WHAT IT TAKES TO MAKE IT
When I played in my first NHL game with the Minnesota North Stars, in 1976, I wondered how good the players at this level, in the best hockey league in the world, really were? Having played with and against very talented hockey players at Michigan Tech, Division One hockey and competing in the 1976 Winter Olympic Games, I saw many highly skilled, great players. Some of the Russian/European players back in the mid-70s were flat out amazing! Stepping onto the ice at the NHL level for the first time, it became quite apparent, very quickly, what it takes to make it. All of these many years later, as I watch new players enter the league, as well as veterans, many of the same player attributes are unchanged. Here are a few of the top reasons why I feel that some players make it and some do not.
Hockey is a game built on speed & quickness. Winning races to the puck are a big key to success, and if you win the races, you are going to control play and stand a better chance of winning the game. Work on your speed both on & off the ice. There are many drills & workouts that can build the muscles necessary to increase your speed and quickness. Developing leg power through plyometrics and weight training are an important part of a hockey player's development & advancement. If you want to make it at the next level, you have to consistently be the first one to the puck.
At our camp, we have constructed a huge 40 foot by 100 foot power shooting range. I have noticed the kids each and every summer, the last 33 years, who take extra time to shoot pucks. Proper shooting technique, which includes a powerful weight transfer from back foot to front foot, a low center of gravity, strong wrist snap & accurate follow-through are the key factors. The really good players will shoot pucks time & time again, as repetition will equate to improvement. The exceptional shooters are the kids that have a better chance of making it to the next level long after they leave our camp.
I am amazed at the great stick handling ability of young players. The creativity in today's youth hockey is truly impressive! I see Mites, Squirts & Pee-Wees dangling with the puck, in tight areas, and making moves that are far better than what players were doing even 10 or 15 years ago. Developing good puck handling skills is critical to your advancement, as puck possession has become one of the most important strategies in playing winning hockey. Like shooting, stick-handling is something that once you learn the basic skills, you can improve your creativity and your hand quickness by practicing on the ice, in the basement and on your driveway.
Grit really matters! Grit is the willingness to get into the mix and make something happen. While some players play the perimeter and wait for a line-mate to dig the puck out of the corner or to rub out a defenseman along the sideboards to create a change of possession, players who work tirelessly and are not afraid to battle hard for puck, more times than not will reap the benefits. Take pride in winning every battle for the puck as you go to the boards to fight with your opponent. It becomes more critical
to win the individual puck battles as you progress to Juniors/College hockey. Building core strength & upper body muscle to protect your skeletal system will give you the confidence to be more gritty!
Thanks for reading, we look forward to helping you achieve your goals and to assisting you to become a better hockey player at our camp next summer!