Hockey lessons aren’t cheap and ice time is at a premium. You might take an hour-long lesson, but how much learning do you do during that hour? You take your turn in drills and try your best, but what else can you do? I’ve thought of four ways that I’ve tried to maximize my time spent on the ice during my hockey classes.
1. Be on-time
Hockey lessons are expensive — roughly $20 for an hour of ice time and instruction. That’s about 33 cents a minute, which is more expensive than a long distance phone call. So you should really be on-time and be in class for the entire hour. I’ve had classmates repeatedly come late to class. I can’t understand why. It’s a waste of money. Several times in 2014, I was guilty of stepping on the ice late myself. So I made a “mini resolution” this year to not be late to hockey class. Thus far, I’ve been on-time for every hockey class except one, due to having an upset stomach ten minutes before class. Of course, it was after I had already suited up — but enough about that.
2. Skate backwards as much as possible
We skate forwards most of the time in class, but in a hockey game you might spend a good amount of time skating backwards — especially if you play defense. One skill that I’ve repeatedly tried to work on whenever I can in class is my backwards skating. At the start of class time, before the instruction officially begins, students usually skate in a circle around the rink. I try to use this time to work on my backwards skating. If the teacher shouts “this group, go over there” and sends half of us to the other side of the rink for a drill, I use the opportunity to skate backwards. And if I can steal a moment or two after class before the Zamboni chases us off, I’ll work on backwards skating again. Heck, if I wipe out while trying to improve something difficult like a backwards crossover, what do I care? I’m in my full gear, so this is the best time to work on the hard stuff.
3. Cradle the puck while waiting your turn
Anyone who has taken hockey lessons has seen this happen countless times. The coach dumps a bucket of pucks on the ice, and every student takes a puck and either starts cradling it side to side with their stick or shooting it against the boards until it is their turn to go in the drill. That makes sense, as it might take a minute or two until it is your turn, and it beats just standing around (33 cents a minute, folks!). I suggest using the time to grab a puck and move it side to side it until it is your turn — but not while the coach is explaining the drill, though, as I think that is disrespectful. I also suggest not using this time to shoot the puck against the boards. I had one classmate who always did this (not the guy pictured here) and everyone found it distracting — especially the goalie, who was trying to stop us during one drill in particular. Instead, just grab a puck and move it around until it is your turn. As you get more comfortable, try doing it without looking at the puck. It takes time to get good at moving the puck without looking at it, so might as well squeeze in this “mini-drill” as much as you can while waiting for your turn at the real drills.
4. Practice stopping on your weak side
As a kid, I was usually competent with performing a hockey stop on my right side. Stopping on my left side was always difficult, so I hardly ever practiced it. As an adult, I now understand that the only way to get better at something is to — news flash! — practice it over and over. So, as long as the coach isn’t telling us to stop on a particular side, I will try to stop only on only my left (weak) side during class. Again, if I wipe out due to making a lousy left-side hockey stop, it isn’t the end of the world, as I’m dressed head to toe in protective gear. That is usually the most ideal time to wipe out. Bonus points if your fall takes out that annoying guy who won’t stop firing the puck against the boards during drills.
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