Hockey is an incredibly fun game. Groups of kids play on frozen ponds in the winter, fathers play in beer leagues to let off some steam after work, and millions of fans gather every weekend to watch their favorite NHL team on television.
But while hockey is fun, it’s also extremely competitive. The goal of most hockey players, no matter the age or skill level, is to train, improve, and rise in the ranks to ultimately play in the NHL. To make it to the highest level of play, however, you need certain skills and habits that have been practiced and fine-tuned over the course of years.
Well, what are those skills and habits? What things should you work on to give yourself the best chance to improve and take your game to the next level?
Sure, you should have a good attitude and always try your hardest. But I’m talking about more game-specific things—-things you can actively practice on and off the ice until they become second nature. Here are the 5 most common habits among successful hockey players:
Good Body Position
Good body position is crucial to your success as a hockey player. It can be broken down into two categories: personal and relative.
Personal body position refers to your physical posture. To have good personal body position, you should:
Keep your stick on the ice
Keep your head raised
Bend your knees to maintain a low centre of gravity
Keep your feet hip-width apart
All these habits contribute to staying aware and ready to react to any situation on the ice. If you work on developing proper posture, it’ll soon become habitual and you won’t need to think about it anymore.
Relative body position refers to where you are on the ice compared to all the other players. It’s important to position yourself so that, even if you don’t have the puck, you can still affect the play in the best way possible.
Having good relative body position involves:
Using your body to block the trajectory of shots on your net
Getting in the way of enemy forwards when they have puck possession
Placing yourself open and available for passes if needed
You should always keep your feet moving. Plain and simple.
Why? Well, what’s the difference between a player who’s actively skating towards the puck and one who’s just standing an watching the action? The first player has an objective and the second one doesn’t.
In hockey, you should always have an objective. Pay attention and quickly decide how you can best help your team in the moment (hint: it’s never by standing still and watching the action). As a result, you should always keep your feet moving towards your goal. Plus, if you maintain movement and a low centre of gravity, it’ll be easier for you to react to changes in puck possession and other potential surprises.
Communication is an important habit if you want to become a successful hockey player.
If you watch any NHL game, the players on the bench are always talking. Communication is key. When you’re not on the ice, you should always be discussing the game and potential strategies with your teammates. Or, you should be calling out to the players on the ice with helpful suggestions, which you can only do if you’re paying attention to the game.
Even while you’re on the ice you should be communicating as effectively as possible. If you notice an opportunity for one of your teammates, call it out to them. If you notice one of your teammates is out of position or making any sort of mistake, let them know.
Sure, some players aren’t used to calling out for the puck or shouting suggestions at their teammates, but you must get comfortable with it. Often, communication skills mean the difference between a win and a loss in a hockey game.
Always Think Through a Play
This habit is an extension of the “always have an objective” idea.
Professional hockey players assess every situation before rushing with the puck, making a check, or positioning themselves elsewhere on the ice. Hockey is a fast game, so the assessment must be made quickly, but in professional hockey it always happens. Thinking through a play allows you to avoid making costly mistakes that end up with you being out of position and granting the opposing team an opportunity to advance the puck and score.
Before repositioning yourself or making any sort of play, assess the situation. Where are your teammates and the opposing players located on the ice? Where is the puck likely to head? It is best to skate into traffic, or to position yourself elsewhere.
If you make it a habit to think through each play, you can trust that you’re making sound decisions. Then, you’ll notice that you’ll influence your games in a much more notable and positive way, helping to elevate your vision and hockey I.Q.
All high-level hockey players take excellent care of their bodies. Good nutrition can be separated into three things: sleep pattern, eating habits, and exercise.
In terms of sleep, make sure you’re consistently getting at least seven hours of sleep at night—-the more you get, the better. And that goes for every night, too, not just nights before practices or games. In addition, try your best to go to bed and wake up around the same time each night. If you set a pattern for your sleep, your body will become used to it. Then, you’ll fall asleep faster and wake up feeling more well-rested.
Also, ensure you’re eating healthy. It’s okay to treat yourself occasionally, but if you want to become a top-notch athlete, you’ll need to fuel your body properly. Stick to veggies, carbs, and lean protein. Drink plenty of water throughout the day and try to refrain from eating a lot before bed.
Lastly, exercise. NHL players exercise more than just during practices and games. Perhaps join another sport in addition to hockey for some extra exercise. Maybe go for a half-hour jog every second night or go to the gym a few times a week. To become an elite hockey player, you need to make sure your body is in peak physical condition so you can perform your best on the ice. The hard work you do in the gym should transition onto the ice.
There you have it: 5 of the most common habits of successful hockey players.
Of course, these aren’t the only things you need to work on to become a high-level hockey player. There are many skills and techniques that must be practiced in order to compete in elite hockey. Plus, you also need great work-ethic and immense dedication to the sport to succeed.
These 5 habits are a fantastic start, however. Work on body position, maintaining constant movement, communication, thinking through plays, and keeping good nutrition, and you should see rapid, notable improvement in your game.
Always strive to do your best, but remember to have fun, too. Hockey is a game, and it’s meant to be enjoyed by all those who play it. So, whether you want to make the NHL or just play minor hockey as a hobby, make sure to enjoy yourself along the way.