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Fun at Practice

August 9, 2011 General No Comments

Fun at practice
By Fred Pletsch
Oct 29, 2001, 20:58


Sometimes a coach has to loosen the reins and inject a little pure, unadulterated fun into the team’s workout. Knowing when to do it comes through experience and familiarity with your team. Sometimes it’s when you least think you should—like when the team is struggling. Other times it will be clear; the team is rolling, playing well and deserves a break. But whenever the time is right, let the team relax a bit with a practice that is both fun and a good workout.

Here is a fun fivesome of drills that involve competition between individuals or groups of players. It’s up to the coach to decide on a reward system for players who are the most successful. The rewards don’t have to be big, but everyone likes to have an eye on the prize.


Divide your squad into teams of four or five players each, and have one game going at each end of the ice. The team that’s “at bat” has two players in each corner behind the goal line. Batter #1 puts the puck in play with a dump anywhere between the goal line and center red line. (Ground rules call for an automatic “out” if the puck crosses center ice!). After putting the puck in play, Batter #1 skates up the ice between the boards and the outside of the faceoff circle, then cuts across the ice—staying outside of the faceoff dots in the neutral zone (like running bases)—and races back to the goal line in the opposite corner from where he or she started (once again staying in the “base path” between the boards and the circle).

Meanwhile, the players on the defensive side are spread out, like fielders on a diamond. Their task is to retrieve the puck, make two passes and score on the goalie before the batter reaches “home.” If the batter reaches the corner before a goal is scored, the team gets a run. If the defenders score first, it’s an out.

Three-on-Three Puck

This is a great conditioning drill that starts with three players from each team lined up at center ice, like forwards on a regular faceoff. Three pucks are placed between the centers, and play begins—one puck at a time—when the coach blows the whistle. The game is played full-ice, and the same players stay on until all three pucks are scored. To encourage intensity throughout the drill, make the first puck worth one point, the second worth two points and the third, three points.

Pass-the-Stick Relay

The team is divided into two groups, lined up in a straight line on opposite sides of the center faceoff circle. Player #1 from each team starts on the red line and, carrying his team’s stick, skates one lap at full speed (with both players skating in the same direction, toward opposite nets). After circling the nets, the stick “baton” is passed to the next teammate, much as in a traditional relay race. The receiving player may be in motion, but the hand-off must take place between the bluelines. Goalies race, too! The winner is the team that completes its rotation—which should take six to eight minutes with a full squad—first.

Skate Hard and Shoot

Divide the team into two groups, placed at opposite sides of the ice outside the far blueline. Players on oppsite squads are paired up and, at the coach’s whistle, one twosome skates hard to the far boards and back. When they cross the blueline upon their return, each player gets a puck, turns back and, from the blueline, fires a long shot at the empty net. (If the drill is done right, the shot should travel three-quarters of the length of the ice). A player is retired from his group, and moves out of play, if he scores. If the player doesn’t score, he goes back into the rotation. The first team to have all of its players score wins.

Half-Ice, Two-Pass

Divide your skaters into four teams and play separate four-on-four games inside the bluelines at both ends of the ice. The team with possession must make two passes before they can score. When possession changes, a fresh two-pass minimum is required before a scoring chance can be tried. The goaltender’s job, other than to stop the puck, is to call out the passes. The first team with five goals wins.

Fair teams a must

Knowing the skill level of the players on his team, a coach should try to subdivide his team into roughly comparable groups, talent-wise. At the youth level, where one player can often dominate all others, you might want to make that player’s side play three-on-four in the Half-Ice, Two-Pass drill.

Keep the same teams matched up against each other in all the competitive drills, and have a parent, assistant of injured player tally up the scores.

The reward for winning, as mentioned, can be as simple as a free hot chocolate. Or, conversely, maybe the losing side has to perform some less-than-desirable task, like cleaning up the locker room after practice.

Whatever you decide on, have fun! It should help your team in the long run.


Fred Pletsch is a veteran OHL and AHL broadcaster who currently covers the Cornwall Aces for CJFS radio.

This first appeared in the 06/1995 issue of Hockey Player Magazine®
© Copyright 1991-2001 Hockey Player® and Hockey Player Magazine®

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