Hockey Tactics

Conall’s Coaching Corner: Playing without a stick

You're useless without a stick

As some of you may know, I make my living coaching hockey.  This year I thought it would be fun to give you some insights into little habits that make a difference on the rink.  Here is my first installment of Conall’s Coaching Corner, playing without a stick. These will be archived on the Hockey Tactics page as well.

If you follow me on Twitter, you may have noticed a trend of something that drives me CRAZY when I see it…

For the life of me, I do not understand why this is not taught at all levels of the game.  I maintain that unless you are the only player back on a 2 on 1 rush, there is no reason not to go directly to the bench and get a new stick or get off the ice.  At the NHL level, if a player is without a stick he is almost always isolated and taken advantage of as the defensive team becomes pinned in their zone.

Head to the Bench

This is why it should be taught at every level to head straight to the bench. The remaining four players can resort to the teams penalty killing strategies. It will take a few seconds for the player to sprint to the bench and retrieve a stick.  You are USELESS without one. You can’t shoot. Can’t pass. Can’t properly defend.  You often just end up looking like a fool flopping around on the ice trying to block a shot.

I will even take this a step further and say I do not think a player should give his stick to a goalie if the goaltender loses their stick.  I would rather have all of my skaters with a stick and the opportunity to get the puck back and clear the zone. If they so chose to give the netminder their stick, well then you guessed it, sprint to the bench and get yourself a new stick. Or get off the ice. Either one.

So as we get ready to root on our boys in blue in a few days, just remember that if a player breaks/loses their stick, I will be screaming at the TV for them to go get a new stick. I hope you will be too.

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  • Looking forward to future installments.

    Totally agree. I could never fathom why players insist on staying out there.

  • You know, Coach, I haven’t thought about this issue much. However, after thinking this article over, I believe you are right on here. Players without sticks usually look stupid on the ice. I concur and will. also be yelling at my TV next time someone drops or hands off a stick to a goalie.

  • so true, this topic and another one regarding why players dive to the ice at times attempting to anticipate a shot in the lower slot areas. I always felt if you go right-down on one-knee or dive flat on the ice, attempting to defend a shot, you are giving up your positioning. Marc Staal did this so often.

  • My friend who played amateur hockey and Sime college hockey always screams for players to get a stick and how he was taught that in peewee league

  • Question. If it’s a Dman and you are in your own zone and there is a forward near by, does it make sense for a forward to give him his stick and get a new one. I know there is the added complication of righty vs lefty.

    Thoughts?

    • Great question Jay. If the handedness lines then I am fine with exactly this. At younger levels this is how I would teach it. At the college/professional rank I think its less of an issue and that the at least one forward (likely the center) should be able to cover the dmans position until he/she returns.

  • Marty Biron agrees with you too. He saw a defender give Askarov his stick in the WJHC last week and called it out.
    Said the same thing, defenders are useless without sticks so they have to keep theirs.

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