A goaltender can read the direction of a slap shot or wrist shot easily because the puck will follow the positioning of the shooter. The ‘tender must stay square to the shot, cover as much of the net as possible (cutting down the angle), and direct the rebound to a safe area.
However, the path of the puck off the back side of the shooter’s stick is wildly unpredictable. The curve of the blade can send the puck in any direction – and when handled properly, the stick can be used to aim the puck into what a netminder would otherwise have considered a protected area.
Like any other wildcard maneuver in sports, the backhand is not easy to master. But it is a simple science, and with a lot of practice, the accuracy of the shot, and the lethality it brings to the scoreboard, improve dramatically. And increasing goal output in hockey is essential for any forward or defenseman.
The backhand also provides for some of those real highlight goals in the “fastest game on ice.”
This is how a shooter should execute the perfect backhand:
- Start with the puck at the heel of the stick.
- Upon thrusting the stick forward, turn the blade of the stick towards the net, perpendicular to the ice.
- While doing so, the player’s weight must transfer from the back foot to the front.
Three easy steps – indeed, that’s all there is to it. Still, it’s not as simple as it seems: the lethality of this shot comes not just form the unpredicability of the puck as it slides off the reverse curve of the blade, but also from the fact that so many players have not mastered it.
It’s a wild, and often unexpected shot.
Drills for Taking a Backhand Shot
Two simple backhand drills can help master the backhand:
Line up a series of pucks in a line, no more than a few feet or so away from the crease. Backhand shots do not have much power, and are at their most dangerous when close to the net. Practice the three step method with each puck, and try to hit one particular part of the net. Collect the pucks when done, and repeat.
Leave a number of pucks at center ice, or in the corner along the dasher boards. Take them in on net, one at a time, as if on a breakaway. At speed, again try to hit one particular part of the net. Collect the pucks when done, and repeat.
The backhand shot is not one that should intimidate the shooter. It is meant to intimidate the goalie. Players that practice the shot enough find themselves scoring more goals, and more highlight goals – the kind of goals that cause teammates to afterward laugh, “There is no way you really meant to do that.”
With enough practice, teammates will stop with those remarks, because the success of the shot will happen again, and again.