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If you are going to improve your hockey skills you will need to practice off the ice. Ice time is precious and all too hard to come by. While there are some things that require ice to work on, such as skating, there are a number of things you can practice off-ice.
Power SkaterHow do you practice your skating stride when you're not on the ice? You can purchase a Power Skater Dry-land Training system from the manufacturer. You can purchase it from other on-line resllers, but the price is the same and it takes longer to receive it since they just send your order to the manufacturer for drop-shipment. To see how it works view this video.
Here is a photo of my Power Skater set up in my garage. I ordered all the optional accessories so it cost me a whopping $1,800. However it was worth every penny in my opinion, since it helped me improve my skating stride tremendously in a very short time. This is because the machine will not let you take an improper stride, and prevents you from moving your glide leg into stride position until both feet are under your center of gravity as you are supposed to do on ice. It also gives you one heck of an anerobic and/or aerobic exercise session. If you use the lighter resistance cords, you can train aerobically by skating for a long period of time. Switch to the higher resistance cords and your sets will be shorter but require much more muscle exertion giving you an anerobic workout. They don't mention it on their web site but the resistance of the cords are listed in the table below. All figures represent pounds of force.
Setting Standard ( Red ) Medium ( Blue ) Intermediate ( Green ) ) Heavy ( Black ) 2 6-15 7-20 9-30 20-46 3 7-16 9-22 11-33 23-54 4 7-17 11-24 15-37 24-58 5 9-18 12-26 17-42 28-61 6 10-19 14-28 19-45 30-72 7 11-21 16-31 21-49 32-74 8 13-24 20-45 24-57 35-90
Hockey NetA hockey net costs under $100. You can spend hours shooting into the net without going on the ice. Put it in your backyard or garage and you can work on wrist shots, backhand shots, snap shots, and slap shots. The same principles of weight transfer, balance, stick bending, and follow-through that you use on the ice can be practiced on dry land. Here is a photo of my net setup with the optional backstop (sides and top) and four-corners shooting targets.
Shooting PadThese are made from a synthetic material that closely approximates the low friction of a genuine ice surface. In addition to shooting from them you can also practice heads-up puck handling. Sizes vary but the average is 8 feet by 12 feet. If you are going to practice shooting use a stick with no tape on the blade. The tape produces friction (which is good on ice) which inhibits the blades ability to slide.
Passing PadThese have a device at one end, sometimes a simple bungee-cord, to more elaborate mechanisms using very thick and very wide rubber belts. They have the same surface as a shooting pad (indeed, when not practicing passing, they can be used to shoot) and can be used to practice "touch" passes. Unlike a partner on the ice, these devices never get tired or bored. The good thing about them is that they force you to practice receiving hard passes, not simply making them. Here is a photo of my passing pad and a close up of the bungee cord attached to the passing pad which sends the puck back to you.
PucksActual ice hockey pucks, even when frozen, do not behave the same way on synthetic material as they do on ice. For that reason manufacturers have come up with clever alternatives that work quite well.
Types of PucksThe best training pucks are the "Fly Pucks" which come in red (normal 6oz puck), blue (lighter 4oz for speed work), and black (heavier 8oz to simulate puck handling on wet ice). There is also a puck called the "green biscuit" which can be used on practically any hard surface. Of the two, the Fly Pucks are the best choice. Here is a video which illustrates using both the Fly Puck and the Green Biscuit. While I disagree with his final conclusion, notice his stick handling skills. He makes it look easy. It is not.
Here is a photo showing all of the available pucks, on ice and off ice. Note the orange colored puck is for use on-ice. It weighs 8oz (black regulation pucks weigh 6oz) and is used to simulate puck handling on wet ice (which requires more downward pressure from your bottom hand) and to build forearm muscles when practicing wrist shots. You can also use small wooden balls to practice stick handling on any surface. The wood simulates the lack of elasticity characteristic of pucks. You can use a golf ball, but be prepare to chase it when it comes off your stick.
Stick HandlingThe best of the stick handling aids is the "Sweet Hands" device, which can be used on or off the ice. This is a devilishly difficult device to maneuver the puck through on a consistent basis, but if you can master this device, then real-world puck handling becomes almost easy. Here is a close up view showing how the attach to each other to make longer or shorter puck handling courses.
They are good for goalie training off-ice.
There are various types of reaction balls, and they come in two sizes: Baseball-sized, and softball-sized. I selected the Champion RXB7 Agility Reaction Ball in baseball-size. It costs about $2.00. The RXB10 is softeball-sized. The photo shows a baseball and a softball for size comparison. Get several as it's easier when you miss catching it to have another one handy than to chase it.
You throw the RXB7 against a wall and each time it bounces back to you in an unpredictable and rarely repeated direction. I use it to practice with my goalie glove.
Also known as wobble boards, you stand on these and do a variety of exercises or stick handling off-ice. There are several types. The Extreme Balance Board is the most expensive but the easiest to use if you disable the front-to-back plane In the photo of the bottom your can see a wooden plug, which when removed allows the board to tilt front-to-back which makes it much more difficult.
Another type is called the Go Fit Wobble Board and it is height adustable (if you make it higher, it's harder to balance yourself.) The height adustment is made by rotating the circular black base.
I was accustomed to seeing these at my gym but never gave them much thought until I read a book by Peter Twist on hockey conditioning. He uses it for several drills requiring agility and explosive movement so I bought two so I could bounce back and forth between them. It's easier on the knee joints to land on a second BOSU trainer than on the hard floor. Here is a photo.
Thye best device to help you stretch is the Stretch Rite cord. I was given one to use when rehabing after shoulder surgery and I worked so well I bought one. It's easy to take it to the rink or gym.
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