Properly holding a hockey stick is one of the fundamentals beginner hockey players have to learn. And while holding a hockey stick comes naturally to some, others, especially beginners, might struggle with it.
Learning and using the improper or incomplete technique is terrible and might significantly impact your performance. It’s even worse once you have to unlearn an inadequate technique after it took you enough time to master it in the first place. Still, we’ll call it a learning process, and training is all about perfecting yourself.
In this article, we’ll take you through everything you need to know on how to hold a hockey stick adequately.
Table of Contents
Are you left-handed or right-handed?
The first question is about which is your dominant hand. And why is that important? Well, your dominant hand determines the variety of other things, like hand placement, hockey stick type, etc.
One of the first things determined based on your dominant hand is your stick’s blade pattern, most notably the blade’s curve direction. If you’re right-handed, you’re most likely to use the sticks with blades curved to the left. The very same rule applies if you’re left-handed – the blades will be curved to the right.
Once you’ve selected the right hockey stick, it’s time to learn how to hold it. And the general rule states that the dominant hand on the upper portion of the shaft and your non-dominant towards the blade. The reason behind this grip lies in the increased amount of control you have over the stick, and subsequently, the puck.
Of course, this is by no means a cemented rule, and if you feel more comfortable switching hands, you’re free to do so. The best thing you can do is pick up a stick and change grips to see what feels most natural to you.
One of the most fireproof methods you can employ to find your natural grip is the broom test. Whichever hand you, or your kid, uses on top of the broom should correlate to the preferred way of holding a hockey stick.
Which hand goes on top?
We already established that the dominant hand goes on top. Beginners and children have an innate “instinct” to place their dominant hand on the grip, which is at the top of the stick. If the dominant hand is the right hand and naturally becomes a top hand, you’ll be a lefty shooter.
Of course, common reason dictates that the dominant hand should be the shooting hand, or the bottom hand, for more power. It seems logical since the dominant hand tends to have more power than the non-dominant one.
That would put your non-dominant hand on the top of the stick to perform fine motor movements for stickhandling and puck control. Except, non-dominant hands have less developed fine motor movements than the dominant hands.
In hockey, the power required to make a shot is usually derived from leaning into the stick. This flexes the stick, transferring the power through the stick and into the puck, firing it of your blade. So the need for dominant-hand strength is greatly diminished and pretty unnecessary.
The dominant hand’s fine-movement abilities are needed right where they belong – on the top end of the stick. That way, it performs the fine motor movements required for control and only helps with power generation by holding the top end in place.
The top hand grip
To correctly place your hands on the hockey stick, you must first place the stick on the ice, as if you’re going to take a shot. Your top hand should come over the top of the shaft and grab it. Most beginner players grab the top from underneath, which prevents the hand’s mobility required for adequate control.
A good indicator of a good grip is the little piece of padding between the thumb and index finger on a hockey glove. If that piece of padding sits at and lines up with the top of the stick, you’re holding it properly. But if the top end of the shaft is visible through your grip (from having your hand underneath), you’re not holding the stick the way you should be.
If you’re practicing your hold without the gloves, the soft spot between your thumb and index finger should sit on top of the stick.
Another thing you want to pay attention to is the placement of the top hand on your stick. The butt-end of your stick shouldn’t come out of your upper hand by more than an inch or two. If it does, your stick is either too long, or you’re not holding it adequately.
The butt-end should be positioned anywhere from the center of your palm to just slightly sticking out of your hand. Having the butt-end near the center of your palm allows for better wrist rotation and hand movement, which, in turn, results in better puck control.
Your non-dominant hand should be your bottom hand. It may sound strange since it can’t generate as much power as your dominant hand can, but shooting power wouldn’t be generated by your dominant hand anyway. Of course, except for wrist shots.
The bottom hand should grab your hockey stick from underneath, with your fingers pointing up and your thumb pointing down. That grip is what actually flexes the stick to generate shooting power. Next, you need to determine the placement of your bottom hand.
This is a tricky part since your bottom hand won’t always remain in the same position. Depending on the situation and distance, your bottom hand will move up and down the stick. That said, there is a “sweet spot,” or something referred to as a “neutral position.”
Grab your stick like you usually would with your top hand, and point it up in the air. Next, place the elbow of your bottom hand and place it next to your upper hand, with your forearm parallel to the stick’s shaft. Grab the stick where your bottom hand meets the shaft. This is your neutral position.
As with most things in life, practice makes perfect. So practice hockey, and listen to your stick. If it sounds like a thundering roar when you move it on the ice, you’re relying too much on your non-dominant hand. Remember, the top hand controls all the stick movement, handling, and coordination, while the bottom one supports your stick and generates power through flex.
This article aims to provide insight into proper grips and holds and how to achieve them. At the day’s end, the right grip will always be the one you’re most comfortable with and feels natural to you.