It’s winter, and for a lot of people, that means one thing: Hockey!
Here in Canada, a lot of kids wind up playing hockey in some form, and why not, kids love playing hockey. They do, however, have to start somewhere. As a wise person once said: The journey of a thousand goals starts with a single puck. (It was me, I said that.)
Whether your kid just plans to play at the local rink with friends, or they want to get into the league system eventually, they need to know the basics. They can take lessons, of course, but even if they do, a little bit of instruction beforehand goes a long way.
Or maybe you want to really get into it, and give them extensive coaching yourself – and why not, it certainly worked for Walter Gretzky. The good news is that you don’t need to be a hockey expert to get your kid started. The amount of videos out there (and other resources) is astounding, and you can get up to speed in no time.
So lace up those teaching skates and keep reading, while we guide you on your journey from the backyard rink to the big leagues.
Basic Hockey Skills Parents Can Teach Their Kids
Skating including stopping, turning and skating backward
Obviously, the first skill that your child will need is the ability to skate. The main idea is that they’ll want to (eventually) be able to skate forwards and backward. They’ll also need to learn to stop and turn.
Basic Skating: The first place we’re going to recommend for tips is, of course, our own post on How To Teach Kids Ice Skating. We’ve got some good pointers in there, as well as equipment tips.
Stopping: A great way for kids to stop while skating is the snowplow maneuver. You basically just get them to turn their skates towards each other at the toe and push their heels out. Check out this Youtube video for a good demonstration.
Turning: When learning to skate, kids will instinctively learn to turn by using a two-foot glide and leaning into the direction they want to go. This video gives you some simple instructions on turning, for beginners.
Once they’ve mastered turning, kids should move on to crossover turns. These are more advanced turns where the legs – you guessed it – cross over. When your kid is ready to learn these, check this video out.
Skating Backwards: This is one of the hardest skills to learn for smaller kids, especially when holding a hockey stick. A good video on this would be How to Skate Backwards in Hockey.
Holding the Stick: To avoid bad habits, it’s important that kids hold the stick properly, right from the start. Again we head to Youtube, where former NHL-er Steve Coates demonstrates the correct way method.
Make Sure the Stick is the Correct Height: Hold the stick vertically, with the tip of the blade touching the floor. You want the top of the stick to be at eye level with your child. (That’s if they’re in socks – if they’re in skates, the top of the stick should be where their chin is.)
Puck Control and Stick Handling: Being able to control the puck (also known as Stick Handling) is key to being a decent hockey player. A simple way to work on this is by practicing with a tennis ball. By having a way to do it away from the ice, your kid can get in a lot of quality hours on the road, driveway, or even in the basement. For pointers, we found this training video that has some great stick handling tips.
Passing the Puck: Passing is, of course, an extremely important skill. The best way to learn to pass is visually, and the best video we could find on the subject was this demonstration by Pennsylvania hockey instructor Al MacCormack.
Shooting: There are a few different types of shots in hockey. The best thing for a beginner to learn is the Wrist Shot. We found this very detailed video that should get your kid on the right track.
Hockey Books for Kids
If you are looking for more info about hockey for kids, check out these books:
- Kids’ Book Of Hockey: Skills, Strategies, Equipment, and the Rules of the Game by John Sias goes over all the rules of hockey, and everything that your kids need to know if they want to learn how to play. It also has facts, details, and good simple explanations for kids who are learning the game.
- Hockey 123 by Christopher Jordan is a great book for preschool kids, to help introduce them to the main concepts behind hockey. If you like this one, there are a number of books in the series, including Hockey ABC and Hockey Shapes. Kids can count players, sticks, and Stanley cups; explore the colors of the rainbow through team logos and sweaters; look for familiar shapes amongst pucks, scoreboards, and nets, and work their way through an alphabet from Arena to Zamboni.
- Hockey Canada’s Learn All About Hockey: Color and Activity is a hockey workbook where kids can color, follow mazes, do word searches, and more. All details of the game, from the dimensions of the ice surface to the rules, are included. There are images of referee hand signals for penalties, offsides, goals, and more. Players are also introduced to each piece of equipment and taught how it’s used. The book follows two teams as they compete in a hockey game.
- Z is for Zamboni: A Hockey Alphabet by Matt Napier, and Melanie Rose is an alphabet book for very young kids that is all about hockey. It has entries on the rules, players, coaches, teams, and the history of the game. This book would make a great gift.