By Tyler Hinds, breaking up plays one stick at a time (@THinds3)
Puck handling, playmaking, scoring, & defending. There is one common denominator in the previous list that makes all of those possible... the hockey stick. Without question, a player's stick is their greatest tool, especially when it comes to defending, but not all players know how or what to do with it when they don't have the puck. The same principles apply for both forwards and defensemen. Let's make the lives of our opposition living hell by using these 3 ProTips to maximize the use of our stick!
1. Stick on Puck
One of the most common mistakes young players make is the poor placement of their stick. The Stick on Puck core skill video above discusses the concept of mirroring the puck with your stick so you take away time and space from your opponent. Notice when Wade Redden extends his arm and stick, he's effectively able to cover an 8-foot area radius in any direction from his body. His active stick allows him to easily disrupt the opponent's puck possession and create a turnover. A player that leaves his stick unengaged is giving the other player almost an extra second of time to make a play. That's more than enough time for a good hockey player to make you look silly.
2. Take Away Lanes
If we aren't covering the player that has the puck, there are little things that we can do with our stick to take away the options of the puck carrying player. The easiest and most obvious solution is to anticipate the seams in the coverage that the puck carrier would like to expose and eliminate them by placing your stick in that area. This subtle act will alleviate a player from attempting a threatening pass when there is a high likelihood that it will be picked off. Even if the pass does get through, it probably won't be as accurate because of the obstacle that your stick has created.
3. Lifting Sticks
The best way to eliminate scoring opportunities against, especially in dangerous areas, is to not allow your opponent to have their stick on the ice. If they can't shot, they can't score! The best way to lift your opponents stick is to use the leverage of your own stick with a firm bottom hand to pop theirs off the ice. As a defender, it is best practice to have attacking players that are lurking in front of your net or in the slot within a stick length so you can easily disarm their scoring device. Even if you arrive on scene late, make sure you jam your stick into their blade so they can't get a shot off cleanly.
Be a pest with an active stick,
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