Coach Nielsen's Ice Hockey Drills

My Favorite Drills

I’m sure all of you were waiting anxiously to hear what my favorite drills to run are (LOL), so here you go. Click on the drill name to see a diagram of the drill.

4 Corners Warm-up

I use this drill almost every practice to get the players warmed up and ready to go. It incorporates skating, passing, shooting and conditioning so the players are really warmed up when you start the main part of the practice. This is really three drills run consecutively. I picked up this drill from Joel Quenneville of the Black Hawks.

Skate & Shoot

I use this drill to work on skating. The focus of this drill is to make sure the players keep their feet moving through the turn. By moving their feet they can generate power through the turn and learn how to power through turns. The drill finishes with a shot on goal but that part is just for the players to stay interested while I’m forcing them to skate outside their comfort level because most players will just coast through the turns if you don’t force them to keep their feet moving.

2v1 Czech

I really enjoy this drill because once it gets going you can really get a nice flow going with all the players. This drill helps the defensemen work on their gap control during the 2×1 portion and then perform a quick transition to a breakout pass. The breakout pass can be a quick hit along the wall or you can have the forwards work up higher and get the D to practice the stretch pass.

Jackson 5

This is another nice drill to keep the players moving and work on different skills. The drill is three players at a time and each will work on different skills during the drill. I got this drill from Coach Schooley head coach at D1 Robert Morris University. I honestly have no idea what the name Jackson 5 means, unless Coach Schooley was a Michael Jackson fan in his youth.

3 on 2 Down Low

I’m a big fan of small area games and this is one I use a lot. This allows the forwards to work on cycling and triangulation in the offensive zone while the defensemen work on support, taking away the passing lanes and clearing the puck skills.

Honorable Mention Category

Small Area Games

As I stated above, I am a big fan of this type of training and I believe you should work in one or two to your practices as often as possible. Small area games give your players the chance to work on skills in a condensed area of the ice and it can really pay big dividends in game situations.

Here is a link to an article on the importance of small area games.

15/10 Game

When it comes time for a little fun this is a nice drill to work on skills while creating a competitive atmosphere between your forwards and defensemen. Basically the forwards need to score 15 goals in 10 minutes. The progression is 2×0, 2×1, 3×2, 1×0.


So that is my list of favorite drills. If you have your own favorites let us know by posting a comment and if it’s a drill we don’t have on the site we’ll add it. As always, thanks for taking the time to stop by the site, I hope we can continue to provide quality information to help you run better practices. We should have a half ice drill section added shortly and we continue to get drills from D1 and D3 coaches each month so look for those as well.


Remember, it’s our job as coaches to help our players develop so they can move to the next level, so stay focused on developing skills as much as possible.




Filed under: 1 x 1 - 2 x 1 - 3 x 1, Conditioning, Cycling, Defensemen, Drills, Forwards, Passing, Practice, Shooting, Skating, Small Area Games, Warm-Up

Wisconsin Badgers Half Ice Drill

Coach Mike Eaves of the Division 1 Wisconsin Badgers has contributed a drill to the site that works in a half ice setting and incorporates passing, shooting, transition and skating all into one drill. I ran this drill with my team the other day and it works very well. Take a look and give it a try and let me know what you think.

Coach Eaves has offered to give us additional drills each month throughout the season, so we look forward to those contributions.

Wisconsin Badgers Half Ice Drill – AROSA


Filed under: Drills, Passing, Shooting, Skating

What is needed at the grass roots of hockey….

The following article has been contributed to us by head coach Bob Emery of Plattsburgh University

Coaches need to work on skills, skills and more skills.  You cannot work enough on skills.  Do not worry so much about the game’s systems, such as fore-check, breakout, etc.  In the end your team will not perform well on any system if they do not have the skills.

Work on skating, shooting, stick-handling and passing over and over and over.  By the end of any season if a team works on their skills repetitively they will be a much better team by the end of the season and the systems will be fine.

Get your team on the ice as much as possible.  It is much better to be on the ice three times in a given week sharing 1/3 of the ice then to be on the ice one time having the whole sheet.  If it is done right the cost should be the same.

Incorporate small games in your practices as much as possible.  This is a great way to work on skills especially passing.  Emphasize that it is just as much the responsibility of the receiver to get open as it is for the passer to get him/her the puck.  Small games incorporate many more puck touches in a given game situation.  A player has to have the puck to get better.

Lastly make your players end all drills in practice with a stop in front of the goalie, even if they miss the net and the puck goes into the corner or they score.  Humans are creatures of habit.  We must get them to stop in front of the net, because that is where the rebounds are.  In practice they get in the habit of skating behind the net or peeling off to get back in line.  We need them to stop on the net, getting themselves in the habit of (game situation) scoring goals by rebounds.

Filed under: coaching, Shooting, Skating, Stick Handling

Forechecking Drills to Develop Skills and Technique

One area of the game that is very important but often overlooked is the forecheck. Teams use different systems based on a coaches likes and dislikes, but many coaches just have a “go and get them” attitude to the forechecking system they employ.

Some coaches use the 1-2-2, some the 2-1-2, some will run an aggressive 1-2-2 while others will run a passive 1-2-2. We saw Tampa Bay run a 1-1-3 in last year’s playoffs. We’ve watched the Devils bog down the neutral zone with their 1-2-2 trap for years. Whatever system works for you as a coach based on your teams talent and skating ability is up to you. One problem that many coaches face is how to teach the forechecking system and how to practice it. Sometimes it’s as easy as running 5 on 5 full ice dump and breakout drills to have the players practice your system, but you also need the drills that can break down the skills needed to be an effective forechecker as a player and a team.

One of the aspects of a good forecheck is angling. You can have a super fast skater on your team but if he doesn’t understand proper angling techniques then more times than not he will overrun the play and find himself out of position. Next is what do you do after you angle the opponent properly. Some coaches believe in the stick-hands-elbow-body approach. Some coaches believe that you should attack full speed and try to drive your opponent through the glass. Whatever your approach is, you still need some drills to work on individual and team skills to help your players become better forecheckers.

With the help of some college coaches I work with we’ve put together a few drills that you can use to help your players become better forecheckers. These drills are designed to work on angling a player off to the wall while at the same time limiting his ability to cut back to the middle lane. Another works on teaching your players to keep their sticks in the passing lanes and not using it to slow down a faster skater. As we all know as soon as the stick comes up to the opponents waist, the official is likely to call hooking or obstruction type of penalties. We finish off with a few team oriented drills to work on what the first forechecker does and how the offense can read and react to what he does. Finally a five man drill that works on the first forward forcing the play and the second forward supporting the forecheck.

We hope that this set of drills gives you the groundwork to build from when teaching your team the forechecking system you choose to employ. Always remember that you should make corrections to things you see a player doing incorrectly during any of these drills. If you want a player to take a certain angle then make sure you explain that to him. The purpose of the drills is to work on the skills and develop a players ability to do it properly in a game situation because he has done it a hundred times in practice, so if he is doing it wrong make sure to stop the drill and explain how you want it done. Good luck and success with your teams this upcoming season.

Forechecking Drills

Filed under: coaching, Drills, ,



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