6 Ways to Make your Hockey Practices More Effective

The Ice “Crisis:”
It’s no secret that there’s a shortage of ice in a lot of hockey towns. Different organizations have tried to address this problem in different ways… with some outcomes working out better than others. Many organizations run half-ice practices, with two teams sharing the ice. Other programs are running “station practices,” with 50-60 players rotating through various stations. Some programs are still using the “old-fashioned” method of full-ice practices, with one team on the ice at a time. I believe most organizations are using some combination of the scheduling methods above.

The purpose of this article isn’t to critique the various “ice accommodation strategies” that have been tried over the years, nor is it to attempt to solve the world’s ice scheduling issues (although that might be another topic for another day). What I’m looking to accomplish here, is to set forth a philosophy that you can use with your team, regardless of the stance your organization has adopted.

Making Wise Use of Your Ice Sessions:
There are endless philosophies and opinions on how hockey players should be developed, what types of skills should be taught, and at what age the various skills and concepts should be introduced. I have my opinions, and I’m sure you have yours! Regardless of your school of thought, one simple development strategy holds true… teams MUST make the most of their ice time, especially when ice is as scarce and expensive as it is today!

Here are a few tips I recommend:

1. Take it Outside! Lots of stuff can be worked on off the ice, away from the rink. An obvious one is conditioning. It kills me to use precious ice time for skating ladders! If players, coaches, and teams all got on board to consistently execute a well-designed, hockey-specific workout program, both during the off-season and in-season, then conditioning wouldn’t need to be addressed in practice.
Check out our free, 3-Part video series on Off-Ice Training for Hockey.

2. Off-Ice Skills Sessions: Conditioning isn’t the only thing that can be developed away from the rink. Many teams are holding off-ice skills sessions to supplement their on-ice practices. Modern advances in off-ice training aids have made the experience much more realistic for players looking to develop their stickhandling, deking, shooting, passing, and even some aspects of skating. Getting set up to hold off-ice skills sessions takes a bit of financial investment up front, but the return on investment in the long run can be HUGE. Here are some examples of off-ice training sessions we’ve run:




Visit our friends at HockeyShot to start collecting your off-ice training aids.

3. On-Ice-Specific Development: On the flip side, there are some skills that can only be developed on the ice. Skating technique, agility, passing in motion, 1 on 1’s, 2 on 1’s and other battling tactics all fall into this category. Positional play and systems work are also tactics that must be developed on the ice. Stuff that can’t be worked on OFF the ice, should be highly stressed ON the ice!

4. Homework Assignments: Another place a lot of practice time is wasted is at the whiteboard, while drills are being explained. I know a lot of coaches who assign homework before practices. Usually these are web links to video diagrams, animations, or demonstrations of new drills. There may still need to be a quick explanation, but if the player has done his/her homework, there learning curve is significantly reduced.
Many coaches have used the videos in our Coaches’ Training Course as homework for their players.

5. Core Drills: I also recommend having a core set of 10-15 drills you use on a regular basis. Players will begin to memorize these drills, and know them by name. You’ll eventually be able to just call out the drill, and players will get themselves set up without needing the explanation again. This tactic can help keep practices running smoothly, and it also reinforces the concept of perfecting drills and skill sets.

6. Coach’s Preparation: Anyone who knows me, knows I’m a HUGE believer in planning every single practice. Keeping your thoughts organized on the ice is extremely important to running a smooth practice. In my opinion, the best way to keep yourself, and your practice organized is with a computerized diagrammer/practice planner. The two I use (and recommend) are DrillDraw and HockeyShare. Both are phenomenal!

It doesn’t have to be “either/or…”
Lastly, many coaches and administrators have the mistaken belief that systems play shouldn’t be taught too early, because it detracts from skill development. This can be true if you LET it be true, but I believe it doesn’t have to be an “either/or” proposition. If you make proper use of your team sessions, both on and off the ice, and develop individual and team skills in the proper order, then positional and systems concepts can naturally be built into your practices, even at very young ages!

As players begin to learn the recurring patterns of the game, because of well-structured practice sessions, they will begin to see the play better, and react more quickly when those same patterns present themselves in real games. It can be done, and you’re the one who can do it! Check out our playbook for more information on developing systems hockey at young ages.

What have we missed?
Are there any on-ice productivity tips you’re using that we didn’t mention here? Leave your tips in the comments below!


Use these Dryland Training Kits from HockeyShot to set up Structured, Well-Organized Dryland Sessions with your Team!

I recently had the opportunity to do a detailed review on HockeyShot’s Dryland Training Kits. So I took my boy Tyler down to the tennis courts to have a workout and make some videos. We had a great workout, and had a blast putting these videos together.

These kits are available in three different sets; the Starter Kit, Premium, and Premium Plus. I reviewed the Starter Kit, and was impressed with how much equipment it came with, even for the lowest-priced option! All three kits are fantastic. The main difference it that the Premium and Premium Plus kits come with more equipment (Speed Chutes & Plyo Hurdles)

In this post, I’m including 6 videos that highlight each product in the Starter Kit, and give a few ideas of drills you can run with each piece of equipment. After you pick up your kit, I recommend watching the instructional DVD that comes with it. The DVD contains over 300 drills… definitely enough to get you started! After that, run a YouTube search on additional drills you can do with the equipment. There’s no shortage of options out there!

So – enjoy the videos, and comment below if you have any questions.

HockeyShot Dryland Kits: Intro

HockeyShot’s dryland training kits are an awesome way to set up structured, well-organized dryland sessions for your team. Each starter kit contains 6 Speed Hurdles, 2 Reaction Balls, 4m Agility Ladder with carrying sleeve, 50 Saucer Cones, 6 Jump Ropes, Instructional DVD with TONS of drills, and a nice Transport Bag.

HockeyShot Dryland Kits: Speed Hurdles

These 6″ speed hurdles are great to have in the dryland kit. They are lightweight, yet durable, and there’s a lot of stuff you can do with them, as you can see in the video.

HockeyShot Dryland Kits:
Agility Ladder

One of the most versatile pieces of “quick feet” equipment, the agility ladder is a solid selection for this kit. Agility ladders are great for developing a quick, explosive lower body, but there are some fun upper-body drills you can do with this as well, so make sure you give a quick YouTube search when you get yours.

HockeyShot Dryland Kits:
Jump Rope

Awesome for both agility and endurance drills, the jump rope is a staple for team dryland sessions. This kit comes with 6 durable vinyl speed ropes, with molded PVC handles.

HockeyShot Dryland Kits:
Saucer Cones

Great for use for agility shuttle runs, routes, or wherever else pylons can be used. These saucer cones are a great selection for this kit because they’re flexible, so it won’t hurt if a player lands on one. Simple but the best!

HockeyShot Dryland Kits:
Reaction Ball

The Reaction Ball is the ideal tool for improving eye-hand coordination and reaction time. It’s unique 6-sided design allows the Reaction Ball to pop, bounce and leap unpredictably in different directions. Awesome for goalies!

Level 5 Clinic – Day 3

Just a quick report on today’s sessions…

Interesting day today at the Level 5 Clinic here in Minnesota. We heard from a bunch of pretty good hockey guys including Todd Richards (head coach of the Wild), Mike Sullivan (assistant coach of the Lightning), Mark Johnson (member of 1980 “Miracle” team and Head Coach of Wisconsin’s women’s team), Bryan Trottier (NHL Hall of Famer), and a panel of players from the 1980 American Miracle team.

One of the things I found interesting was Mike Sullivan’s take on defensive hockey (playing when the other team has the puck). He likes a very aggressive style when his team doesn’t have the puck, and showed us a few examples of his 1-2-2 forecheck that looked almost identical to our 1-2-2 Fooseball Forecheck. So – apparently it works in the NHL too 😉

THEN – he showed an example of his neutral zone attack… and guess what? it was just a neutral zone version of the 1-2-2 fooseball! First man pressured outside in, second two took away the outlet passes.

Anyways – the main key that made this forecheck so effective in the clips was that the F1 was EXTREMELY aggressive, and F2 and F3 were REALLY fast to seal off the passing lanes.

So – that’s my report for today. Until next time!

Off-ice Hockey Agility Drill



The Dot Drill is One of my Staple Off-Ice Agility Drills

The Dot Drill is one of the most effective off-ice hockey agility drills I’ve ever seen. This drill is easy and inexpensive to set up, and only takes about a minute of the athlete’s time each day – so there are no excuses not to do it!

Remember, the dots should be placed in a 2′ x 3′ rectangle, with one dot in the middle. Each dot should be about 5″ in diameter. You can spray paint the dots onto your garage or basement floor, or onto an old piece of carpet. You could also use something less permanent such as sidewalk chalk or tape.

I prefer the rubber dot drill mats because they have better grip and are more durable. If you decide to get one, make sure you pick up one of the thicker ones with the dots embedded in the mat itself – not just painted on.

The Dot Drill:
The Dot Drill consists of 5 movements, performed 6 times each. Here are the 5 movements.
1. Hour Glass (always facing forward) – over and back equals one rep
2. Right Foot “Slalom” (in, out, over, in, out, over) – back to the original dot equals one rep
3. Left Foot “Slalom” (in, out, over, in, out, over) – back to the original dot equals one rep
4. Two Foot “Slalom” (in, out, over, in, out, over) – back to the original dot equals one rep
5. Hour Glass with Spin – over and back equals one rep

HOW FAST IS FAST?
As your Dot Drill begins to improve, you’ll definitely want to compare your times to the national averages. Here’s a time chart to help you track your progress:


USE THIS DRILL IN YOUR OWN OFF-ICE TRAINING SESSIONS: