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What skills do I need?

How incredibly creative are hockey players when it comes to the task of finding a way to put a 3-inch in diameter piece of rubber in the back of the net? You see these spectacular goals and plays all the time but you don't see the failures, turnovers, and wasted practice time of the coveted Michican't as I like to call it. You will not make the NHL alone because of what craziness you can do with the puck. I've been around the lower-level pros, high school, and youth hockey players; I promise you the vast majority of hockey players in today's world can do mesmerizing things with the puck which leads me to ask: in order to be an elite hockey player what on-ice skills offer the most noticeable success to your game? My short answer is skating, passing, then shooting in that order.

Hockey is an absolutely wild sport when you think of the amount of coordination to even MOVE in the game. Every other sport is played on two feet (most sports) whereas in hockey you are standing on a 1-millimeter piece of steel. How this beautiful game came to be is absolutely astonishing to me; who thought of this? Anyone can try to play hockey but if you cannot skate you cannot play, even if you are an "okay skater" there is still a vast difference in the amount of success a "good skater" will have over the "okay skater." Imagine standing on the tee box of a 500-yard hole during a round of golf. Everyone in your group has a driver but you only have a putter; sure it's still a club and you can hit the ball around but there is no way you can compete with your friends that are smashing the ball 300 yards off the box, it's the same concept in the sport of hockey. Your skating ability is the most important piece of your game, you simply cannot compete if you cannot skate at or above your peer's level. Even if you're a bad skater (oftentimes referred to as a bender) you simply cannot play the sport at a high level. I get that skating can be such a boring thing to work on but you really have to have love and passion for the game to want to be the best skater. At the very least if you are an elite skater you will simply be able to keep up with the puck, get in the right spots, and be involved with the play even if you can't do anything with the puck. If you are coordinated enough to do one thing with the puck at a high level it should be this...

Passing! Passing is an absolute MUST if you want to be an elite hockey player. You completed step one and can skate to the puck and keep up with the play now you must be able to pass and move - move and pass. Being elite at moving the puck goes far beyond the actual skill, this means that; although you possess the actual skill of passing being a good passer means that you have a high hockey IQ by being able to see plays unfold before they happen. Next, having the actual mindset it takes to be a good passer, and simply take pride in moving the puck to your teammates is the next part of the skill that makes an excellent playmaker. Of course, you need to be able to maneuver the puck and have the athletic ability to firmly pass the puck on the tape to another moving target but being able to SEE those plays is what makes an elite puck-mover. Saying this means that you need to not only practice passing on the ice but also train your brain to recognize when and where to make a play. Far too often as a coach I see athletes that are simply "okay" with missing a pass in practice. In a Blake Hackbarth run practice, there is "only one puck in a game" meaning in a game if you miss a pass you have to chase it down so why don't you practice how you play? Not only that no one wants to be a drill killer so forcing players to put the puck on the tape so you don't butcher the practice for everyone else. Simply wanting to be perfect on your passes in half the battle. Take pride in your passing ability, you get upset when you sail the puck over a wide-open net so why don't you feel the same way when you put the puck in your teammate's feet missing an opportunity to get an assist? Wayne Gretzky was obviously an incredible goal scorer, but his goal record is much more likely to get broken than his assist record... He has nearly 1,000 more points than Jaromír Jágr who is number 2 all-time in point-getting and it's not because of Gretzky's goal-scoring ability. So if the greatest player ever can move the puck why can't you? Wayne Gretzky has the original wicked shot.

Say what you will about the difference in goaltending fundamentals in the 1980's goaltenders were still absolute rockstars, anyone playing in the greatest league in the world at any time is an incredibly good hockey player. It was still extremely tough to put the puck by a goaltender of that era as it is today so I don't want to hear any flack about the comparison I made between Gretzky's Era of hockey and the new-age hockey. You are able to skate, and move the puck now it's about finishing the job that is putting the puck past the goaltender. Your release, quickness, accuracy, power, and body control are the main components of having a lethal shot. Being able to release the puck from any and everywhere will help you push the puck past the goaltender. Challenging different release points will always keep the goalies on edge. You don't show your cards in a game of Texas Hold'em don't show your hand when taking a shot. If you have an elite release you should be able to fire the puck with power and accuracy from anywhere on your body; obviously, some shots are more difficult than others but this skill is vastly important. Nothing more irritating than watching a play get a cross-ice pass, dust the puck off, let the goalie slide across and make a relatively routine save just because you couldn't get the puck off your stick. Having an elite shot will make you a factor or a threat in any game you have to respect an opponent's ability to score from anywhere on the ice. You need to possess the skill of not just flipping the puck from anywhere regardless of the situation you find yourself in. In other words... If you're not in an ideal scoring situation where you (for example) find yourself on your heels standing at the top of the circle having the skill of being able to hammer the puck at the net and create a scoring chance will help your game immensely.

All in all, keep the game simple, if you can do the most basic of things such as skate with the puck on your stick, make the right pass, shoot when needed you already have a massive leg up on the player that waste their time practicing skills they'll pull off once maybe twice in their careers. Don't get me wrong creativity and practicing fun skills is part of what makes the game fun to play but understand when it is time to work on skills that will help your game on an everyday basis. If you cannot skate you cannot pass if you cannot pass you cannot shoot if you cannot shoot you cannot score. The game is so much more than what you see, I challenge you to watch for these micro-skills and see how they apply to your game. Like, comment, and share this article with someone that can benefit from this!

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ABOUT Fox Valley Hockey Training: Fox Valley Hockey Training is an organization that began in 2021 and operates out of the House of Hockey located at 1080 N Perkins St, Appleton, WI 54914. Fox Valley Hockey Training is owned and operated by Blake Hackbarth who has played, coached and managed hockey programs and facilities all over the USA. Blake Hackbarth's playing career stretched from the high school to the junior level where he enjoyed being named captain by his teammates as well as competing in the USPHL National Championships. Blake quickly transitioned to coaching where he got his first taste of coaching varsity hockey for the Neenah/Hortonville/Menasha Varsity Co-Op. Following two seasons behind the bench, Blake took an opportunity as the Program Director for Pro Vision Hockey Academy, as well as Team Tennessee Hockey Club. Blake's last stop before returning to his native Wisconsin was with the Southern Professional Hockey League's Knoxville Ice Bears where he had a variety of tasks within the front office. In addition to Fox Valley Hockey Training Blake also owns and operates a company by the name of Recruitment Hockey dedicated to helping athletes all over the world reach opportunities to play AAA, Prep, Junior, College, and Pro Hockey you can find extra information and philanthropy on Recruitment Hockey here: For more information, visit or call (920)810-5250.

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