I recently received two different sets of beginner hockey questions from guys named Matt, but the pair were really a continent apart. 🙂
— Dennis Chighisola
Adult Beginner Hockey Questions
The first Matt lives nearly next door to me, here on the west side of Florida… Actually, the Pastor at our church pulled me aside after Sunday services recently, suggesting that I might be able to help a young guy who had just begun playing ice hockey. If you know me at all, you know I smiled at that, because I always enjoy helping hockey folks, and I especially enjoy helping new adult players.
This Matt’s beginner hockey question wasn’t so surprising, as most experienced members will appreciate. I mean, he hinted at getting around the ice fairly well, but — LOL, he was having his problems stopping.
Why am I kinda laughing?
As a quick aside, I can recall bringing my young grandson on vacation to Florida 20-something years ago (we lived and plied our hockey back in Massachusetts at the time). I think young Anthony was 7-years old at the time, and we’d packed his skates, stick, a puck and a Skater’s Rhythm-bar so that he might keep his legs while away from his team.
One day we found a small rink in the middle of a mall in Clearwater, where I tied Tony C’s skates and sent him on his way. For sure I worried a bit, as he buzzed in and out of mostly rec skaters who barely managed to stay up.
At one point, he grabbed the R-bar, and began sprinting from one side of the rink to the other, always ending with a huge spray of snow. And, in true Coach Chic-type fashion, he sprayed while stopping to the left and then toward the right, and he sprayed some more while stopping on a front or back skate. (He didn’t mind spraying snow all over me as I stood just outside the knee-high boards, either.)
After a few of these, an older boy came over with his mouth wide open. And, in awe he asked if Anthony would show him how to do that… Oh, my God!!! No, Anthony! No!!!
Can you see it now? I mean, can you see the kid trying to stop, flying over the boards, and being carrier out of the place on a stretcher? Ugh!
Not to worry, Coach. Your grandson had learned his lessons well. For, even at 7-years old, he pulled the kid aside and said something like, “You don’t want to start with that kind of stop, but here’s an easy way to learn…” Yup, my little buddy knew enough to start his new friend with what we called a “snowplow stop”.
With that providing a little history to the first Matt’s beginner hockey question, I hooked him up with a copy of my video on “21 Must-do Beginner Skating Drills“. Of course, that included a step-by-step way of tackling the basic snowplow — as in coasting, spreading the skates, and then slowly turning the toes in.
Aaaaaah, now for the second Matt, and the beginner hockey questions he sent all the way from California…
“I am new to the sport at the ripe age of 29! I played a Learn to Play session a couple of months ago and fell in love with the sport. I have played a couple of rookie games and did poorly compared to my athletic expectations of myself (might of been unrealistic expectations), however, I wanted to know what are the key skills that I need to focus on as a pure beginner that will at least get me up to par to playing in this rookie league.“
Matt didn’t end there, but he got rather specific in his personal version of those beginner hockey questions, as in…
“I’m not looking for shortcuts but am trying to filter out what is essential and what are things that can be learned later with time.
What do I focus on first?
What are some major mistakes to avoid that rookie hockey player experiences. What are wastes of time?”
If I could, I’d sit back with Matt and watch a hockey game on video-tape. It wouldn’t take us long, however, to notice how well players move around the ice. For sure, a pro game would convince us of that need to move well, but watching a bigger’s game would probably even magnify that skill. I mean, the guys who would be involved in play the most would likely be moving fairly well, and not run out of gas too soon. And, that should bring us to a couple of conclusions…
Quite obviously, “skating is the name of the game”, and that skill separates players in the earliest going — from very beginners (or stationary pylons) to intermediates to fairly advanced players (moving in and out of those pylons).
Of course, hockey can’t be played for long on a straight line. No, the best players — at every level — are those who can “read” and then “react” properly to the movements of the puck, teammates and enemy players. And, that means being able to quickly transition in all four directions — straight ahead, backwards, and laterally to each side.
Now, being retired from the ice, it’s been a while since I’ve worn skates. So, while my head still might know what my feet should be doing in a return to the ice, I know my feet would absolutely kill me, and so would my shins and calves. Oh, man, would those muscles burn, and that would limit me to only seconds at a time chasing the play.
Interestingly, as my skating motion and my skating legs got accustomed to carrying me around the ice — a little longer and a little quicker, I know the next thing to be challenged would be my game-playing wind.
I’m sure Matt isn’t thrilled at just reading a list of problems he’s sure to face as a beginner. Still, those things should help him foresee the problems, and appreciate some of the suggestions I’ll make henceforth…
In the beginning, I’d highly recommend public skating sessions. Most rinks offer 2-hour blocks that permit skaters to go at their own pace, and to even take breaks as needed. If do-able, I’d attend two or three of those kinds of sessions per week for awhile, with the hope of becoming more and more mobile as the sessions go by.
If Matt is really serious (and I sense he is), I’d have him buy a pair of in-line skates that are as close to his on-ice skate-boots as possible. A decent parking lot or bicycle path offers free time to push oneself and experiment. And, besides the opportunity to skate for free with in-lines, I’ll suggest that wheels are more stable than blades, and make it easier for one to learn cross-overs and such. Those wheels are pretty good for building strength and endurance, too, because it’s a little bit harder to thrust and glide in them.
This site is loaded with skating advice, and there are numerous texts available that deal with Matt’s type of beginner hockey questions, so I’m not going to delve into things like crosses and pivots and backward skating. Still, I’m not done…
A couple of my old posts come immediately to mind as I think on Matt’s question. “A Shortage of Hockey Training Time” was written in answer to another beginner hockey player with a serious question. Within that post, my grandson is grown up in a video that demonstrates some pretty good drills that can be done at home. This next one is a little advanced, but “Dealing With A Shortage of On-ice Hockey Practice Time” does include a ton of same off-ice drills that Matt could browse through for ideas.
At times like this, I can’t help thinking back to my long ago studies in the old USSR, because the Soviets of that time had a serious shortage of indoor ice rinks. And, with that, they made a science of finding ways to develop some of the greatest skilled players away from the ice.
Upon returning home from Moscow, I recreated a lot of their dryland methods for my hockey school kids and my future teams. In time, I also built my own indoor training facility dubbed “The MOTION Lab“. That section of this site is loaded with training ideas that can be done in a small area, and most of the entries there are free to non-members.
Finally, I’d be remiss in skipping at least a comment or so on some of hockey’s other basic skills…
While skating is super-important to our game, most of the fun comes with enhanced puckhandling skills.
Of course, Matt will want to eventually be involved in the team game — with increased passing and receiving skills, and he’ll also want to eventually contribute to his team’s scoring. Frankly, though, I think those can come a little further done the road, or once the skating and puckhandling are becoming established.
Okay, so how did I do? Oh, I’m sure I missed something, but that’s why I’m always willing to take comments or followup questions down below.