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.

I assure you, the puck doesn't weigh enough to make a stick do that.

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.

Comments (15)

  1. One more point on the clappers: for the love of god do NOT try and one-time it. You are not good enough to connect on it, and even if you do you’ll probably miss the net, and if you hit the net it was probably luck and the puck did not go to the spot you wanted. Further, one timers are necessary in the NHL because the goalies are so damn good. In rec leagues you are better off stopping the pass and taking a quick snapper than trying to one-time the slapshot. Goalies in rec league will still not be set and you will be much more accurate with the shot.

    Note: the “you” is not directed at Bourne, as I bet he is one of the few rec leaguers capable of pulling off a decent one-t

  2. As a goalie, when I see a guy load up a roof-scrappeing slapper, I’m pushing out and going down. Especially cause no one keeps their head up while taking that shot. Easy save.

  3. The last one was better… What about the rec player that knows how to play hockey but has a full time job and can’t play more than once or twice a week???

  4. FYI, if you ever actually played ultimate you would know that you have to plant a foot as soon as you can after you catch the disc and throw from there (you only get three steps in high school, or at the beach with friends)
    However, short passes are still super effective in Ultimate, so the tip still stands ;)
    I for one, am one of those that sticks to the wristers and the snap shots.

    • Sorry, Justin’s right. You’re not required to establish a pivot provided that you don’t change speed or direction, and that you release the disc prior to making three ground contacts after establishing possession.

      • Try that in any semi-serious league and you’ll get called for a travel, every time. You need to establish a pivot after catching the disc as soon as reasonably possible, if you’re jogging up for a dump you aren’t just given 3 steps. A guy in a flat out sprint is going to need more than 3 steps to slow down especially if he had to lunge for the disc, it’s situational.

  5. Love these posts….

  6. I have a feeling most who comment on this site, are playing in the no windups past waist line leagues…

    Either way, I encourage my fellow beer leaguers to get their “Gretzky” on, especially when they’re always trying to play for show in front of the bitties in the Ralph’s stands. Just cuz we’re playing in the best arena in the country these guys think they’re the next Ryan Duncan (high slot, and a whiff)..

  7. Maybe there should be a spot, where you mention putting head down to see that you’re hitting the puck, that you put a warning to forwards standing in front of the net. Something towards…”Get the ‘F out of the way”.

    You would think it common sense….but no.

    • Depends on the league I guess, or the mindset of the person in front. If I’m taking a shot I sure as hell don’t want them to move and allow the goalie a clear lane, but I’m not upset if they do since this is rec league and pucks are hard. If a guy is actively working to tip or screen in front I’m not sure why you would ever want him to get out of the way, unless of course he sucks at it.

  8. Interesting – i just went through a week-long course with an AHL coaching staff (I think we traded some email about it), and they told me I was closing my blade too much. They wanted me to keep it open to a degree that felt very, very unnatural, and have it in a position so that there was no wrist action require. I think a lot of rec players are so used to having to ‘flip’ the puck to get it off the ice, that they actually are closed too much.

    A slapper should be a slapper, not a combo slap/wrist shot.

  9. I get a kick out of guys just learning to play. They all want to learn the slap shot! I show them how it is all about skating, with a lot of weight transfer, building up the potential energy and moving it to the shooting foot while letting the body go thru it. That pretty much scares them off till they get the skating down better and learn the wrister and snap shot… That is the advantage of growing up in the great white north with outdoor ice-unlimited practice time for free after you shoveled the rink, so you could whack away all day long and actually develop a slap shot. Also, fetching the puck from a snowy field when you shoot it over the boards is good motivation to keep it down and learn some control. Of course when I was learning, I think I had a straight blade Northland stick. I knew I was developing some power (or it was colder than -30) when I hit the post and the puck broke in two…
    Rec league players do not have the practice time available to tweak a good slapper-Justin is correct, a fast wrister or a sneaky backhander works best. The other think about slap shots in rec hockey is that you really should not unleash them with guys in the way. Beer league is not the Show, and I hate getting nailed by guys who can’t control them worth a crap!

  10. My rec league doesn’t even let me take clappers.

  11. “Think of it like a bunker shot in golf.”

    You’re going to have to explain that one to me. I thought those sand things were just for aesthetics while I tap in my birdie putts.

  12. Justin mentioned this a bit on the last post, but one of the biggest issues young skaters and rec league skaters have when shooting is they keep there top hand “stapled” to their body. This limits their stick speed and form.

    Instead, get both hands out and away from the body and as JB says, bring that top hand into your body as you are pushing with the bottom hand.

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