Photo Credit: Kevin Sousa Photography
It's just three simple words but they can change the direction of a game.
Gone are the days when a defenceman can rely on a hook, slash or an obstruction to defend an offensive player. With an increased emphasis on speed in today's game, we need to work towards a puck first, then body mentality.
Referees have a heightened awareness for the clutch and grab in an attempt to defend. Now, more than ever an active, responsible stick is an important tool to defend.
An active stick reinforced, by proper body positioning and skating technique, is an undervalued skill in today’s game. How you position yourself and your stick will dictate what your opponent can and cannot do.
The single biggest teaching point when coaching defensive hockey (whether forwards or defence) is Stick on Puck.
When skating backwards, defenders should not have two hands on their stick as it limits the space they are able to defend and doesn’t allow them to maximize their reach. Defencemen are now encouraged to extend their sticks from the outset when defending the rush as opposed to "surprising" opponents with poke checks. This allows the defender to redirect passes and shots away from the intended target and disrupts time and space for the attacker.
Forecheckers can also use the stick-on-puck technique to:
By keeping an active stick on the ice, it also prevents players from taking an unnecessary penalty for not being in control of their stick like in the Jordan Staal highlight in the video above. However, an errant stick can also get called for tripping, so players need to pick their spots wisely.
4 clips of Dmen utilizing "stick on puck". Many young players do themselves a disservice when they try to open ice body check. Stick on puck is the most important concept in our game when defending. Under emphasized at minor hockey level pic.twitter.com/GvurHgVg1V— Peter Russo (@peter_russo9) December 4, 2017
A lot of being able to use the Stick on Puck strategy properly is being able to pick up on opponent’s tendencies and also knowing which circumstances you can take advantage of. Figuring out the timing of holding your reach helps to create turnovers.
Having an outstretched stick forces the offensive players to work around the defenders instead of having defenders react to what the offence is trying to create. The stick can act as an obstacle as well, slowing the momentum of a puck or deflecting it.
Sometimes it’s the small details that can make the big difference.
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