Equipment - What you should and shouldn’t do
- When you’re starting out, as when you’re taking up any new sport, it’s a good idea to borrow equipment or buy used (or at least inexpensive) kit until you decide that ice hockey is really for you.
- When choosing an ice hockey stick, it’s important to take your height into consideration. If a stick is too long or too short, then this will put unnecessary stress on your body. A specialist store should be able to determine what the best stick is for you.
- As you get kitted out in your hockey gear, be prepared for the fact that it may initially feel uncomfortable or interfere with your mobility. If that’s the case, give yourself time to see if you become used to it — and if you don’t eventually become comfortable with your gear, then it will be easy enough to look for alternatives. Always make sure you never play without protective kit, though, for obvious safety reasons.
- When buying skates, make sure they are a snug fit but not so tight that they cramp your toes. They must also provide good ankle support. Skate sizes are usually a half to one whole size smaller than players’ regular shoe sizes.
- Use the ‘criss-cross’ method when lacing up your skates, as this will provide even comfort and good support. The bottom three eyelets should be semi-loose to allow blood circulation to your toes, and then the eyelets should get progressively tighter the further towards the ankle you go.
- Remember not to wrap your skates’ laces around your ankles, as this will restrict your movement and ability to react quickly — which will make you lose vital reaction time during play.
Technique - Become a better player
- Work on some of your basic skills by playing street hockey, preferably on inline skates. This way you can work on your stick handling skills as well as your street skating — which mimics some of the movements required to skate on ice.
- Make sure you watch the professionals at play, as this way you will gain a better understanding of positional play and tactics. Closely watch the player who plays in your chosen position if you already have one.
- It’s important to keep your stick on the ice at all times, except when you’re trying to deflect a puck. If you’re skating with your stick in the air then you won’t be ready to receive a pass or shoot. It’s also safer when players keep their sticks on the ice.
- Becoming a better player does not have to just involve practice on the ice. By improving your general strength, speed, balance, coordination, agility and explosiveness — for example by working out in the gym, doing running training or playing another sport — you will become a better ice hockey player.