achieve this protection while still allowing a full range of motion. For example, lifting the arms above the head should not push the shoulder pads uncomfortably high around the player's neck. Take your measurement from just under the arm pits around the widest part of the chest.
Elbow pads are one of the easiest pieces of equipment to fit. Like the shoulder pads...your elbows should fit comfortably into the center of the elbow pad cup. A good elbow pad will provide forearm protection by extending down to the cuff of your hockey glove.
One of your primary concerns with the fit of the hockey glove is to ensure that the gap between the glove and the elbow pad is minimal. The hand and foreman are often subject to slashes and therefore need to be protected. The tightness of the glove is a personal preference and the tips of your fingers should not go completely to the ends of the glove. If they do, they may be exposed to injury by a slash from an opponent's stick. However if the glove is too loose it may turn on the player's hand and reduce the gloves protective ability. Always check the glove to see if it provides adequate protection. The back of the glove should be lined with both foam and hard plastic. The glove should also feature a lock thumb system which will protect the thumb from being bent backwards.
Sometimes choosing the correct size of hockey pants can get a little confusing because of the different sizing systems. While the fit should be loose and comfortable the pants should have the ability to be secured firmly by a belt around the waist. Approximately 90% of all players will be able to use their waist size as their guide for choosing the correct size pants. Make sure you check the length of the pant legs to insure a proper fit. The bottom of the pants need to overlap the top of the shin pad kneecaps by 1-2 inches. This will insure proper protection even when in a kneeling position. The leg length is very important. Sometimes a taller player will have to purchase a pair of pants which is one size too big in the waist in order to achieve the proper leg length. There are pants made specifically for tall people but they are not easily available except by special order. Measure around your waist as you would for street clothes.
The importance of a quality pair of shin pads cannot be overstated. The lower leg is an extremely high contact area which must be shielded against injuries caused by collisions with sticks, pucks and skates. Distance in inches between the center of the kneecap and the edge of the skate, just above the top eyelet. To obtain this measurement, have the individual sitting with their leg bent at 90 degrees and wearing a skate. Like other pads, your kneecap should fit directly into the center of the kneepad cup of your shin pad. The shin pad should then extend the full length of the lower leg. It is important to make sure that the shin pad is not too long. Try to keep the tongue of the skate under the shin pad.
Most shin pads provide protective foam which wraps around the lower leg to cover the back of the calf. Many also provide a strap which wraps around the leg to hold the shin pad in position. Although many people remove this strap, instead preferring to anchor the shin pad with tape, it is important to leave it attached. Using it will secure the shin pad in its proper place. If at anytime the shin pad becomes cracked or dented the shin pad has lost its protection and should be replaced at once!
Hockey skates normally fit (1) size smaller than your shoe size for kids and (1½) size smaller than your shoe size for adults. For girls and women, this size is 2 to 2 ½ sizes smaller. CCM skates tend to be wider, and Bauer's tend to be narrow. If you have wide feet, you might find CCM's are much more comfortable, whereas if you have narrow feet, you might find them too loose. In the end however, a proper fit is determined by careful choosing. For on ice performance, the skate is the single most important piece of equipment you wear. When ordering by mail, it's important that you have someone help you with the measuring.
A good clean way to break in your new skates is to lace them up at home. You could also use a hair dryer to warm them, but be careful not to overheat any one area. Let them completely cool before walking in them. You can wear your skates while you're doing your homework, reading or watching television. If you do this for a few hours, it will help reduce the break in period and your feet will feel better when you hit the ice for the first skate with them. Remember to wear rubber skate guards to avoid damage to floors. To improve comfort and performance, it would be advised to try some of our Skate Accessories products.
Ice Hockey Sticks
The best way to measure your stick is to stand in your stocking feet, without your skates on and on a flat surface. Place the toe of your stick on the ground between your feet. Lean the stick straight up-and-down so that the handle of the stick touches the tip of your nose.The general rule is to mark the stick at this point and cut the handle on your mark. Then when you stand in your skates, the stick should come up to your chin or just below it. A defenseman may want to use a longer stick to give them a longer reach for poking the puck away and a forward may want to use a shorter stick to help them stickhandle better. This is an individual preference for each player. For forwards, shorter is always better especially when for puck handling.
Wood Sticks Generally manufactured with a standard square shape. These are generally the heaviest sticks. They have good value but have poor shaft consistency and may break easier.
Composite Shafts Can be found in different shapes, weights and flexes. A composite shaft should be purchased for improved shaft consistency, shot speed, shot accuracy and its lighter weight.
Flex is the most important aspect when choosing a shaft. If the shaft is too flexible or too stiff it will lessen the players shot accuracy, dampen the puck speed on shots and provide less feel for the puck. The correct flex allows the shooter to "bend" the shaft on wrist shots as well as slap shots. When choosing a shaft, you should be able to bend the shaft with a moderate effort. Finesse style players generally prefer flexible and light shafts for wrist/snap shots, stick handling and shot accuracy. Aggressive/ Defensive players generally prefer a heavier, durable and stiff stick for slap shots and stick checking. General hockey players prefer average stiffness and weight for wrist shots and slap shots. These are usually wingers and rushing defensemen.
Correcting a Faulty Stride
Usually problems with skate boots only come if the boots are too large, too small, or just don't fit properly. Second hand skates are not receomended as they can sometimes be very hard to fit a new owner. Some sports stores have special skate ovens but although these can help, proper fitting is crutial before hand. Using Ankle Protective Skate Inserts is a very useful skate accessory for sufferers of lace bite as well as faulty stride as they will help increase comfort and supply stability to the skater. Please remember that after taking care of the above, practice proper skating strides whenever you can.
Increase Skating Efficiency
To increase efficiency while you skate, remember to bend at your knees and not the waist. By focusing on the bend of your knees you are using the strength from your "glutes" and "quads" rather than damaging your lower back. Also, by keeping your back straight you facilitate the breathing process, increasing your stamina.
The fastest skaters take the longest time to do ten strides. It is the contact with the ice that produces power. Many skaters leave out the gliding part of the stride and over work, producing short choppy strides. This is inefficient as well as tiring.
Stopping on Skates
Not sure how to stop while on skates? This will most likely take a lot of practice and it is obviously not the easiest part of skating. First: Try going slowly and as you approach the area where you wish to stop, quickly turn your feet sideways in a motion that allows you to slide along the ice while still digging into it. Next: All weight must go on your outside leg. Last: Just keep trying and always remember to keep your balance.
STICKHANDLING & PASSING:
Both hands move in the direction of your target. Do not swing your stick in an arc as you release the puck. Proper knee bend is important. Keep your stick in contact with the puck; do not slap at the puck as you pass it. A pass should be done without making any sound.
Again, it is extremely important to make sure both hands move in the direction of your target. Imagine a straight line drawn on the ice that leads to your target. Your stick should travel in the direction of this line as you pass the puck.
These suggestions apply when receiving the puck on either the forehand or the backhand. As the puck is coming towards you, move your stick towards the puck and tilt the top edge of your stick towards the puck. As the puck contacts your stick, let your stick move a bit in the direction of the puck to cushion the impact of the reception. On the backhand it is particularly important to let the puck cross right in front of your body as you're receiving it. Do not meet the puck with a rigid stick, or the puck will bounce right off your blade.
As in pass reception, the blade of the stick cups the puck when you are stick handling. This applies to both the forehand and backhand motion in stick handling. You will be a more dangerous player if you have a wide range of motion when you're stick handling. This makes it easier to pull the puck out of the reach of your opponents, yet while maintaining control. You can receive a helping hand by purchasing some of our Training Aids.
The Right Shot
Wonder why players like Joe Sakic and Brett Hull always seem to be able to score from just about anywhere? It's because they have mastered the quick snap shot, wrist shot and backhand shot. If you want to be a goal scorer, don't waist too much time on the big slap shot. You hardly ever have time to use this kind of shot in competitive league play. Instead, practice the quick release. You can do this by using some of our Training Aids available now.
If you're fortunate enough to find yourself in a breakaway, try practicing this move as it is guaranteed to bring you success. It is important to initially gather as much speed as you can while keeping the puck ahead of you until you get reasonably close to the goaltender ( do not waist speed and time stickhandling at this point, this will only slow you down ). As you're about to make your move on the goalie, bring the puck to your forehand as if you're about to shoot, wiggle your stick blade to sell your deak, bring the puck to your backhand, wait a fraction of a second ( you will see some room between the goalie and the net ), and finally lift the puck to the superior part of the net.
Now that you're ready to try out our tips, check our stores for great discounts on skates, sticks, goalie and referee gear, equipment, and performance undergear for both ice and inline hockey. If you still feel that you need more instructions we have training DVDs that can help you perfect your game.