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The Lost Art

Orr to Sanderson, back to Orr" he shoots he SCORES. I can still here those words as the Bruins won the Stanley Cup. It seems like yesterday. I remember my cousin and I going down to the cellar and re-enacting the winning goal again and again. We only had a 10x10 foot area with nets painted on the walls and a spoked "B" that my cousin spray painted on the floor. I cant remember if we got in trouble for that or not, but we're still here and so is the "B". We were shorter then and so were the sticks. With how short the sticks were its a wonder we aren't permanently hunched over. The floor was smooth concrete and the puck was anything we could find or make. Sometimes a ball of tin foil or a piece of flat taped up paper. At times it was a hard (very hard) Rally plastic puck. You know, that black one that had Bobby Orr's signature on it and killed when it hit you in the shins. I still have that black Rally puck, found it when we were cleaning after Nana died. My 2 boys still use it. Its a lot smaller now, no longer a 3x1 inch disk, but despite its size, its packed with lots of memories. One particular memory is its speed. Boy, on a smooth flat surface it was fast and touchy. A small wrist roll and it was gone from your stick. I cant remember how many hours we would play, but it wasn't in the tens, it was in the hundreds. The sticks were so short you would have to hold the end in the palm of your hand. Rolling your wrist wasn't an option it was a necessity. The area was too small to go wide, body position, protecting the puck and stickhandling was the only way to get a shot let alone a goal.

The wrist roll, holding the end of the stick in the palm of your hand and body position to protect the puck, wasn't something someone taught us. It was something we learned on our own. By doing, by playing a simple game and not from structured practice. This is missing from youth hockey today.

When we used the paper or tin foil puck the shots were furious, or so it seemed, but that Rally puck, well that was a different story. Nana, who lived above our Boston Garden, didn't care too much for the sound of that puck against anything it hit, not to mention the potential destruction it could cause. So, when the puck came out so did the stickhandler. A goal was scored by coaxing the puck ever so softly against the wall. With no shooting, you had to be crafty, outfox the other guy in front of you. No going through him, no head down. Lots of pivots dribbles and the ever important, fakes. Dribble fake turn, dribble fake turn, repeat over and over again till you score.

Before a player can be taught a simple fake (shuffle the puck to his forehand and drop his shoulder) he must be able to stickhandle. Watch any youth hockey practice for this simple move and this will become very clear.

Nobody taught us to roll our wrist, we taught ourselves, out of necessity. This is what is missing from the youth players today. You see allot of small tight space drills being used by many clinics, with mixed results. While any tight space drill should produce positive results, its limited by the following factor, who can stickhandle, fake and turn. Those that can, will control the drill, those that cant, will be chasing those that can. These drills are very good and are designed to teach support, turns and getting open. Rarely will you see more than a few players that can combine the dribble, fake, turn into one smooth execution. Before you can do all 3 you need to be able to do each individually. The next time you see these drills being done, notice and look for those 3 things. Also look specifically for those that are really rolling their wrists. Watch the players in the NHL today you'll notice the tip of their stick going back and forth with lightning speed. This is a proper wrist roll.

The art of stickhandling isn't really lost. Its been put on hold until the kids get back into the cellars, garages and family rooms, and start to play 10x10 Hockey again......So......WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?