Coach Nielsen's Ice Hockey Drills

Drills to Build Competitive Instincts

My team is eleven games into our season and I haven’t been happy with our competitive instincts. I feel we are not winning enough 50/50 pucks and not winning enough loose pucks. Over the past few weeks I’ve started running drills in practice specifically designed to work on these skills and as of today, I’m happy with the results I see from the players. All of these drills can be considered Small Area Games and I will post them in that section of the site for future reference.

Crease Challenge


The team really gets competitive with this drill. I split the team into two groups and they compete against each other. The action gets pretty intense at times and really teaches the players how to win puck battles.






2v2 Below Goal Line


I picked this one up off the Coach Chris Hall site and it is intense. The players have to work in very tight areas and compete along the walls.






1v1 Battle

1v1 Battle

This drill is the typical corner battle. Using it causes the players to work on the physical part of the game as well as tight area puck protection.





Filed under: 1 x 1 - 2 x 1 - 3 x 1, Checking, coaching, Drills, Small Area Games

Half Ice Checking and Support Drill

I picked this one up from Ken Pauly who is a very well respected coach in Minnesota high school hockey.

I like to use this drill a few times each year to just get the players to understand working hard along the walls and in the corners. This drill isn’t the typical gauntlet drill where you have each player try to crush the incoming skater. What we want to do with this drill along the wall is have the players create resistance by chipping the skater, not try to put him through the glass.

You can separate the players however you want to but I like having the centers up high and using them to act as support in front of the net. Once you get the timing down this drill flows real nice and works a number of important areas of the ice.

Red Knight Compete


Click to Download the Drill

Click to Download the Drill


Filed under: Checking, coaching, Drills, HalfIce

Penn State Backchecking Drill

Got this drill last week and ran it in practice with my team. Drill works really well once you get the timing down. Make sure you have F2 work hard backchecking the inside lane while the D rides F1 off the puck.

Penn State Backchecking


Filed under: Checking, coaching, Drills

Half Ice Drills Section Added to Site

With more and more teams going to shared ice practices to save money, the need for solid half ice drills has become more and more in demand. Those of you who follow my site know that I try very hard not to post drills that I haven’t already run myself with one of my teams. Before I post a drill I want to be sure it serves a purpose. With that being said, I have spent a good deal of time since September trying different half ice drills so I could be sure I was giving you good drills to work with. Here is a collection of 40 drills to start with and I will continue to add more as I go along the remainder of the season. Remember to also add small area games to your half ice practices (even full ice when you can) because they are a great way to incorporate game type situations into a fun drill.


Half Ice Drills

Small Area Games






Filed under: Checking, coaching, Cycling, Defensemen, Drills, Forwards, Goaltender, Passing, Shooting, Skating, Small Area Games, Stick Handling

Body Checking Video from M2 Hockey

For those of you who aren’t subscribed to here is a link to a terrific video that Kevin put together on how to receive a body check. Once again Kevin has provided a quality video on an important aspect of the game of hockey. Check out the video when you have a few minutes.

HockeyShare Checking Video

Filed under: Checking

Checking for Success

Step #1 – Positioning and Angling

The first step in teaching Checking is to learn how to control skating and establish position to approach the opponent from an angle minimizing time and space for the opponent.
Positioning of a player is accomplished by:
– controlled skating (have solid stance, keep knees bent)
– skates shoulder width apart- keep your head always up
– always keep your stick on the ice- always protect middle of the ice
– defensive side positioning (stay between your man and the net)
– keep active stick
– keep feet moving
– proper forechecking (know different roles)
– proper backchecking (know different roles,tracking, picking up trailer)


– is a checking technic
– does not require contact
– use stick and body to steer opponents
In positioning/angling, players need to read the degree of puck control and control skating speed to force the puck carrier in the desired direction.

Step #2 – Stick Checks

The second step is to effectively use the stick in order to “check” your opponent.

Poke Check

– often used in 1 on 1 situations or with forechecking forwards
– elbow of the arm holding the stick is bent and close to your side (other arm used to maintain balance)
– one hand on the stick and your head up looking at opponents chest, NOT the puck
– do not lung at your opponent (throw yourself at him), rather you should extend your stick and try to knock the puck off your opponents blade

Hook Check

– the hook check is the most difficult stick check to perform because not only are you knocking the offensive player off the puck but also gaining control of the puck
– this checking maneuver is most successful when the offensive player is unaware of your presence around the puck
– using the curved part of the stick between the shaft and the blade, quickly slide the puck away from the stick handler
– place only your top hand on the stick
– with one knee bent, bring the shaft of the stick down so that it is almost flat on the ice

Sweep Check

– the sweep check is most effective when attacking the puck carrier from the front
– this check combines the skills of the poke and hook checks
– the sweep check should be used when you are defending against a good puck-handler
– your objective is to simply separate him/her from the puck just like with the poke check. But instead of poking at the puck, you are sweeping your stick along the ice using the curve between the shaft and the stick blade, forcing the offensive player to get rid of the puck
– keep only the top hand on the stick
– bend one knee, in order to get your stick blade along the ice.

Lift the Stick

– lifting the stick of your opponent is a very effective technique when you are coming from behind or slightly to the side of your opponent
– slide your lower hand down the shaft of the stick to gain leverage on your opponent
– skate slightly in front of your opponent
– slide your stick under that of your opponent’s
– where the blade meets the shaft
– making a quick, hard thrust upward, lift the stick of your check· Once the stick of your opponent is off the ice, bring your stick down to take the puck away
– as soon as the puck is recovered, skate away from your opponent
– it is very important to continue to skate through the check. It will be very difficult to maintain your position in front of your opponent if you stop skating and your opponent continues striding.

Stick Press

– just like the lifting the stick technique, the stick press is a good maneuver for a defensive player to use when in a tight one on one battle with a forward, especially in front of your net
– your goal with this technique is to prevent your check from receiving or executing a pass, shooting or picking up a loose puck
– once again, slide your bottom hand down the shaft of the stick to gain leverage on your opponent
– using the lower half of your stick, press down hard on the shaft of your opponent’s stick. This will prevent him/her from moving their stick
– your ability to execute this skill depends on the positioning of your stick on your opponent’s and how much pressure you can apply on the stick of your check.
– you will see many NHL defensemen using this technique when offensive players are parked in front of the net. One of the only ways to legally score goals is by a player using their stick to shoot or deflect the puck into the net. If you have their stick tied up, you are limiting their chances of success

Hit the Stick

– hitting the stick is a good technique for offensive players to use when skating parallel with their check
– your objective is to hit the heel or the back half of your opponent’s stick blade, forcing them to lose control of the puck

Step #3 – Body Contact & Contact Confidence

The third step is to use the body to block the opponent’s way or take away the skating lanes of another player. The correct stance and effective use of leg strength are important parts of these techniques.

Step #4 – Body Checking

The fourth and final step is actual body checking. This step includes teaching techniques to check and receive a body check as well as safety and rules.
– never hit opponents from behind and keep your arms, elbows and sticks down
– keep your head up at ALL times and eyes on opponents chest area
– with proper stance, balance, and speed you will be able to knock any player down no matter how big they are

Shoulder Check

– be sure you can give shoulder checks with either shoulder
– explode the point of your shoulder into the opponents chest
– knees are bent and extend on contact – need powerfull legs
– keep low stance
– skates are turned outward and dig into a shoulders width apart
– keep only one hand on the stick with the other flexed to the side
– keep hand close to the body to prevent injury
– whenever you see a puck carrier skating with his head down, this is a great opportunity to use a shoulder check

Hip Checks

– used mainly by defenseman along the boards
– can also be used mid ice when mastered
– keep one hand on stick, knees bent, lower stance
– as you are skating backwards, you pivot, swing your hips 90-degrees and drive your hip into your opponent
– timing is very important

Open Ice Hitting

– proper gap control, good positioning
– lign your outside shoulder with opponents inside shoulder (protect midlane)
– always keep knees bent and your head up


– when pinning an opponent along the boards, always place one of your legs between the opponents legs and pin him into the glass
– keep your arm and shoulder under the opponents outside arm

Filed under: Checking, coaching, General



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