The Forgotten Art of Hockey’s Most Important Skill: Passing

Passing Kelvin Cech The Art of Ice Hockey Coach tips and drills

I’ve been involved in youth hockey now for a couple of years and what I’ve found is that the team who passes the puck the best usually wins. Yet, most teams really struggle with it.

At the highest levels, the best players can give and receive passes at top speeds. As the saying goes: “you can’t give a good player a bad pass.”

I would encourage every coach to go watch an NHL team practice. Every pass has a purpose. They are crisp, hard, flat, and on the tape. Every time. And as you watch, most would think those guys are just really talented.

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Yes, but they also have made passing the puck correctly a habit. They pass with a purpose. Which is what we need to do a better job of teaching as youth coaches. Watch the video below and you’ll see how fast and crisp the best in the world can execute the skill of passing. It’s a pleasure to watch.

On top of the fundamentals, passing drills also allow a coach to teach important concepts like puck support, timing, angles, spacing, and communication. All these concepts, which are crucial in developing hockey sense, are essential for every facet of the game offensively. But if a team can’t give or receive passes then those concepts become irrelevant.

I see youth practices all the time where the skills portion focuses on edges, skating, and shooting.  And those are important, but the ability to give and receive passes is often overlooked. If you frequent social media you’ll see even the best skills coaches rarely show videos of passing the puck.

I would encourage all youth coaches to put more of a priority on passing during practice. It’s a skill that separates a lot of teams at the youth levels. It’s a skill that’s a prerequisite at the highest levels.  And it’s what makes the game of hockey go. Work. Function. Whatever you want to call it.

I think you’ll find that when you put the time and effort into developing this important skill, the play of your players and your team will improve immensely.

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Topher Scott played hockey at Cornell University where he was a two-year captain. After a brief stint playing professionally in the minor leagues, he went on to be an assistant coach for six years at Miami (Ohio) and Cornell. Scott currently resides with his wife and daughter in upstate New York, where he works with organizations from the youth to college levels in team building and hockey development