What is Underhandling?

Often, players glamorize the visually-impressive act of dangling in a phonebooth, through sticks and skates en route to scoring a highlight reel goal. But sometimes, this volume of stickhandling is unnecessary and even counterproductive.

Enter the concept of ‘underhanding’. Underhandling and puck positioning are similar topics. Puck positioning is how a player holds the puck when in possession. Underhandling is a tactic within puck positioning that avoids dribbling the puck.

What is overhandling?

Overhandling means excessive, superfluous stickhandling movement.

Players will often over-dribble the puck and get caught in awkward spots where they are prone to turnovers or unable to make a play.

What is Underhandling?

When underhandling, players avoid dribbling/stickhandling and loading the puck into a spot in which the puck can be passed or carried immediately, in what coaches like to refer to as the ‘hip-pocket’ (think dual-threat pass/shot position).

For example, players would simply push the puck around the ice rather than dribbling/stickhandling the puck around the ice.

The goal is to minimize time handling the puck so the puck can be passed or shot quicker. This allows players and teams to play fast. The soft catch is a great example.

When to Underhandle?

It’s important to be able to underhandle the puck because the game moves fast. Fractions of a second matter to make a play. Underhandling is a situational tactic for when players need to be efficient and quick in their puck play.

Players either catch directly into a puck position off their reception, or move their feet to put their hands, body, and puck in a better position to make the next play.

Surrounding the Puck

Underhandling requires players to catch the puck into an optimal spot. It also often requires players to skate around to get their hips ‘around the puck’.

Notice how players keep the puck on their forehand, catch into a ready spot and/or skate around the puck, and are able to make a quick play.

1. Defensive zone puck retrievals

Top puck handling trainers understand how important Underhandling is.Underhandling will improve your puck handling.

2. Offensive zone catch-and-release.

If you’re going to catch it on your backhand, then stickhandle it over to the forehand, you’re going to get a lot of those shots blocked. But, if you can get your body around it, and get it right on your forehand and get it prepped to shoot as soon as you receive it, you have a better chance to get a quality scoring chance or create another half second to find a teammate.

watch why Hockey player build underhandling technique.

Practice hockey stickhandling drills to improve underhandling.

3. Regroups / Transitions & More

The same applies during regroup and transition situations where plays are in tight spots and finding the lanes at the right moment is of the essence.

Underhandling is an excellent situational individual tactic. So next time you’re at practice, focus on keeping the puck in a ready-to-move spot instead of over-stickhandling to eventually get the puck there.

Author, Greg Revak coaches with the University of Akron and University School (Ohio). He is a writer for Hockeyarsenal.com and contributor to Deke University.

When not at the rink, Greg can be found breaking down videos and writing about player development on twitter @CoachRevak. Use Greg's Code: HOCKEYIQ for $25 off your purchase of a SuperDeker!

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