The slapshot is kind of hockey’s version of the slam dunk, in that it can be glamorous, exciting, and authoritative. And like the dunk, if you go for it and fail, you look pretty pathetic.
All that is a nice way of saying “If you don’t have a slapshot, please, for the love of god, don’t wind up for four seconds, then come down with your blade open in hopes of getting the puck airborne.” There’s no shame in not having a slapshot, and there’s no shame in a wrister or snapshot.
Since the dunk is off-limits for 99% of people who play the sport, they rarely have people daft enough to try, the lucky bastards. They know they’re not going to suddenly gain an additional two feet of vertical via any method of training, so they put it out of their mind.
But the slapper is right there, always tempting the rec leaguer. So, let’s discuss it, so we can stop some of you from trying, and teach the rest to improve.
First, the sad news: there’s one thing that puts you in the “just not going to be able to do it” category – a lack of strength. (Sorry, Ellen Etchingham.)
If you aren’t strong enough that you can’t get a slapper off the ground with an intermediate shaft and light flex, it’s over. Keep wristing the puck.
But the rest of you who are strong enough to take a slapper with a closed blade, some tips:
1) Hit the ice before the puck.
Think of it like a bunker shot in golf.
Hitting the ice behind the puck puts the flex in the shaft that generates all the torque, power, flex, whatever you want to call it that makes guys like Shea Weber able to bomb pucks through the net.
2) You see how Bill Guerin’s head is up and looking at the net? Yeah, don’t do that.
I mean, holy shit, if you can, go nuts, but I’m guessing you’re a once-a-week rec leaguer, so firing bombs with your head up is most likely going to mean strike one, and nobody’s throwing you another pitch. That shot isn’t in my bag of tricks either.
Kris Letang, Andrew MacDonald, Patrick Marleau and many others have this in their arsenal. For you, once you make the decision to pull the trigger, look up, pick a spot, then look down and hammer that thing. That’s the beauty of the slapshot in rec league – if you get all of it, your accuracy doesn’t have to be perfect.
3) Another golf analogy: you have to hit down on the ball to make it go up, let the loft do the work.
With a slapshot, you want to keep the blade closed and let the flex of the shaft do the work.
Too many people open their blade and slice at the puck to get it off the ice – you can’t be accurate doing that, you can’t shoot it hard, and it just doesn’t look right.
4) For additional power, pull back with your top hand as you’re moving through the puck.
One of the real perks of playing college/pro hockey is getting unlimited ice time before and after practice. But for me, I couldn’t go work on my slapshot without wearing shoulder pads, because I pull my top hand into my body so hard.
You may not hit your body depending on your style, but it still doesn’t hurt to pull back a bit with that top mitt.
(One more thought: don’t hold the pose at the top. Again, like a golf swing. BackandthroughBOOM.)
Short passes, short passes, short passes
If you’ve ever played ultimate frisbee, you know the rule – after three steps, you have to pass the frisbee. Because of this, you often see two players running up the field side by side, just tossing it back and forth every couple steps.
It’s super-effective, and tough to defend.
It’s not until someone goes for the homerun zinger to a teammate downfield that a turnover happens.
In hockey, you absolutely shouldn’t be afraid to move the puck, and to move it a matter of feet to a teammate. Most rec players play so little hockey, and you only get so few shifts, that actually getting the damn thing once in awhile is fun, and makes it tempting to keep. But if everyone is doing this, you’ll get it back.
So move it up, move it back, move it sideways, just move it – short passes are easy to complete (as I discussed in my last “rec hockey tips” post), and makes it awfully tough on the defense.