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Training Drills For Your Backyard Rink

One of the secrets to many of the successes in the NHL lies in a player’s backyard growing up. Professional players got a huge advantage as kids if they had a rink, full size or miniature, by their house where they could play and practice from an early age. The example of Mario Lemieux, whose father built a rink for Mario and his brothers, demonstrates how valuable this personal time on ice can be. If you’re lucky enough to have a personal rink, or one that’s close by, here are a few drills to hone your hockey skills.

Skating Agility
Being able to shrug off forecheckers and dance through a defensive system will go a long way toward creating quality-scoring opportunities. Shifty skaters have to put in hours of practice on their quick turning ability in order to make it look seamless. For a basic drill that helps with skating agility, put four cones on the ice, one on each blue line, one on the red line, and one at the far end faceoff circle —each staggered to be several feet to the left and right of one another. Begin at the top of the other faceoff circle, skating down and crossing over to skate back up the middle. Maneuver around each cone on the center ice lines, crossing from left to right, then circle around the cone at the opposite faceoff circle. Perform the drill both with and without the puck to get a better feel for acceleration as well as stickhandling.

You miss 100 percent of the shots you never take, said Gretzky, which is why a player’s shot is one of his best attributes in hockey. Whenever possible, practice your shot with someone feeding you pucks so that you can develop soft hands and catch passes, but several solo drills can give you a killer release. The most practical shooting drill is also the most simple: Take as many pucks as possible at every angle in the offensive zone and aim for the cross bar of the net since the red paint provides a solid shooting guide. After shooting from every spot on the ice — in the slot, at the faceoff dot, from the side boards, and from the point — start to aim slightly lower, just beneath the crossbar, so that you can hit the shot right where the goalie can’t stop it. Follow the example of 60-goal scorer Steven Stamkos and shoot a lot: Stamkos credits his lethal release to shooting 300 to 400 pucks a day.

The paint on a rink surface will go a long way toward helping a player stickhandle through traffic. A backyard rink may not have the same complex paint job as an NHL rink, but even a single red line allows you to train your stickhandling by passing the puck over each side of the line. Add cones on either side of a paint line to practice pulling the puck in between obstacles; practicing this in the faceoff circle provides the benefit of stickhandling while turning and while moving toward a new point on the ice. Put a cone in front of the net to practice toe drags, pulling the puck from the tip of the blade to the heel of the stick in order to evade a poke check and unleash a deadly snapshot on an unsuspecting goalie.

Drill with a buddy to send a pass over all parts of the ice. Start a simple drill with both players behind the net and skate upward, passing the puck at each go, alternating between long and short passing. Work on saucer passing to elevate the puck when farther away and backhand passing when closer. Have one player skate ahead to catch a breakout pass, then pivot and wait for the other player to reach the attacking zone before passing. Once both players are in the attacking zone, lengthen short passes until both players are near to the net on either side so that the goalie must commit to one side of the net or the other.

About the author: Erin Wozniak is the Director of Marketing at Pro Stock Hockey , an online supplier of pro stock hockey equipment. Erin is a devoted Blackhawks fan and is passionate about hockey. Pro Stock Hockey offers products including skates, protective equipment, hockey sticks and more.

Maine Pond Hockey Classic Reveals Trophy Photos

1888659_577423119009950_263751806_n_mediumThe Stanley Cup. The Art Ross. The Prince of Wales.

Hockey is full of famous trophies, each carrying with them an encyclopedia of history, memories, and stories. Now you can add another to the list – the championship trophies presented to the division winners of the Maine Pond Hockey Classic, which take place February 12-14 in Sydney, Maine.

“After skating your heart out all weekend long, some people might be happy taking home a shiny plastic hockey player on top of a small piece of marble and colorful plastic tube… at the Maine Pond Hockey Classic we find that unacceptable. After battling the elements and whatever ice conditions Mother Nature allows for the weekend you deserve more, much more!”

The unique trophy starts with a number of broken and discarded sticks, which are fused together by Maine-based Reynolds Custom Woodworks. The sticks are then cut into the shape of Maine and applied to a plaque for display. The end result is a one-of-a-kind memento of your weekend of digging in the corners and grinding through the cold – as well as all the memories made along the way.

The Maine Pond Hockey Classic is now in its 4th year, with proceeds going towards the Alfond Youth Center in Waterville, Maine. For more information or to register (registration closes at midnight tonight), visit http://www.mainepondhockey.org.

New England Youth Pond Hockey Jamboree – The Most Sought After Tournament in New England

It all started with an idea.

Richard Wood, Springfield College professor by day and hockey dad by night (and early weekend morning), was sitting with some friends at the Vermont Pond Hockey Classic when the group had an idea. Create a pond hockey tournament on the same site, the idyllic Lake Morey Resort, only have it be exclusively for kids. Last February, that vision became a reality.

33 teams participated in the first annual New England Youth Pond Hockey Jamboree in February 2015. The response and feedback was tremendous, proving that youth pond hockey can be a viable event.

“Players loved it, would be the first tournament they would want to return to. Parents thought it was an incredible experience and many personally thanked me for signing us up.”

“A huge thank you to you and your committee for hosting and extremely well run tournament! I honestly did not have one complaint / concern from our coaches, managers, or families that attended.”

“My son said it was the best weekend of his life.”

And the numbers agree:

  • 100% of last year’s teams are coming back again this year.
  • Organizers added 16 teams for this year, and all 16 spots were sold out by 9am the first day.
  • There are more than 25 teams on a waiting list.
  • Rooms at Lake Morey Resort sold out two hours after reservations opened.
  • All of this happened in July!
  • This year, in addition to the on-ice action, organizers have added a number of off-ice activities as well. During registration on Friday night (February 19th), guitarist Jason Cann will entertain the crowd, as will magician Nick Blais, who specializes in face-to-face magic. The Pond Hockey documentary will air in the movie theater at 7pm. On Saturday, after the on-ice action has subsided for the day, Family Trivia will take place at 7:30pm. Throughout the weekend, there will be a knee hockey zone, Wii hockey on the big screen, sleigh rides, ice fishing, and of course, Lake Morey Resort’s famed 4.5-mile skating loop. Yes, it’s a pond hockey jamboree at the heart. But calling it a fun-as-heck long weekend full of awesome family activities isn’t far from the truth.

    So while the tournament is booked up for this year, certainly like their Facebook Page and get your mouse finger ready to join the fray in 2017. And of course, there’s always room for tournament sponsors, volunteers, or spectators. To get more information or to reach out to the organizers, please visit the event’s website, http://wtmhockey.org/Page.asp?n=89469&org=WTMHOCKEY.

    Outdoor Hockey Holiday Gift Guide

    The holiday season can be difficult. You have family staying at your place for far too long, a dozen fancy meals to cook, and a seemingly growing number of children to appease. You need to find the decorations, untangle the decorations, put out the decorations, and constantly scream “DON’T TOUCH THE DECORATIONS!” Then there are the gifts. Ties for grandpa, Play-Doh for the kids, gift cards for the teenagers. Yawwwwwwn. Another year, another two-dozen hurried gift purchases that’ll be tossed on top of the pile.

    But not this year. Not if I can help it.

    If you have hockey people in your life, then you’re going to make this the best. holiday. season. EVER. If you’re like most people, you have no idea what hockey people want. And it’s not your fault — nobody’s ever told you what hockey people want. But I’m about to.

    Below you’ll find a handful of the latest, greatest, coolest, interestingest, MOST OUTDOOR HOCKEY-RELATED gifts you’ve ever seen. You will purchase them. And you will blow their minds.

    Note – Click the links or photos to be taken directly to a product page.

    If you’re buying for the kids…

    Ben and Lucy Play Pond Hockey
    Hockey kids will love it because of the festive, colorful illustrations and rhythmic text. Hockey parents will love it because it makes bedtime that much easier. Authored by Andrew Sherburne and Tommy Haines, makers of the Pond Hockeydocumentary, Ben and Lucy Play Pond Hockey is the perfect way to introduce the hockey child in your life to the rituals of the outdoor game. See our review here.
    Hockey Guys by Kaskey Kids
    My oldest got his first set of Hockey Guys back in 2008 when he was two, and now that we have twins, we’ve probably gone through a half-dozen sets (because they travel with us everywhere and we lose some). We’ve also added in their Football Guys, Soccer Guys, and Baseball Guys…as well as their NHL-themed Hockey Guys. This is a great toy to help develop creativity as there are no rules and no structure (kinda like pond hockey!) As a hockey coach, we’ve even brought the whole set up to the tournament hotel and helped explain d-zone coverage. Easily one of my favorite hockey-related products.
    boston-bruins-nhl-oyo-backyard-rink-3 OYO NHL Minifigure Backyard Rink Set
    It’s a minifigure! It’s a backyard rink! It’s the NHL! In other words…it’s perfect! OYO makes tons of minifigs that work with Lego sets, so this NHL backyard rink kit is only the tip of the iceberg if your little one has a ton of lego sets already. Sidney Crosby against Darth Vader in a game of shinny? MAKE IT HAPPEN. Tuukka Rask stopping Wild Style from the Lego Movie in a shootout? DONE. OYO makes these backyard rink kits for a number of teams, and there are dozens of individual players and team zambonis also available.

    If you’re buying for the backyard rink master in your life…

    61GF2qOfCVL._SY498_BO1,204,203,200_ (1) Backyard Ice Rink: A Step-by-Step Guide for Building Your Own Hockey Rink at Home
    You didn’t think we’d leave out our own book, did you? Aimed for the new rink builder and veteran rink master alike, Backyard Ice Rink gives you all the tools and tricks you need to put a little slice of frozen heaven in your backyard. Don’t take it from me, check out the reviews too: “Backyard Ice Rink, by Joe Proulx is more than a step-by-step guide to building an ice rink in your backyard. The book will motivate, caution, prepare, and entertain…and convince the reader that the idea of building and maintaining a frozen slab of ice in a backyard is perfectly reasonable and achievable. I have built my own rink for 9 consecutive winters and wish I had as thorough a resource as this when starting out.”
    51O9fhfdCJL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_ (1) Home Ice: Reflections on Backyard Rinks and Frozen Ponds
    I would need four hands to count the rink builders I know who built their first rink as a direct result of this book. Jack Falla was, and remains today, a backyard rink legend. His Bacon Street Omni was a local gathering place, but his books stretched far outside the city limits of Natick MA, and even years after his untimely passing, his words continue to inspire. If someone you know and love builds a backyard rink, they need Home Ice. Simple as that.
    Gift card (with clipping paths) A gift card to their favorite rink parts/liner store
    This one shows that you think outside the box and truly know your giftee. If someone gave me one of these I’d be psyched that they gave so much thought to their gift. A number of backyard rink parts companies do the gift card thing, and some even allow you to email the gift instantly (if you waited to long to have it shipped). Click here to order a gift card from Nicerink, and click here to order from Iron Sleek. If your recipient orders their liner or parts from somewhere else, inquire about a gift card there!
    61Bgk8tOB0L._SL1500_ A New Rink Shovel
    It might sound cheesy and practical, but take it from a rinkbuilder – you can never have too many good shovels! I’m partial to the SnowPusherLite, but Amazon and your local hardware store will carry any number of nice shovels. I love the wide ones, and shovels get bonus points when they have rubberized edges to act as squeegees. It may be tough to wrap, but it’s a great gift for someone who really puts the work in maintaining your family’s rink.
    s-l300 The Comet Puck
    A neat little stocking stuffer, the Comet Puck is the same size and weight of a normal puck, but uses a replaceable lithium coin cell battery and a tiny LED to create a bright little biscuit. Perfect for rinks and ponds, the puck is slapshot resistant – comet bombs away!

    If you’re buying for the pond hockey fanatic…

    61oYBa+Y20L Pond Hockey: Frozen Moments
    The team that brought you the Pond Hockey documentary is back, this time with some coffee table candy. They engaged incredibly talented photographer Nic Wynia and tasked him with taking as many photographs of outdoor hockey as he could. He traveled around North America and when he returned, the team got to work sorting through the shots. The end result is an instant classic, and another outdoor hockey success for the guys at Northland Films. The book ships on December 1st, so show them how in touch you are with the outdoor hockey culture and get them this great new release!
    41vRgvX95XL Sniper’s Edge Hockey Pass Master
    Chances are your favorite hockey player may already have some sort of passing rebounder. And for the most part, they’re great. What makes this one different? That you can actually use it on ice! Most rebounders attach to shooting pads, which are great for use in the garage or driveway. But on the backyard rink or pond, they’re unusable. Enter the Sniper’s Edge Pass Master. This heavy-duty steel triangle has rubber bands on three sides and removable steel pegs along the bottom for use on actual ice. Bring it to the rink or pond and it’s like having another person on the ice with you.

    Have any other ideas? Post ‘em in the comments below!

    Please see our Affiliate Disclosure for information about the links contained in this post.

    Maine Pond Hockey Classic Gets Bigger and Better For 2016

    logoMother Nature giveth, Mother Nature taketh away. Such is the creed of the outdoor hockey player and backyard rinkbuilder. And, as Patrick Guerette learned last year, the pond hockey tournament director.

    After consecutive blizzards dropped record amounts of snow in New England, the ice on Messalonskee Lake became compromised and Guerette and Co decided to cancel last year’s Maine Pond Hockey Classic.

    “Last year was tough, there were a lot of people counting on us to put this event on, from players to volunteers to community partners.” said Guerette. “I personally felt like we let a lot of people down; after all, it’s hard to explain to everyone that you have to cancel a winter event because we basically had ‘too much winter,’ it just sounds ridiculous.”

    Guerette and his team regrouped in the spring and planned to not only host the event in 2016, but to make it bigger and better. This year’s event, which will be held on February 12th – 14th at the Snow Pond Center for the Arts on Snow Pond (Messalonskee Lake) in Sidney, Maine, looks to host upwards of 60 teams. To drum up interest, Guerette and his team even produced a series of commercials, seen below.

    “We had planned many great improvements to the tournament, a new tournament site [Snow Pond Center for the Arts] with great amenities, beer garden, and off-ice activities. All of the groundwork has been laid for those improvements and we can hit the ground running this year.”

    Tournament organizers point out that the Snow Pond Center for the Arts is a great location for the tournament. “When you are hosting players from far away, you want to make sure you think of the entire player experience. This location provides a lot of amenities,” said Bert Languet, Volunteer Director of Event Operations, “we will have lots of parking, drive on access to the ice, and heated indoor space for players between games.” Since inception, the Maine Pond Hockey Classic players has hosted hundreds of hockey players from around the Northeast and even attracted players from as far away as Washington DC and Arizona.

    The Maine Pond Hockey Classic aims to provide a festival like atmosphere for players and spectators. The tournament site will contain 6 or more rinks, beer garden, fire pits, food vendors and anything else tournament organizers can add to the mix. “We have plans for a few skills competitions for players between games like shooting and skating drills; we also have plans for leisure games as well,” said Guerette.

    The Maine Pond Hockey Classic offers 7 divisions from players of different ages and ability levels; including, Open “A”, Open “B”, Women’s, COED, Recreational, 40+, and a “College” Division. Each division winner will receive a prize pack including complimentary entry to the following year’s tournament, Championship Sweatshirts, and a very unique trophy that features the State of Maine cut out from old hockey sticks. “We like having a trophy that you won’t see anywhere else; besides, it really wouldn’t be a great representation of Maine if we didn’t take something old and discarded and turn it into something awesome,” said Guerette.

    The Maine Pond Hockey Classic is an annual fundraising tournament supporting the Boys & Girls Clubs and YMCA of Greater Waterville. Registration opened on October 1, 2015 for the 2016 Maine Pond Hockey Classic, interested teams must register prior to January 12, 2016. Note that the registration fee increases from $445 to $495 on December 1st. Each team plays three pool play games for seeding followed by a single elimination tournament. Tourney games are played 4 on 4 without goalies or on ice officials, and each team is allowed to have up to 7 players on their roster.

    More information can be found on the tournament website at www.mainepondhockey.org. The tournament can on Facebook at www.facebook.com/mainepondhockey, or on twitter @mainepondhockey.

    For those looking to get involved with the MPHC, there are several volunteer and sponsorship opportunities available. If interested, please contact Patrick Guerette, Tournament Director, via email at mepondhockeyclassic@gmail.com.

    Note: Each year we partner with a number of pond hockey tournaments throughout North America in an attempt to help them grow and expand their reach. This post is part of that partnership.