Coach Nielsen's Ice Hockey Drills

Practice Planning

I have been asked by some readers how I plan my practices. Now, my situation is different from others because I have two assistant coaches plus a goalie coach, so I can do things that some coaches may not be able to.

With the above in mind here is what I do from a high level.

Sample 90 Minute Practice Plan

Soft skating (5 min)

This is just letting the players skate around with pucks and get loose

Hard skating (5-7 min)

These are any number of specific skating drills that push the players to work on certain aspects of their skating ability.

Goalie warm-up (5-7 min)

I normally run the 4 corners drill that is posted in the Drills section of this blog. This drill allows the goalies to see different types of shots while at the same time working the skaters.

Split the team into three groups for 30 minutes.




Each group has a specific set of drills that we perform to build the fundamentals to team play. Typically the forwards work on cycling, passing and shooting drills, followed by offensive zone positioning and concepts. We may work on our power play with only the forwards. This allows the forwards to play the point and see what it’s like to be a defenseman during the power play.

The defensemen will work on core skating drills along with partner drills and shooting from the point. We always perform the Cornerstone drill with the defensemen because it works many of the fundamental skills needed to be a solid defenseman.

The goaltenders work on positioning and puck handling.

Some coaches look at the goaltenders as just targets for the rest of the team during practice. Now, I do believe that a goaltender needs to see a lot of shots to work on their game, but you also need to have them work on the fundamentals like skating, stick handling and angles.

Team drills (30 mins)

During the team drills section we work on things like the breakout or face-offs in both the offensive and defensive zones. We also work on flow drills like 2v1 and 3v2 drills. Another thing we go over in some detail at least twice a month is defensive zone positioning. I’m a defensive minded coach and I insist that my teams understand how to play defense in our zone.

I’m a big believer that all players know how to play offense. They have been doing it since they were little kids playing in the driveway. What most players don’t know how to do is play defense, so I make sure we study our defensive responsibilities.

Keep in mind that I coach older players so my practice may be different from your practice. Through the years I’ve learned that at the younger ages you should spend almost all your ice time on skating drills. If players don’t learn to skate at the younger ages, then they will always be behind in their development.

When you get to the middle ages (10-14), you should start working on stick handling and shooting. Players at this age need to be kept involved in the practice so keep them moving.

When you get to the older ages (15-18+) don’t forget to spend some time on the fundamentals each practice. At the older ages the players only want to work on the fun stuff, but you have to keep them focused on always improving. At this age you can really work on system implementation and get them to more fully understand how the game of hockey works.

No matter what age group you work with, keep the practice moving and try to use as much of the ice as possible.


Filed under: General, Practice, , ,

One Response

  1. Steve C from Canada says:

    I agree. Skating for the younger levels is the MOST important part of the practice. Too many coaches think they are coaching the Maple Leafs when in fact they are coaching 8 year old’s.

    If we can make sure the younger kids learn to skate well we can ensure that the older they get the more quickly they can advance.

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