One of the most important developmental tools for any young player is to have a hockey stick that suits him/her. A stick of proper length will enable players to handle the puck close to their body, make backhand passes, help them control the puck when moving laterally and develop more power and control in their shot by forcing them to learn correct technique rather than simply using the flex of the stick.
A long stick (at or above the chin on skates) can be extremely detrimental to a child’s development. A stick of proper length should lie with the blade flat on the ice when standing on skates with arms at sides while holding the knob in the palm of the hand. (For most, this is a stick cut shoulder height on skates)
Most often, the difference between good and great hockey players is the ability to skate efficiently. Proper stick length is required to develop proper skating mechanics. The most efficient forward skating body positioning requires players to have a 45-degree upper body lean and a 90-degree knee bend. If the stick is too long and the player has these perfect skating qualities, there will be very little of the stick blade on the ice (usually only the heel) making puck control extremely difficult. However, very few people do this. Instead, they force the full blade onto the ice, which in turn straightens the player’s legs/back, and consequently eliminates the perfect stride posture (since knee bend = stride length = powerful/efficient stride). Rail roaders, or skaters that do not bring their skate back under the center of gravity before starting their next stride are forced to work much harder (since they must take much more strides than an efficient skater and in turn usually suffer in the third period or have short careers). The long stick disease affects older players as well (even if they have learned proper skating techniques at a young age) and still hurts their skating, however, many have learned to adapt. Skating can be improved at an older age, but it is just much more difficult (and won’t happen with a long stick). Knee bend compensates for any skating flaw, but proper knee bend is very difficult to achieve with a long stick.
A child’s peak neural maturation (neural growth patterns) occurs between ages 0-7 and continues at a rapid rate up to age 12 at which time this growth largely plateaus. What this means for hockey players is that it is imperative to establish correct techniques (and not bad techniques/habits) prior to the age of 12. After the age of 12, it becomes increasingly difficult to establish new techniques/habits and change bad techniques/habits. Because skating is the most important skill in the game of hockey, if a player wishes to maximize his or her skating/hockey potential, developing good skating technique at a young age is paramount.
Everyone has heard the old myth that sticks should be cut to the nose/chin. However, there is no science behind sticks cut to the nose/chin. The two main factors to be considered when cutting a stick are correct body posture and arm length. Some people say they need a long stick for a longer reach. If that is the case, why don’t people cut their sticks at their forehead or higher? That’s too long? Why? In other words, there is no scientific rationale behind that myth.
Some people argue that they need a longer stick for poke checks (especially defensemen).
Poke checks have very little to do with stick length. Good forwards will only come as close to a defenseman stick as they think the defenseman can reach. This, in turn, means that poke checks are more a function of arm extension and deception by the D (by keeping elbow bent before attempting a poke check) taking stick length effectively out of the equation.
A shorter stick allows for more control of your stick and greater strength at the end of your stick… facilitating quicker, sharper movement of the stick when defending passing lanes and attempting poke/stick checks and easier/better puck control.
The modern game of hockey is played is small spaces now and in turn, players need to be able to handle the puck in tight spaces, which is very tough to do with a long stick. They also need to be able to receive passes on their backhand and in tight; this is difficult to do with a long stick.
Some people argue that they can shoot harder with a long stick. They are simply compensating stick flex for knee bend (a much less controllable variable), which will hurt their passing and receiving, puck control, skating and shot control. If players learn to shoot with correct techniques (using their full body to shoot the puck rather than just their arms) their shot will be much harder and much more accurate than if they simply used the flex of the stick for velocity.
Shooting Importance Scale:
- General accuracy (The puck must hit the net in order to score)
- Deception of release or unreadiness of the goaltender
Velocity is the least important quality (especially for defensemen) when shooting because more velocity brings with it a “hit or miss” quality.
i.e. if a defenseman takes a slap shot from the point, it is quite likely to hit something. If it does rebound off something, a harder shot will create a longer “rebound” and is much more likely to end up in a non-threatening area of the offensive zone.
Since ~23% of goals in the NHL are scored on rebounds and ~74% are scored in the first two scoring zones or ~between the dots and below the top of the circle, having the puck end up in that area is a key component to team goal scoring.
Anytime a player is shooting from outside those two zones, especially with traffic in front of the net, the intention of the shot should change to facilitating a goal rather than shooting to score. Shooting to facilitate a shot or shooting for rebounds, screen, shot pass etc, is much more effective. When facilitating scoring, high velocity on the shot is usually very detrimental. So the most important thing on perimeter shots becomes CONTROL. In other words, heads up, wrist/snap shots, and lower velocity. This means that slap shots are vastly overrated unless on a one-timer inside the first two scoring zones or if the player has an exceptionally accurate and hard slap shot.
It is also very difficult to take accurate one-timers with a stick that is too long since one-timers require great weight transfer, which requires proper knee bend. And as stated before, proper knee bend with the full stick blade on the ice is very difficult, if not impossible. The player is then forced to use only his/her arms and the flex of the stick, which is much less controllable. This also makes it difficult to release the puck quickly since the arc in the shooting motion is larger.