So if you’re here you’re probably looking for some tips to learn to play hockey for adults.
You didn’t play hockey as a kid. You didn’t play hockey in high school. Now you want to lace up the skates and join your friends’ rec league.
Welcome this amazing sport.
It is never too late to learn to play hockey. In adult recreational leagues have a wide range of ages (and skill levels). Most hockey players are happy to help someone new to the game and there are a lot of ways to learn and get into the game as an adult.
Here are 7 tips to help you learn to play hockey as an adult.
1. Get Skates That Fit You Correctly
Not all skates are created equal and getting good skates does not just mean spending a lot of money.
Every skate brand has various models that are each designed for a different foot shape and different feel. It is just as important to choose the right model of skate based on your unique anatomical characteristics as it is to get the right size.
This is an often overlooked part of learning the game.
You don’t have to spend a ton of money and get the most high end skates out there. In fact, the really expensive skates are probably too stiff for someone learning the game and you’ll never be able to break them in. You can find a good pair around the $250 price range.
Don’t get caught up in marketing hype or the features of a specific skate. As long as you pick a quality brand and don’t go with the absolute cheapest model, you’ll get a good quality skate. It is more important to find the brand and model that fit your foot shape than anything else.
Check out our Skate Buying Guide to learn more about the brands to look for and how to get the right skates for you.
There’s nothing wrong with buying the skates online, just make sure you buy from a place that has a great and easy return policy if they don’t fit right. We recommend Hockey Monkey for that reason as well as having competitive prices. If you have a store that is local then go try on a few different models to see how they fit your foot shape.
2. Learn To Skate Like A Hockey Player
A lot of adults that are new to hockey have had some experience on skates.
That could be good or bad.
If you’ve only tried figure skates and skated slowly in a clockwise circle, then skating for a hockey game is going to be a completely new experience for you.
Start With A Good Skating Stance
You can’t skate standing straight up like you see most people doing at open skate sessions.
If you are standing upright, you’ll be unable to skate with any power and you’ll easily get pushed off the puck.
You want to get that center of gravity lower to the ice. Bend your knees and squat a little almost like you are sitting in a chair. You want to squat comfortably and not too far, but see how far you can go on the ice and then rise up a little. That is probably pretty close to your ideal hockey stance. Try to keep your weight around the center of your feet and skates or maybe even a little forward of center.
This accomplishes two things.
First, it will give you better balance on your skates. Everything you do on your skates will be easier if you are balanced well, whether it is skating fast, puck handling, shooting, or fighting in the corner for a puck.
Second, when you push off to stride, you want to be using the full extension of your leg with each stride. If you are standing upright, you’ll be weakly pushing out to the side and when you try to skate fast, you’ll just be making short choppy strides.
When you are in a good squat position, you will have a lot more leverage with each stride. Think of the pistons in an engine. If they only moved a tiny amount up and down, they would need to pump a lot faster to generate the same about of energy.
Your legs are like pistons when you stride. You want to get lower to the ice and have that leg bent with as much stored energy as possible so that when you do stride, it is a long powerful stride.
Work On Rhythm When Skating
Another overlooked aspect of beginner skaters is their skating rhythm.
The timing of your strides and developing a good rhythm in your skating can increase your balance and speed considerably without any additional conditioning.
You can have two hockey players with similar leg strength and stamina but the one with better rhythm in their strides will be able to generate more speed than the other.
These are just a couple of things you can work on to improve your skating. But you’ll be learning to skate better your entire life. Even NHL players are constantly working on their skating techniques.
At this stage, if you decide to take lessons, they should be focused mostly on skating. At the recreational level, there are a lot of players that can shoot and pass well, but few that are powerful skaters. Develop good skating habits from the beginning and you will be able to distinguish yourself on the ice.
3. Get Some Basic Equipment
Until you are ready to play in a live game, start out with skates, shin guards, gloves, a helmet, an athletic cup, and a stick.
That may seem like a lot just to get started, but I wouldn’t step on the ice without at least those pieces of gear.
Once you start playing scrimmages or games, you’ll need to add hockey pants, shoulder pads, and elbow pads.
Hockey gear can get very expensive. So starting with skates while you are learning to skate and then adding the additional pieces of gear as necessary can be a good approach to soften the impact on your wallet.
Remember that the most expensive “pro level” gear is not only unnecessary but can actually hurt your ability to play and learn the game at the beginner level. Those pieces of gear are designed for high level players and pros.
Our Ice Hockey Equipment Guide is always being updated with new reviews and buying guides to help you find the best gear for your game.
4. Take Some Lessons
Some may say this should be higher on the list. But I put it here at number 4 because I think you should be a little comfortable on your skates before taking lessons.
Now, I’m not saying you need to have all the basics perfected before taking lessons, but use some open skating time to simply get comfortable with simple things like getting your skates laced up and comfortable on your feet, the feel of getting into a hockey stance and taking longer strides, and getting balanced on your skates.
If you spend just a little time doing these things before a lesson, then you will get a lot more benefit from the lessons whether you are taking one on one or group lessons.
5. Work On Puck Control At Home
Developing good hands is something that you can work on even when you are not on the ice.
There are a few ways to do this that vary from cheap to quite expensive.
The best place to start is with a weighted ball that is designed to feel like a puck. This is the best one I have found.
Use a stick without tape on it so that the ball can roll freely while it is on the stick. This will give you a more realistic feel.
It also helps to have a smooth flat surface to practice stickhandling on. A garage floor is perfect for this. Avoid indoor floors unless you want to have to replace them soon!
You can also check out our complete list of stickhandling training aids here.
6. Find Open Hockey Sessions For Beginners
Most rinks have open hockey sessions where you can pay a small fee to get on the ice in your gear with other hockey players.
This is a step above open skating because you will be able to use a stick and puck and actually play some hockey instead of just skating in a circle.
Open hockey sessions can vary significantly as far as the skill levels of the players. I would recommend going to watch a session before getting on the ice with them. You will be able to tell pretty quickly if most of the players tend to be beginners or more experienced players.
Some rinks will have “stick and puck” sessions. They are somewhere between an open skate and a full open hockey session. If available, these are great opportunities to get comfortable skating around with a puck on your stick. Just make sure you are aware of the rules pertaining to shooting. Since many of the players will not be in full gear, you don’t want to hurt anyone.
7. Find A League With A Beginner Division
This is your goal right? Getting on the ice and playing in a game.
Most rinks will have an “in house” league. That usually consists of a handful of teams in different divisions by skill level where all the games are held at that rink.
Just like we talked about open hockey sessions varying in skill level, so do leagues. One league’s beginner division can be quite competitive while another league can have a lot of beginners in an intermediate division.
You should spend some time watching games in the league if you can. Also, try to talk to some of the players or management at the rink. Keep in mind that the people that run the rink are in the business of getting more people to sign up, so they may be more encouraging than realistic, so seeing for yourself or talking to other players is always the best way to go.
Keep At It
Hockey players spend their whole life learning new things about the sport and developing new skills.
So don’t give up if it’s hard.
Keep at it and you’ll fall in love with the sport and find yourself a great way to stay fit and be part of a team long into your later years.
Photos by Shane Bailey