Youth hockey association in Amherst, NY.

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Amherst Youth Hockey "Tips" have been compiled from information obtained from John Shorey.  Should you find these tips helpful, please check out his website at





A Good Defenseman is worth his/her weight in gold!

Playing defense is a highly responsible position and defensemen must be highly intelligent individuals as their number one job is to prevent goals, not score them. Any defensive error they make could result in a goal against. To help you avoid these errors here are several basic tips to help you prevent goals against your team and play your position correctly.

The very first thing a defenseman must do is to analyze the oncoming rush.

Is it a 1-on-1 situation, or a 2/3 on-1 situation, are the wings covered or open? Depending on how you read the rush, you react differently.

If it's a 1-on-1, (the puck carrier against you) you play the man, don't even look at the puck, just play the man by staying in front of him and preventing him from getting around you or getting to the net for a shot. If you create a loose puck your back checkers or you can go for it.

If it's a 2 or 3 on-1, (2 or 3 opposing players against you) you play the puck, don't even think of bodychecking as you will only take yourself out of the play and allow them to get to the net. Stay in the middle between the players and use your stick to deflect any across-ice passes. Your goalie should always play the puck carrier. Your job is to try to force him/her to a bad shooting angle, outside the slot area, while retaining your position between the opposing players.  

Net coverage- in your defensive zone the opposing player in front of your net must be covered at all times. Control his stick and don't let him get to any rebounds. He is the one most likely to score not the player in the corner with the puck. Your defense partner should go to the corner to check the puck carrier. If he is late arriving play it as a 2-on-1 situation and when he arrives it's played as a 1on1 situation for each of you. Do not go rushing into the corner and leave an opposing player uncovered in front of the net unless there is a loose puck, and you are 100% sure you can get it.

Corner work- if the player is covered in front of the net, 1 defenseman must go into the corner and try to bodycheck the puck carrier (if allowed, be aggressive and finish the check), or stick check (if not allowed to bodycheck) and retrieve or create a loose puck. Your back checkers should pick up any loose puck and then lead an offensive rush.

Communication- between defense partners is critical. Let your partner know what you are doing. " I've got the man out front, you take the man in the corner" This verbal communication will help you play your position correctly and not have 2 defensemen going to the same player, as this will always leave someone uncovered for a potential pass and a goal against.

If you retrieve a loose puck in the corner, try to pass the puck quickly up to an open forward with an accurate outlet pass. This could trap the opposition deep in your end zone and lead to a quality scoring opportunity for your team.

These are but a few tips to help young defensemen play their position correctly and will help them prevent goals against their team if executed properly. Whether you're 5 or 55 these same skills are required to be an effective defenseman.



The Goaltender is The Backbone of Your Hockey Team
Many coaches consider their Goaltender to be the most valuable player on their team. The goalie has the exceedingly difficult job of keeping the puck, sometimes fired at great speed, out of the net, and any mistake the goalie makes usually results in a goal against.
If the goalie stops the first shot, they have done their job. If they must stop the 2nd and 3rd shot on the same play, their teammates are not doing their defensive job of clearing rebounds and covering or moving opponents from in front of their net and the slot area.
Keys to Good Goaltending
Positioning is the key to good goaltending. If you are in the correct position to stop the puck it will hit you ninety-nine times out of one hundred. The goalie must be positioned square or 90 degrees to the puck when it leaves the shooter's stick and moves to a square position to stop any rebounds. Always keep your eye on the puck even when it's at the opposite end of the rink. Nothing is worse for your team than giving up a soft long shot because you weren't watching the puck.
Another key element of goaltending is cutting the angle. The goalie must move out of his net beyond the goal crease to cut the angle to make the net seem smaller to the shooter. The shooter will always tip the goalie off that he is going to shoot by looking down at the puck to make sure it is on his stick in the right shooting position. Move out 1 to 2 feet further towards the shooter when he does this to make the net seem even smaller.
Try to catch every puck shot at you, even on the blocker side, this way you prevent any possible rebound and can get a stoppage in play if required.
Stay up on your feet as long as you can and if you go down try to get your legs spread out towards each post in the butterfly style to prevent low shots from going in. Remember the entire puck must cross the Goal line to count as a goal, not 50% or 75% of the puck.
Young goalies in Novice/Mites and Atom/Squirt will go down early to try to stop the puck. This is not a bad thing to do as most players in this age group cannot shoot/lift the puck up into the top corners of the net yet, but as players get older and stronger in Peewee and Bantam, they will shoot high to the top corners and the goaltender will have to stay in a standing position longer.
Controlling rebounds will be another challenge for the goalie. If s/he can stop the first shot and the puck rebounds forward or off to the side, the goalie must be quick to fall on it, or direct or shoot it into the corner to prevent the opposition from getting a second shot at it. Your defensemen and forwards should also clear any rebounds away from the net.
Always talk to your defensemen to let them know if a player is open in front of your net, or if you are screened. Also, let them know if a forechecker is after them in the corner or if they have time to make a good play.  If you help them, they will help you.
Playing breakaways! - Sooner or later, you are going to have to play a breakaway ~ 1 forward in alone against the goalie.
Move out to challenge the shooter then slowly retreat to the top of the crease. Stay in a standing position if you can and try to get the shooter to make the first move to either shoot or deke. If you make the first move and go down early the shooter will either shoot high or go around you, but if you hold your position, always square to the shooter even when they try to deke you, the shooter will run out of room and either shoot at you or miss the net 9 out of 10 times.
Hopefully, these basic tips will help young goaltenders and their parents get some idea of the demanding skills required to keep the puck out of your net and help you become a solid puck stopper.

Tips for young Forwards

A Forwards primary role is to score goals when their team has possession or controls the puck. This is called "Offensive Hockey". Young Forwards know this and love to score goals

Their Secondary role is to prevent goals when the opposition has possession or control of the puck. This is called "Defensive Hockey". Young Forwards don't know this, and it must be explained and then taught to them at an early age.

If coaches or parents can explain what to do when the opposition has the puck and teach them how and when to forecheck and backcheck correctly, by forcing them to the boards, you are on your way to a highly successful hockey season. 

The faster a player goes from offensive to defensive hockey and vice versa (their Transition Time) the more successful your team will be at scoring and preventing goals.

Offensive hockey consists of moving the puck under control from your defensive zone through the neutral zone and into the offensive zone by setting up a series of 2 on 1 situation. Once inside the offensive zone, try to create a high percentage scoring opportunity then shoot the puck at the net.

Remember, Offensive hockey begins the moment anyone on your team gets possession of the puck and you should move it up the ice in one of the following manners. 

  1. Pass the puck to an open teammate who is ahead of you and in the clear to receive a pass. Passing is much quicker than carrying the puck.
  2. Stickhandle or carry the puck yourself toward the offensive zone if no teammate is open for a pass or if you are leading the rush.
  3. If meeting a lot of opposition in the neutral zone, just get over the red line and shoot the puck into the corner or at the net, then quickly skate in to retrieve it or take it away from the opposition.
  4. When in possession of the puck in any zone, try to create as many 2-on-1 situations to get around the opponent and to develop a high percentage scoring opportunity.

      Scoring goals is accomplished by one of the following methods: 

  1. Shooting the puck yourself, the entire puck must be over the goal line to score
  2. Passing to a teammate in a better scoring position and he scores
  3. Tipping or deflecting a teammate's shot into the net by changing the puck's flight
  4. Getting to a rebound and shooting to score
  5. Screening their goalie so he cannot see the puck and a team mate scores

It shouldn't matter who scores; this is a team game, and everybody is part of the team. Be a team player and try to help your team score, but don't try to do it all by yourself or you could get labeled "a puck hog" or "a pond hockey player." There is no I in team.

Defensive Hockey consists of preventing goals by either Forechecking in the Offensive Zone or Backchecking in the Neutral and Defensive Zones. Defensive hockey begins the moment the opposition gain control of the puck.

Forwards must learn why, when where, and how to forecheck and backcheck at an early age to be a successful two-way player.



In the offensive zone, the first or closest player to their puck carrier must go after him and separate him from the puck by either stick checking or body checking if allowed to create a loose puck for your teammates.

The second closest forward picks up the loose puck and goes to the net for a shot or looks to pass to the third forward in the high slot or open defensemen on the point for a shot. This is commonly referred to as the 2-1 forecheck system.

The better forwards win the foot races and all the battles along the boards and in the corners for the loose puck. They don't wait for things to happen; they make things happen. You must be assertive/aggressive and want the puck, don't sit back.



If the forechecking was unsuccessful and their puck carrier beats the forecheckers and is leading a rush, the forwards must quickly peel off and backcheck through the neutral zone and into their defensive zone by covering the Two wingers all the way back to their goal line and prevent them from receiving a pass or going to the net for a shot or rebound. Try to force the puck carrier and receivers to the outside of the rink and a bad shooting angle.

The 3 forwards do not just chase the puck carrier, they have specific defensive jobs to do.

The defensemen should play their puck carrier preferably outside your blue line.

If forechecking and backchecking are coordinated and executed properly very few scoring, chances are generated by the opposition and your goals against are exceptionally low.

Composition of the lines- lines are composed of three forwards each with different/varying offensive skills. The center is usually the brains of the operation excelling in playmaking or Passing skills. He can find an open winger and put the puck right on his stick blade.

One winger is usually a talented goal scorer with soft hands around the puck or has a powerful accurate shot. The other winger must be an excellent checker digging the puck out of the corners and finding the open man with a crisp pass. He is not afraid to be first into the corner or to take a hit to make the play. He is the pit bull on the line. 

To be a successful line, all 3 forwards must work together cohesively both offensively and defensively to be a plus, rather than a minus line, at the end of the game.

 Lanes - There are 3 lanes, Left, Centre, and Right. Forwards can skate up and down the ice in their lanes or crisscross to get into the clear to receive a pass or to get away from a checker. Communication between line mates is essential to know where each one is going and what the other 2 must do to cover each other's lane offensively and defensively.

Hopefully, these basic tips will help young forwards, coaches, and parents understand some of the strategies used by players and coaches to have a successful team this season.



Tips for first-time Players and their Parents

Hockey is a fantastic sport but to play it safely and enjoy the experience you should have good equipment that fits properly to protect your body yet still allows you a proper range of motion to perform the required physical skill.

SKATES- skating is the most important yet the most difficult skill to master in hockey. If possible, try to buy a new pair of good quality skates. It will make an entire world of difference in your child's hockey development and skating performance. If unable to, try to purchase the best quality used skates you can find that fit properly and still have stiff ankle support and good blade life.

Skates must fit snugly but not cramp your toes and have good upright ankle support, one pair of thin 100% cotton socks is all you should wear, not 2 or 3 pairs.

Skates are usually one size smaller than street/running shoes to provide a glove-like fit.

LACING- the crisscross or "X" method is considered the most comfortable the bottom 3 eyelets should be semi- tight to allow blood to circulate to the toes the middle 3 eyelets should be semi- tight to allow an up and down movement of the top part of the foot when starting and stopping. The top 3 eyelets should be tight to keep the ankle in an upright position and prevent the child from bending inside or outside over his/her ankles. There are no weak ankles!

-Do not wrap the laces around the ankle to tie them as this hinders the forward flex of the foot and ankle and will impair your child's skating speed and turns. Just tie them in a bow knot at the front of the skate like you tie shoes. If the laces are too long get shorter ones.

BLADES- the skate blades must be sharp, but not razor sharp, in order for you to stop, start and turn without falling.

-if they are dull, your child will slip and slide all over the ice and have a tough time standing up.

-if they are too sharp, they will dig into the ice, prevent smooth stops, and create a stutter when stopping and cause him/her to fall.

If you get a deep nick or burr on the bottom edge of your blade you will fall. It should be sharpened as soon as possible by an experienced skate sharpening professional.

-a good skate sharpening can mean all the difference between a great game or a poor performance.

 SHARPENING- you should not need your skates sharpened every game, but 4 to 6 times a season is average unless you are playing in a "AAA" league that practices and plays 4 to 6 times a week, or you get a nick or burr on the blade's edge.

-a good skate sharpener will cut a hollow ground U shape in the bottom of the blade, this provides 2 edges, an inside edge, and an outside edge, both used at different times for stops, starts, turns, 180-degree pivots, crossovers, etc.

-the depth of the cut should be based on your child's height and weight

-a medium sharpening, not razor sharp is all you require. It will keep you in a stable upright position and allow you to just bite into the ice, to push and glide without falling.

STICKS- after skates, your stick is the most important piece of equipment because it is used for scoring and preventing goals.

-the stick must fit properly, just like skates if you are going to develop your shooting, passing, puck handling, and stick handling skills. Two sticks should be taken to practice and games in case one breaks.

LENGTH -the stick's length when in an upright position, and while you are standing in your skates should come up to between your chin (maximum) and your collar bone (minimum). If it is any longer or shorter you will have difficulty shooting or carrying the puck. Experiment with different stick lengths to find the most comfortable.

LIE- is the angle between the stick's shaft and blade. The higher the angle 135% the further the puck is away from your feet. The lower the angle 110% the closer the puck is to your feet.

-it's trial and error to see which lie is best for your child based on the way they skate, either bent over like Wayne Gretzky did or up right like Mario Lemieux does, as no stick manufacturer puts the lie angle on the stick. Once you find the right stick model keep buying it as no 2 models are exactly alike.

-youth size hockey sticks are now available which are lighter, shorter in length, and blade size and have a smaller shaft radius for a better grip by young children.

CURVE- sticks are made for Left or Right handed shots. The lower hand on the stick when shooting determines whether you shoot Left or Right.

-a slight curve of about ¼ inch is ok because a straight stick blade is very hard to find and I don't believe they are made anymore. A big curve on the other hand is out of the question until your child gets to Bantam and even then I don't think it's necessary.

NEW or USED EQUIPMENT- that provides solid protection is essential to prevent injuries.

-used shin pads, pants, shoulder pads, elbow pads, gloves, helmet with visor or cage, jock or jill strap, garter belt, and neck guard are all pieces of equipment that can be purchased second-hand from Sports Shops or at the annual Minor/Youth Hockey sale at the start of the season to help keep the excessive costs of playing hockey down.

However, having said that, the equipment purchased must fit properly so it doesn't move or shift if your child falls, gets hit by the puck, gets body checked, or runs into another player or the boards.

-the proper fitting equipment will cushion the blow or fall providing there is no space between the specific pieces of equipment.

UNDERWEAR- light cotton, or a breathable material, long john type, top and bottom underwear should be worn under your equipment.

HOCKEY BAG- a hockey bag large enough to carry all your equipment is suggested.

-several pockets are on the outside to carry your skates and wet/dry underwear

-keep an extra pair of skate laces, proper length in the bag for an emergency, and a small towel to dry your skate blades after the game or practice to prevent rusting.


 1-light cotton socks

2-light underwear, top, and bottom

3-jock or jill strap

4-garter belt to hold up your hockey socks

5-shin pads

6-hockey socks,

7-hockey pants, use suspenders or a special hockey belt on some models to keep them up

8-skates, tie your skates and use skate blade protectors if dressing at home, now tape your shin pads in place using Velcro strips or clear shin pad tape, below the knee & above the ankle.

9-shoulder pads

10-elbow pads

11-neck guard


13-helmet with full visor or metal cage

14-mouth guard

15-hockey gloves

16-stick, you should take 2 sticks to the bench in case 1 breaks 

Have a great game! 

Hopefully, these basic tips will help the new players and their parents get some idea of the equipment their child will need to have for an enjoyable, safe, and rewarding hockey experience.

Amherst Youth Hockey "Tips" have been compiled from information obtained from John Shorey.  Should you find these tips helpful, please check out his website at