Every hockey coach stresses the importance of shot blocking
By Mike Desjardins
When most people think of shot blocking in hockey, they picture NHL players—usually not the superstars—sliding on their sides in front of slapshots in excess of 100 mph. And, rightfully so, they equate this act with insanity. While shot blocking may seem insane to most, it is a fact of life in hockey and can absolutely be the difference between a winning season and a losing one. Simply put, the less shots a team can put on goal during a game, the lower the chance of scoring goals and thus the lower the chance they win the game. Making an effort to block shots doesn’t mean that your goalie sucks or that you’re trying too hard; it means you’re putting in the extra effort to help your team win.
Every hockey coach I’ve ever had, every coach my friends and teammates have ever had, basically every hockey coach of all time has stressed the importance of shot blocking. If they had the least bit of mercy in their hearts, they practiced the act with tennis balls instead of pucks. This common drill came with one resounding piece of advice: “Stay on your feet!” That said, I will now discuss proper technique.
To effectively block a shot, you should position yourself in front of an offensive player roughly one to two stick lengths away. Too close and a player can easily go around you without you being able to accelerate and catch them. Too far and you’re less of a factor to them; plus you allow shots the room to rise and blast you in the upper body, which is much worse than those that don’t make it above the shin pads. Skate directly at the player until he/she raises their stick to wind up or pull it back along the ice (in the event of a wrist or snap shot). Glide the rest of the way and keep the following in mind.
Shots are best blocked with arms and legs kept tight to the body and all body parts facing the shot. It may seem crazy but believe me, you open up the “soft” areas when you try flailing out of the way. Shots that hit you square on the pads don’t hurt at all; shots that hit you in those tender areas will make you re-evaluate your choice of night-time recreation. Take this seriously.
While sliding in front of a shooter may seem heroic, you become very vulnerable and helpless all at once—not to mention you can be walked around for an unscreened shot by a patient shooter (who probably has a knack for scoring goals). Stay on your feet, legs together and arms at your sides, gliding at the shooter. If you have a deity, kindly ask them to allow the puck to carom harmlessly off your shin pads and onto your stick blade for the breakaway. This is the ideal situation and it happens more often than not to those in good shot-blocking position.