Q: How can I improve my passing accuracy in hockey?
A: Passing accuracy is an absolutely critical part of your game. If you can't consistently make tape-to-tape passes, you'll be more likely to cause turnovers and you may fail to create scoring opportunities.
If your coach notices that this is a weak part of your game, how can he possibly trust you during critical situations?
The problem many players have with passing has to do with technique. It's more complicated than simply firing a puck haphazardly to your teammate. You need to focus on the details.
Derek Popke, an NHL skills consultant and owner of the Vancouver Hockey Schools, breaks down the intricate components of passing to help you become the best playmaker on your team.
Popke explains that the blade of your stick should always be square to your target to improve your accuracy. To do this, your stick needs to always be in front of your body. "If you bring the puck behind your skates, the blade will open up and the pass will go off to the side," says Popke.
This is only possible if your stick is in the proper position when stickhandling. The easiest way to do this is to push your top hand out so there's a glove's-length gap between your jersey and your top hand. This forces the puck in front of your body during the front and side dribble and puts you in a balanced position to make strong and precise passes.
Young hockey players are typically instructed to pass by transferring their weight from their back to their front leg and sweeping their stick as if taking a wrist shot. This may work for mini-mite hockey, but as you get older it's simply too slow and inaccurate.
Instead, your passes should more closely mirror how you take a snap shot, which allows for a quicker and more accurate release.
"You should transfer your weight into your puck-side leg and use your puck-side shoulder to drive the pass," explains Popke. So if you're left handed, your weight should be on your left leg, and you should drive your left shoulder down to put force into your stick. Your opposite leg may actually come off the ice when you do this.
Leading the Passer
Properly leading a pass is one of the most difficult aspects of passing. Hockey is played at extremely high speeds, and perfecting a long tape-to-tape pass to a moving teammate can be quite challenging, but you need to know how to do it.
There's no single recommendation for how far ahead of a moving player you need to aim. Your teammate's speed, your speed, your passing speed and the distance and the angle of the pass all factor into how far you should lead with your pass.
You need to get a feel for your own passing and what works for you in difference situations, which you can do in practice. Don't just haphazardly pass the puck around during drills. Concentrate on making strong and crisp passes, and make adjustments if you miss your target.
If you want to practice leading passes on your own time, try the following drill:
- Line up on the goal line in a corner with a partner in front of you.
- Have your partner skate up the boards as you skate around the bottom of the circle toward the center of the ice.
- Pass to your partner when he's halfway to the blue line.
- On the next rep, make a pass when your partner is at the blue line.
- On the final rep, have your partner skate up the boards and then cut across the blue line. Make a pass when he's about a third of the way across the blue line.
- Repeat as desired.
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