Thursday, May 26, 2005

Real Hockey Players Shoot Left (if you're right-handed)

Hey, hey. Here's my first rant :)

I figured that, since I say that I'm gonna rant and rave, I better follow through and rant about something - especially since those who know me, know that I like to make "suggestions". I like to think that all of my "words of wisdom" are beneficial to the world around us - or at least around me ;)

As a hockey instructor, there's nothing that irks me more than to see a new hockey player picking up the wrong hockey stick. For those who are not familiar with the fast and intense game of hockey, players use an 'L' shaped stick to propel a hard rubber puck into a net.

Now, here's where newbies go wrong. You see, just about every hockey stick has a curve built into it's blade. Looking down the shaft of a stick, the blade either curves to the right or left. If it curves to the right, it's a LH, or Left Hand stick. If it curves to the left, it's a RH, or Right Hand stick. Clear as mud?

I guess the problem stems from the nomenclature for how the sticks are labeled. Typically, a hockey stick is held with two hands like a shovel, or for want of a better example, a rifle. The hockey stick gets its right or left hand designation from which hand is closest to the "front" of the stick, or blade.

So if a typical right-handed person is holding the hockey stick like a rifle, the right, or "trigger" hand is at the top end of the stick, and the left hand is at the front. Thus this is called a LH Left Hand stick. This does NOT mean that this is a stick for left-handed people!!

Since Canadians basically invented the game of hockey, it makes sense that they're the ones who know how to play the game. If you pay attention to the game, the majority of Canadians, Europeans and professional players "shoot left" using a LeftHand stick, and they are right-handed.

The further south you go into the States where they are newer to the game of hockey, the more you find players thinking that because they are right-handed, they should use a RH stick, or "shooting right". But this is incorrect. The hand on the top end of the stick should be your stronger, or dominant hand. Using a RH stick means that you are using your weaker left hand on the top end to control the stick.

People say to me "but in baseball I swing right-handed, and in golf I swing right handed, shouldn't I use a RH hockey stick?" and I say to that No, No, NO! The key word here is "swing". In baseball and golf, you're hands are together and your entire game is a single "swing". In hockey, we do not swing. We Stick-handle. Get zat through zee head.

Have you ever tried to swing a golf club like you hold a hockey stick - with your hands apart? Do you think you'll get a better, stronger swing? Heck no. They're two totally different sports. Swing right (golf), shoot left (hockey). Key word here - shoot the puck, using a LH left hand stick.

Watch a hockey player and you'll see that 90% of his/her time with a puck is spent stickhandling or passing. The other 10% is spent shooting, typically a wrist shot, or a slap shot; and no, that is not a swing like in golf.

You need to understand that control of the hockey stick comes from the hand at the top of the stick. Thus that needs to be your dominant hand. You hold your hockey stick like you hold your tennis racket or your sword - in your right hand if you're right-handed. That means your left hand is at the front of the stick. That means you use a LH or left hand stick.

When a player is on a breakaway, typically he will use one hand to hold the stick and push the puck forward. It makes sense that the dominant hand is at the top end of the stick. That hand never lets go of the stick. The lower hand is there to provide support and additional power (and to push the opponent away). Watch a right-handed player who uses a RH stick on breakaway, and few of them will be able to control their stick with their left hand. Their speed and agility suffer.

While right handed players who use a RH stick will be able to become proficient at hockey, they are handicapping themselves. Of course, there are a small minority who are more comfortable shooting right, typically, those are the people who snowboard "goofy-foot".

So if you want to learn how to play hockey properly, get the correct hockey stick:

  • If you're Right-handed - get a LH lefthand stick.

  • If you're Left-handed - get a RH righthand stick.
One more thing to think about, if you think hockey is a violent sport, why is it that football players practice smucking into barriers and trying to take down their opponent?

Yeah, there are always some hockey goons who feel they need to check other players into the boards, but the good players are the ones who can finesse the puck into the opponents goal without the violence. Watch a European game of hockey, and you'll see how fast and amazing the game really is.

Hockey players practice stickhandling and skating drills, football players practice trying to hit someone as hard as you can. You know which one I like doing ;)