While all sports require sport-specific skills and equipment, no sport has as many skills to develop as ice hockey. Unlike most land-based sports, hockey requires the skill of ice skating before you can develop hockey skills. If you’re reading this article, you likely already know how to skate, so we’ll explain how to become a better hockey player and, potentially, a better NHL player.
As we work through our tips to become a better hockey player, you’ll quickly realize how simple something like an online casino or learning how to throw a curveball is compared to the work you’ll do to become a better hockey player. However, following our recommendations, you’ll improve your hockey skills, mobility, and general health and well-being.
Why? Because the first way and most the ways to improve as a hockey player take place off the ice and don’t involve skating at all.
Hockey-Specific Strength and Conditioning
If you are not a fan of leg day and every day at the gym is chest and arms day, you are not building your body right for hockey.
Yes, you need to be strong and tough to play in the NHL, but one look at Connor McDavid’s physique, and you’ll quickly realize bicep curls are the least of the best player in hockey’s concern.
Speed, agility, strength, and mobility are all key areas to focus on in strength and conditioning workouts. To be a better hockey player, you need to have explosive speed and agility to react or dominate on-ice.
Long gone are the days when you could be an average skater in the NHL. Skaters will focus more on power and explosion off-ice, while goalies will work on flexibility, mobility, and agility specific to the position.
Working with an athletic trainer who knows hockey is critical. This trainer will be able to develop a strength and conditioning program to develop the physical skills that you can transfer from the weight room to the ice.
Focus on Nutrition, Hydration, and Recovery
Hockey is the fastest sport on the planet that isn’t motorsports. Hockey is also one of the most physical sports possible, which is part of why so much equipment is required to suit up and hit the ice.
Hockey games, practices, travel, and training take a physical toll. While you’ll feel at your physical peak as you develop your body for the sport, you need to take care of your body off the ice to maximize your skills and potential.
Nutrition and hydration are two areas that will improve your life in general, let alone on the ice. But giving your body poor fuel or being dehydrated will not help your on-ice performance. Along with developing a hockey-specific strength and conditioning program, you’ll want to find and develop a nutrition program.
You need to find a nutrition program that works with your body and makes you sharp, focused, and as healthy as possible. Proper nutrition and hydration can help with recovery and cognitive functions, meaning you will recover quicker, feel faster, and focus better simply by finding a nutrition program that works best for you.
However, with proper nutrition and hydration, you are two-thirds of the way through taking care of your body. Everyone, including Connor McDavid, needs recovery days. On top of off-ice strength, conditioning, and nutrition, all NHL players have recovery days and workouts as part of their routine.
You can do everything else right, but you will not maximize your hockey capabilities if you don’t give your body the right fuel and conditions to operate in.
Off-Ice Hockey Skill Training
Ice time is expensive, and there are only so many sheets of ice and hours in a day. NHL players have arenas and practice facilities for training their hockey-specific skills. However, most NHL players likely have fond memories attached to the variety of tools that help with shooting and skating.
You can develop your puck-handling and shooting skills anywhere, any time of year, with simulated ice tiles/surfaces and shooting trainers, which include a pseudo-goalie to be stretched across the net to focus on shot accuracy. If you want to develop slick stick handling or master your wrist shot, these are things you can do with a net and simulated ice tile or sheet while wearing flip-flops in the summer.
What about Video Games?
Can video games help with your on-ice game? Potentially, if you play the game right. It can’t be only CHEL and “wheel, snipe, celly boys!.”
You can play EA Sports NHL games and improve your knowledge of the ebbs and flows of hockey. If you play video games correctly, you can develop a better understanding and vision of how the game plays out on the ice.
The closer to simulation settings and focus on gameplay WITHOUT the puck will make you a better hockey player. After all, the greatest of all time, Wayne Gretzky, spent time as a child focusing on where the puck was going, not who had the puck when watching hockey on television.
“Hockey sense” or “Hockey IQ” can compensate for a lack of physical gifts or top-end speed. USA Hockey partners with the Hockey IntelliGym to help develop players’ “hockey sense” or “hockey IQ” with modern technology.
Be A Multi-Sport Athlete but Don’t Forget to Play Hockey!
For many Canadian children, hockey is a year-round commitment. Such intense single-sport focus and specificity might create a good hockey player, but you aren’t guaranteed to create a great athlete.
If you want to be a better hockey player or NHL player, play other sports and develop as an athlete. Hockey requires more than hockey-specific skills, and you can train in things like hand-eye coordination in most other sports.
At the same time, don’t forget to play hockey! Study hockey and how the game is played. Watch what the league’s best players do without a puck, and not solely a highlight of Trevor Zegras’ most recent “Michigan” goal on social media, whether it counts or not. And take as many opportunities to play hockey as feasible.
You don’t want to focus solely on hockey if you want to improve as an NHL player, but everything you do can be done with a hockey focus as the end game. That approach will improve your skills as a hockey player.