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The Slap Shot


I recommend this video in addition to reading my article below. A video can help you see the slap shot in action - my article should explain verbosely how to do the slap shot with force.
The slap shot requires that you go against instinct of smacking the puck in a forward direction. Logically, one would assume that hitting the puck straight on as fast and as hard as possible would launch a hard slap shot. That only works for ball hockey. A hockey puck is a special little item, which isn't as logical as a ball. Golf is similar to ball hockey - hit the ball straight on as hard as you can with your hips and your body and your arms. The puck, is different.

Hitting the puck using the slap shot requires a hard smack on the ice, while still carrying forward motion. This is easier said than done - and since there are so many variations of the way one can hit the puck this way, the person learning the slap shot has tons of room for technique error.

The trick with the slap shot is to smack the ice down hard at the heel/center of the blade. Yes, you will have to worry about your tape breaking up - a correct slap shot will ruin your tape eventually (wax helps, wet ice is worse than cold hard ice). When you smack the ice, sweep the stick toward you a bit if the puck is not spinning the way you like. However, be warned that too much sweep will cause a weaker shot - too little sweep will cause the puck to knuckle/flip/flop in the air.

This is what most people do wrong in the slap shot:

  • people do not put a final down pressure and a bit of spin on the puck that makes it fly properly, and lift off the ice progressively instead of flipping and flopping. To cure this problem, go closer to the boards and take half-slap-shots.. i.e. winding up to your waste instead of winding up all the way.

    You will see that when you take this shot, your puck will fly much better - now remember exactly what you are doing, and do this with your full wind up. For whatever reason, humans don't make the same movements when doing a full wind up

    half-slap shots almost always have better technique than full slap shots.

  • people do not place their weight down into the stick. Putting your weight down into the stick forces the stick to hold energy (a lot of people just fling their body like in golf instead of putting downward force on the ice)

  • tensing up too early. Be fairly loose during your swing until you come close to the ice. Tense up as hard as you can (especially your triceps) when you are about to touch the ice with your stick. If you tense up too early (such as when you are winding up) then your arms will be restricted.

  • not keeping the stick cupped enough and letting the puck slide off the stick, weakening the shot. Cupping for a certain amount of time while holding your down force and moving the stick forward on the ice ensures that the puck will obtain maximum force.

  • people do not push off their back leg and spin their body into the shot. First, before doing this, you should practice the half slap shot. Pushing off the driving leg adds extra power to your slapshot. Once you have developed a semi-strong or weak slap shot that you wish to improve, then you can worry about pushing off with your back leg.

    Pushing off your leg causes your body to spin a bit. Spinning your body forces your torso/weight to be moved into the shot, similar to the way a tennis player steps into a shot, or similar to the way a baseball player steps into the pitch.

Many weak shots are caused by the puck slipping off the stick prematurely. Adjust the angle of your stick in the air and when you hit the ice, keep the stick on the ice as long as you can (it is only a split second but you must concentrate on keeping your stick on the ice when it connects with the puck, and then finally lifting off the ice when you can no longer hold any more and you are about to fall on your face - inertia and balance of course cause you not to fall on your face).

Don't hit the puck straight on

Hitting the puck straight on makes the puck jump off the ice for a split second and flop right back down. Hitting the ice first, while still continuing forward motion, is the correct way to get under and fling the puck with full force. Hitting the ice hard will give a big shock and boom to your joints. If you just feel a little bit of a boom to your joints, you are not doing the slap shot right. If you feel an extreme shock on your joints so bad that you must rest for 30 seconds - you are doing the slap shot right.

The joints will ache

The problem with the slap shot is that it can take a huge toll on your joints if you are not used to it. Your joints will strengthen with time, but if you have not been doing the slap shot correctly you will think the joint ache is bad. It is not. Get some bigger gloves - you'd be amazed at how much shock the foam in the gloves absorbs.

Big gloves to absorb shock, not for punching people

Do not just where winter mits or winter gloves at the rink, as this will cause your slap shot to be weak and erratic - the stick will slip and move when you hit the ice. Leather, on the other hand, holds the stick in place when you hit the ice and puck.

Try taking a slapshot with bare hands and then compare it to taking a slap shot with big gloves on. Those pads in the gloves absorb an aweful lot of shock - more than you would think. No, big gloves are not for smashing into the boards or into other players - big gloves are for absorbing slap shot shock.

Stick Jiggle

If you don't have big enough gloves on, or you don't have hockey gloves on at all, your stick may jiggle when you hit the ice cause the puck not to be stricken solidly. An actual jiggling or movement of the stick occurs if you are not gripping the stick enough - or if the stick is too big for your hands, or if your gloves palms are slippery. With a tighter grip, your stick will not jiggle when you hit the ice down hard.

Ensure that you have a tight grip when you hit the ice - but remain loose until you hit the ice - not so loose that your stick falls out of your hands during wind up though.

If you wear ski gloves when playing outdoor hockey, these ski gloves will cause the stick to jiggle and slip when you do a slap shot. This sometimes why at outdoor rinks, people keep practicing and practicing the slap shot and continually fail.

Without padded gloves, people fail at learning the slap shot - when they try smacking the ice or the pavement at home, they feel pain. People think it must be wrong if there is pain - so they start shovelling the puck instead in order to relieve pain. It is a natural reaction. But pain is good with the slap shot to a certain extent - the only thing to remember is you may need 1-3 days of rest after practicing the shot.

Literally sometimes the hand joints and mucles will not recover in 1-2 days and 3 or more may be required. As you get more used to the shot, your joints become accustomed and prepared. Rest periods are shorter. Use the wrist shot only, on days where your joints are aching. Let the joints recover.

Adjusting your stick before winding up

Try adjusting the fore and aft angle of your stick - if you hit the puck slightly cupped (but not too much) the slap shot will get maximum force. If you cup the puck too much on your down swing smack, the puck will be stricken with less surface area and will ting your stick instead of whack it. The sound of a slap shot should be deep, and not tingy and high pitched. If the sound is too high pitched you are probably slicing the puck, cupping the puck too much (less surface area on smack), or you are hitting the puck in the center of the blade instead of before center.

However, hitting the blade at the beginning where the heel is will sometimes make the puck spin on the ice and never gain too much air - so practice and find a good place on your stick between the center and the heel - closer to center for raising, but not too far past center or the puck will flip and flop, or your stick will break.

Which part of the stick blade to contact

In order for the puck to be smacked the hardest and the deepest, you have to hit the puck before center or around center and feel the puck sweep off the stick after you smack the ice.

Rest - practice stopping or skating backwards between shots

Smack the ice hard so your joints feel terrible. Allow your joints to recover. Sixty seconds is usually enough, and as you get better you can do a few shots within 15-20 seconds, but don't push it too far. You may feel recovered in 15-20 seconds but scientifically your body does not have full recovery until 3 minutes to 5 minutes. The ATP system in our body that produces energy recovers in this time period.

Tape is not that expensive

You need to buy more stick tape. If you hate the tape toll that the slap shots take on your stick, and if you hate the joint soreness that the slap shot puts into your arms, then get in bed with the wrist shot. The wrist shot has been clocked at near 80-100MPH too, if you really get low down and throw your whole body into it - most people do not throw their whole body down low into the wrist shot and do not draw the puck far enough back.

If you can't take the aching pain

Even if you do not use the slap shot often and you decide to focus efforts on the wrist shot - remember the slap shot can strengthen your arms for the wrist shot, since you smack the ice so hard that your joints ache and ache. If you have been practicing the slap shot and your hands are slightly sore, you have not been doing the slap shot correctly. Your hands must be so sore that typing on a keyboard makes you feel tight and shaky the next day. Literally. Not an exaggeration. Part of the slap shot is all about stiffening up your fingers and your arm joints/muscles so that when you smack that stick down, the stick does not jiggle and lose force. The stick must be stiff, and in order to be stiff you must build up that strength by slapping the ice real hard, and letting your arms recover plenty after each slap shot. Don't wait 10 minutes for your arms to recover during slap shot practice - keep the recovery at about 60 seconds to 3 or 4 minutes.

Stick bend and stick whip

And what about stick bend? Stick bending occurs - but stick bend occurs properly only when you smack the ice down hard and hold the force down while moving the stick forward. Just smacking the stick down on the ice without holding on to the force will flop your shot and make the puck erratic - you will be disappointed. Too much sweep will put lots of spin on the puck and it might keep itself on the ice - you must adjust the sweep motion to an medium level. Hard shots must have some spin, otherwise they will just flop down and skid on the ice make you feel like a weakling. Even a 140 Pound guy can have a powerful slap shot if he masters the technique.

For a really hard shot, you must have stick whip and stick bend which is much easier to see in a slow motion video. The downward force and stick whip is essential for a harder shot. Hull's video shows the stick bend in action. You would be amazed how much stick bend occurs.

The slapshot actually is a mixture of downward force and forward force - and believe it or not the downward smacking force and the fine details are what you should be focusing on if your slap shot is not taking off the way you want it too. Just the downward force alone will not help your slap shot if you are missing the other fine details as Hull explains in the video. The stick will just jiggle around and flop the puck if you miss the finer details.

Flick shots

How about those guys who can raise the puck high in the air but the puck flips and flops around all over? That is usually a shot taken where the shooter slows the stick down when hitting the puck and shovels the puck upward - this is not a true slap shot. A hard slap shot requires severe joint pain and smacking down with no shovelling. To get a hard shot in the air you have to follow through higher, but if you follow through high and your smack and sweep is not right your puck will just flub and not take off.

Once you get the basic technique down and you can make the puck leave the ice without flopping, then worry about putting your weight into the shot. When putting your weight into the shot, it can be harder on skates since while skating in a forward motion it is tricky to first put weight on your backmost leg. If you aim your skate and practice balancing on one foot right before you shoot the puck, this will get you set up for putting all your weight on your back foot, and then moving the weight forward aggressively as you hit the puck. Slow motion videos of the slap shot by professionals like Hull can help. In his movies we can see that stick bends and this is his main focus. The video shows how to load up force into the stick and transfer it into the puck. It also shows the amount of height Hull raises his stick in order to get a hard shot. Hull also shows how to put extra force into the shot by using your weight transfer.

I can not stress this enough: the weight and power that you are placing into the slapshot will not just be going directly into the puck. You should be putting downward force onto the ice so that you charge your stick up with power. If you strike the ice too early you may execute the force before the puck is stricken or it will throw your sweeping motion off. You have to use some forward motion in combination with downward force, so that your stick moves toward the puck and sweeps some spin on to it - but not too much spin or your effort will be wasted.

Hit the ice a few inches before the puck - find the right distance

You'd be amazed that even hitting the ice 2-6 inches before the puck will in many cases be better than 1 inch before the puck. Many people hit the ice right near the puck, but this does not give the stick enough time to build up force and get underneath the puck.

The position of your body and skates in relation to the puck

The position of your body in relation to the position of the puck also can affect your shot. Be brave and try hitting the puck too late or too early. You may find that hitting the puck too late will give you a harder shot - this can happen if you've been hitting the puck too early by habit, and you just didn't know it. Hull also explains this well in his detailed video. He explains why experimenting with the distance of your body and stick in relation to the puck is important.

Stick Type

Hull also explains why your body weight can also affect the stick you should choose - and many people have the wrong stick. The flex of your stick and length of your stick need to be matched up to your body weight and your height.

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