Not all adult league players have years of competitive hockey under their belts. Even fewer have the luxury of being able to train with former NHL defenseman Lance Pitlick, who since retiring from playing has taught stickhandling and shooting skills to players of all levels.
Pitlick has offered some tips to adult league players who are looking to add more power to their shot, generate more chances and score more goals.
Trust the Modern-Day Stick Technology
Pitlick said that hand positioning is key in order to maximize the velocity a hockey stick can generate. Having the hands too far apart can decrease the power a player can get on a shot.
“The technology in the sticks now is so good and so consistent that a lot of times, more inexperienced players, they have a tendency to bring their bottom hand down too far,” said Pitlick, who played 393 NHL games. “What that does is eliminate a lot of the technology, so they’re giving up the technology that’s in the stick. I would say if they want to generate a little more power, to move the bottom hand closer to the top.
“Get the right grip by putting your bottom hand elbow on your top hand, and then grab the shaft of the stick there.”
Find Ways to Create More In-Game Shot Opportunities
If you don’t have many chances outside of games to work on increasing shot velocity, getting more shots in games is one way to improve.
“From the position of someone that’s up in years and who plays more for fun, if they truly want to get better, focus on ‘A,’ can you generate more shooting chances? Because then you’re going to get more shooting reps and you’re going to see improvement,” Pitlick said. “And then ‘B,’ focus on getting to spots that you get pucks in good shooting areas. All the top players migrate around so then you have time to get that shot off. It’s experimenting with a bunch of different techniques.”
Pitlick suggests watching other players—both within the league you’re playing in but also at the pro level—to see how they position themselves for great shots and what they do to maximize their velocity.
“If you want to get better, you’ve got to find out how to get more shots,” Pitlick said. “Watch people who are really good at it. NHL games are going on right now. See what their mechanics are, what their movements are and try to replicate it in the next game.”
Big Follow-Throughs Aren’t Necessary
Another benefit of the modern-day stick is a massive follow-through isn’t needed to generate maximum velocity, Pitlick says. So instead of focusing on a big windup and big follow-through, players should focus on keeping the shot compact.
“With the sticks today, it’s really just a compact explosion,” Pitlick said. “You don’t have to follow through very far. It doesn’t come more than chest high.”
Get to the Rink Early
In leagues that are more about fun than anything else, there could be a tendency to show up to the rink not long before the puck drops. But Pitlick said getting to the rink in advance can help get you comfortable with your surroundings, and can therefore lead to an uptick in shot velocity.
“Be one of the first ones out there, because there’s always a few minutes where players skate around and warm up,” Pitlick said. “You can get 20, 30 shots before the game even starts.”
While finding additional ice time outside of games might not be practical for many beer leaguers, there are still some options that rinks offer to get in some extra practice for those interested.
“A lot of rinks have off-ice shooting and stickhandling areas,” Pitlick said. “Talk with the rink manager and see if there’s some availability where you get in there and use something like that for a half an hour before you go on the ice.”