Wednesday Drill of the Week: Peewee to Pro

Peewee to Pro.jpg

A great continuous passing drill today. Can be done with any level (hence the name…)

The drill starts with all the players lined up at the redline. The first player (black line) goes around the far cone, second player (green) goes around the second cone and the third player (blue) carries a puck around the first cone. Blue passes to green who passes to black. Black then goes in and takes a shot on net. Blue and green now continue on with purple starting the next puck. Going around the opposite set of cones, purple takes a puck around the first cone and passes to blue. Blue has moved from the first cone to the second cone, receives the pass and gives it to green. Green has gone around the third cone (from the second) and now goes in and takes a shot. It becomes continuous, with each player going around the next cone in the sequence.

As the players get the hang of the drill (shouldn’t take too long), you can then move half of the team to the other side and have both sides going at once. This will work to stress the system of your players, needing them to play with their head up and move the puck quickly to avoid head on collisions.

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Wednesday Drill of the Week: 2v0 Exchange Shooting

2v0 Exchange

A shooting drill with a lot of passing elements to it – gets the hands and feet moving with a lot of pace.

X’s and O’s all start at the same time. The X & O that carry a puck cross with their respective partner and make a drop pass (inside the blue line). This player then skates into the outside lane while the original puck carrier skates into the inside lane on the far side. The outside lane gives a bump pass to the player skating in the inside lane from the opposite side (the original puck carrier gets the puck back from the other end). The two X’s then go attack the far net 2v0 (the O’s do the same thing).

A little confusing, but in short: Drop pass to your partner. Fill either the outside lane (pass receiver) or the inside lane on the far side (original puck carrier). Receive/give a pass to the other twosome. Go in 2v0 with a long shot and rebound.

Passing

One of my peers in the coaching world, Jamie Rice (Head Coach, Babson College, @Ricer18), asked on Twitter about hard passes – are they more technique or mindset? It got me thinking about passing in general and the many elements involved.

Passing is both a technical element of the game as well as a skill. It is one of the first things you learn when you start to play hockey and something that you practice for the rest of your career. Technically speaking, the pieces you need to master to give a good pass include hand placement, grip, spin, loft, speed, touch, and timing. To receive a pass, hand placement, grip, touch, and timing are all critical. Of all these areas, spin and speed are the most challenging to master when giving a pass, while grip and touch are the hardest when receiving. 

While these technical areas are important and critical to master, it is my belief that passing is more of a mental skill and habit than a physical one. Because passing is learned at an early stage, it is something that most players take for granted. The assumption is made that passing skills are sufficient and the work done in practice is enough to maintain passing skills. When executing passes, whether in practices or in games, very few players truly focus on the elements of the pass – they merely see their teammate and their muscle memory takes over (similar on the receiving end). The result is often missed passes and poor execution.

How many times in practices do coaches have to make comments or stop practice due to poor passing? It is often not because the players lack the fundamental skills – it is because they take those skills for granted and choose not to focus on the execution. When players shoot, they look for a shooting lane, find their target and attempt to put the best speed on the puck to get the desired result. When passing, I believe this processing piece is far less common. With increased focus comes increased execution.

Now, to answer Coach Rice’s question more directly regarding hard passes. Passing the puck hard is a habit. Habits boil down to the mental skill to execute a physical action. These habits are built through repetition and practice.

As you move up in levels within in the game, time and space becomes less and less readily available. The game becomes more of a cause and effect between two units of five players rather than a pure talent contest. Passing the puck hard (with lots of zip and speed) becomes more of a tactical element at the highest levels. The puck moves faster than your feet, so you can create separation and a change of direction in the defense with hard passes. Whether in the neutral zone on a hinge or a cross ice seam or in the offensive zone on a play to change the point of attack (north/south or east/west) hard passes force the defense to have to react quickly to a new threat. 

Technically speaking, hard passes require a firmer grip from both the passer and receiver. Mentally, they require anticipation and a high level of focus to execute, as a hard pass is more difficult to both give and receive. Once again, the execution of a hard pass is more mental than technical, as it is a conscious focus and effort from one team to move the puck quickly. Passing the puck with good pace is the sign of a focused and determined team that has a good hockey IQ. They understand the value of a hard pass and they are prepared and ready to give and receive passes with zip on the puck. How do you make your team execute passes like this? Attention to detail in practice. Demand hard and firm passes in practice – it will establish the habit and carry over in to games.

I would love to hear from you on this…what do you think? Feel free to comment or tweet at me (@chall4431) Here is Coach Rice’s tweet:

@Ricer18: Interested in coaches thoughts on passing the puck hard/receiving hard passes:

What % technique what % mindset? The best players all do it

Wednesday Drill of the Week: 3 Pass Shooting

3 Pass Shooting

A simple shooting drill with multiple opportunities for passing and receiving. Both lines go at the same time. The first player in each line takes off across the blue line. Near the far dot, they receive a pass from the opposite line and quickly return the puck back to the line they got it from. The player then takes off on a stretch and support pattern through the neutral zone, receiving a pass from the line they started from before heading over the blue line and attacking the net. The same thing is happening on the far side. Across the blue, receive/give a pass, then come back across through the neutral zone to receive a stretch pass and attack the net.

Skills worked here include: passing and receiving with your feet moving, shooting with your feet moving, quick accelerations and change of direction, communication. A great drill to get hands, feet and mouths moving, as well as get some long shots on the goaltenders.

Wednesday Drill of the Week: UNH 1-2-3

UNH 1-2-3

A 6 person shooting drill. X1 and X2 take off, exchanging a puck to the far blue line. At the far blue, the puck needs to be with X1. X1 drives down the wall and cuts back. X2 loops through the middle of the ice and heads down to the other end to receive a pass from X1. Meanwhile, X3 has skated up to the redline and looped back in to take a long shot from center. X3 then goes in to the corner to pick up a puck. After X1 passes to X2, X1 high rolls around the top of the circle and receives a pass mid-slot from X3.

There are a number of timing elements in this drill that require proper execution for it to flow right. All six players need to be moving with speed and intensity, sprinting to spots to make sure the passes and the shots arrive at the proper time. X3 needs to release the first shot, X2 needs to get on his/her horse to get into position and X1 needs to execute a tape to tape pass. This drill is a good warmup drill that gets a lot of bodies and pucks moving while also working on passing and timing.

Wednesday Drill of the Week: Warmup Series

This year, we tried a new concept in starting our practices with a three zone warmup at least once per week. The drills would differ, but the format would remain the same.

Warmup Series

In this example, we would start with three players stationary on each circle in one zone and have them pass (3 Man Passing). We would do variations such as backhand only, catch with forehand drag to backhand and pass, catch on backhand pull to forehand and pass, saucer passes, etc. In the middle, we had 2v1 keep away with the same three man group that did the passing. All six would skate around the neutral zone, but you would do keep away just with your three guys. In the far zone we did 3v3 cross ice. Whistle blows every 60-90 seconds to advance to the next zone, and we would work each zone anywhere from 3-5 times per group.

Generally, we would do a passing drill in the first zone, a skill drill in the middle and a game in the far zone. There are a number of variations that are possible in each zone – be creative!

Wednesday Drill of the Week: Four Line Series

Four Line Series

A drill we do often at the beginning of practice. Four lines at the hash marks or at the top of the circles. There is a four step progression to this drill.

1. All eight players leave with a puck at the same time and stickhandle in the neutral zone. On the whistle they pass back to their lines and the next person goes.

2. Pass/follow your pass. One side will take off, exchanging with his partner on the far side of the ice while skating towards him. Try to get in as many passes as possible. When he gets to the far side, the first person in the other line goes the other direction.

3. 2v0 passing. Two players on one side of the ice (in this diagram the top and the bottom would pair up) pass 2v0 until they get to the far line, then they exchange with the far line and go back – 2v0 down and 2vo back. As soon as the far line gives them a puck to go back, those two players take off 2v0 to make it continuous.

4. Long shots (bottom of the diagram). One player skates to the red and passes the puck to the far line. He sprints to the far blue, receives the puck back and then goes in for a long shot on net. The lines stagger their starts, so the next line doesn’t leave until the player to his left hits the red line on the way down. The player on the far side takes off as soon as he gives a pass back to the player coming towards him.