In order to write this article, I had to seek out the guy on my team with the “silkiest mitts”, as they say. I chatted with the Thunderbirds' leading scorer Anthony Bardaro about his top tips for improving your stickhandling in hockey. Here’s what he had to offer:
Keep your hands away from your body.
Your hands should move independently from your body. Many beginners keep their hands too close, or don’t separate them from their body. To avoid this, keep your shoulders down and relaxed and keep both hands in front of your body while holding your stick. As a general rule, your top hand should be about a hand’s width away from your chest. When you move your stick to stickhandle, focus on only moving your arms, not your body.
Your top and bottom hands have different roles -- know them!
Your top hand is the one you hold closest to the top of the stick. Your bottom hand is held about one third to one half of the way down your stick. Your top hand should be the one to rotate the stick; your bottom hand should push and pull the puck. Your top hand is best suited to rotating the stick, which you need to do if you want to push or pull the puck -- consider your top hand to be the steering wheel.
Meanwhile, your bottom hand generates the leverage to actually push or pull the puck -- sort of like the engine. If your bottom hand tries to rotate, you won’t have much range of rotation, and if your top hand tries to push and pull, you won’t have much strength. Once you understand what each hand should do, you will find stickhandling much easier.
When you’re looking to improve your stickhandling (or any physical skill, for that matter), you can cut your learning curve dramatically by video taping yourself. Everyone has smartphones nowadays that can shoot HD video, so it’s easy to capture yourself, either with the help of a buddy or a stack of pucks.
I suggest doing some practice reps, then taping yourself, then checking your technique. Make adjustments to your technique, practice, then take another video. You will gain valuable insight on your technique that you can only get from watching yourself.
Use Anthony’s tips, plus video feedback to develop your own silky mitts!
Jason Yee is a fourth-year kinesiology student and a defenceman on the UBC men’s hockey team. Check out his blog: Train 2.0