Scoring More Goals Next Season Starts This Summer
What can players do over the summer months to score more goals next season? There is one thing in particular.
I wrote a blog post exactly one year ago entitled What Hockey Players Should Really Be Doing in the Summer. I outlined and elaborated on six things that are good for hockey players to do through the summer months:
1) Don't Play Hockey.
2) Play another sport.
3) Work on foot speed.
4) Build core strength.
5) Work on shooting and stick handling.
6) Go play on the "monkey bars".
But I think one thing is particularly important when it comes to scoring goals.
Anson Dorrance, head coach of the women’s soccer program at the University of North Carolina and former head coach of the US women’s national team, wrote in his book The Vision of a Champion:
"Very few (players) strike the ball with power, and we try to recruit every one of them that does. What sets the great attackers apart is the power of their strike. Our all-time ranking of goal scorers is also a ranking of the power with which they hit the ball. Our top five career goal-scorers of all time are: Hamm, Rayfield, Heinrichs, Lilly and Confer, and they might be the five most powerful at striking the ball. Because we have built our tradition on female players who can hammer balls with power, it continues to pay us back in many ways. If you have someone shoot a ball on the face of the goal with power, it is amazing how many goals can be scored, either directly off a strike or from a keeper being unable to hold onto the ball, or parrying."
Clearly, strength translating into shot velocity is critical to UNC’s success over the last 35 years (21 NCAA Championships since 1982).
As hockey coaches, we have been concentrating on working with players on quick release shooting. Concepts we have been busy teaching are things like “getting the puck off our stick quickly”, “shooting in our stride”, “changing angle on the shot” and “being deceptive”. Rarely do we talk about “hammering the puck”, “shooting for maximum velocity” or “putting the puck through the net”.
Players are often learning from coaches and skills instructors all the ways to shoot quickly, accurately and with deception - “on the stick off the stick”. The problem of lack of scoring often stems from the fact that the velocity of these shots is simply not enough to beat goalies, or to create secondary chances because goalies can handle the initial shots.
Gilbert Perreault was a prolific scorer with the Buffalo Sabres from 1970 through 1987. He amassed over 500 goals in his NHL career and was clearly one of the most gifted scorers of his era. I will always remember an interview one night when I was young on Hockey Night in Canada when Perreault was asked what he is aiming for when he shoots at the net. He answered, “I don’t aim for anything. If I get six hard shots on net in a game I will score one or two goals.” He also commented in a separate interview that his coach in Buffalo, Punch Imlach, told him “to shoot more and to cut down on what he called 'walking in' on the goalie, something (Perreault) developed on finding (his) slap shot wasn't hard enough (early in his career).”
Working on shot velocity is something players can develop off ice and in the summer. Certainly general strength training will improve shot velocity but shooting regularly in a driveway or school yard will without question create more goals next season. There are lots of online resources to help players with technique - especially about taking advantage of stick flex.
One of my favorite programs is the OMHA’s 5000 Puck Challenge. In essence, the program has players shooting 5000 pucks over a span of 10 weeks. The stated goal of the program is to “increase shot speed, quickness and accuracy.” More information can be found by clicking here.
Coaches, get your players to concentrate on developing their shot velocity this summer. It will pay dividends next season in offensive output.