When to start?
Playing for the NHL is a dream for many young hockey players. But you may believe you need years of experience before playing hockey professionally. If you or your child wants to play in the NHL, you should consider when the average NHL player got started.
The average age NHL players start playing hockey is six or seven years old. Children start skating even younger, with the average starting age being about three or four years old. However, hockey players can start later and still have a successful career playing for the NHL.
While hockey isn’t as common as some sports, making the NHL is a huge accomplishment. And even if you or your child isn’t a prodigy, the NHL isn’t out of the question. Keep reading to learn more about the right age to start playing hockey to make the NHL.
When it comes to something like professional sports, the more experience you have, the better. And since sports teams recruit young adults, you need some experience during childhood. If you or your child is younger, that’s fantastic.
Get into the ice skating rink as soon as possible. Some people will start their kids in hockey as early as five years old, and many teams won’t let anyone younger play.
But if you have a three- or four-year-old with interest in hockey, you don’t have to wait. You can take your child to the skating rink to learn how to ice skate. The more ice skating a hockey player does, the more comfortable they’ll control their moves during a game.
On the other hand, if you’re in middle school or high school, it’s not too late to start playing hockey. If you’re willing to work on your skills, you can play hockey long-term. It may not be expected, but it is possible to make the NHL without playing hockey your entire life.
Players such as Yvon Lambert and Rod Langway started as teenagers. However, if you want to go professional as a hockey player, you will need to put in a lot of time and effort.
Unless the sport comes naturally to you, you won’t easily cruise into the NHL. You also will need to make a point not to compare yourself to your peers. Comparing yourself to someone with double the experience isn’t healthy, and it can make it even harder for you to go pro.
As soon as you decide you want to play hockey in the NHL, you need to learn how to ice skate. Our article What Age Do NHL Players Start Skating talks more about this.
If you don’t have this down, it will be harder to focus on the game. Whether you or your child is a toddler or a teen, you should start with a skating class or private lessons.
You can start learning in figure skates, which are lighter and easier to move in than hockey skates. Once you get used to the ice, you can switch to using hockey skates.
No matter what skates you use, you should make sure you have the right fit. Then, you can practice for as long as you need to on the ice. Keep these things in mind when learning how to skate without the pressure of playing hockey.
When you first learn to ice skate, you should focus on your balance. You can work with an ice skating teacher or a hockey coach. A coach can tell you what sorts of hockey positions you’ll be in when playing hockey. That way, you can get to know how those movements feel on the ice.
You should practice skating with and without hockey gear on. Starting with regular clothes can help you balance quicker, but hockey equipment’s added weight can drag you down.
Now, even players with years of experience will still fall sometimes. If you do fall, get up and keep skating. Keep working on your balance so that you will be confident when you play hockey.
As you work on balance, you will need to build your endurance. A hockey game consists of 3 20-minute blocks of play with breaks between each. However, the game can last longer, and you will need to be able to handle that.
Also, hockey practice can be much longer, especially for a competitive or professional team. If you can’t manage to stay on the ice that long, you’ll have a tough time making it to the NHL.
You should know how to manage incoming players and how to track the puck on the ice. Working on your endurance before playing hockey can help ease the transition. Once you have your first game, you will be better equipped to get through it.
Once you have a bit of experience on the ice, find a hockey team to join. Your first team doesn’t need to be anything special, but you should have regular practices and games. You can look for a hockey team in your local area or through your school.
If that doesn’t work, you can look for local hockey coaches and see if they have openings. You can also find other hockey players who need a team. As long as you can get a good coach, you can form a decent team.
Eventually, you may move on from your first team. If you start younger, you may age out. And if you start later on, you may realize that you quickly outpace the skills of your current team. However, don’t be afraid to start playing hockey as soon as you can.
Once you join a team, make sure to attend every team practice that you can. Get there early to stretch and warm-up. Participate and ask questions when you have an issue. Stay late to continue practicing your skills.
If you want to make the NHL, you can’t rely on team practice time to do it. Some teams may practice every day, but others only practice a few times a week. You should get on the ice as often as possible to build your skills.
You can work on your skating skills outside of practice or train your stick handling skills with a puck at home using our interactive game Stickhandling PRO. You could also find a teammate who wants extra experience, and then, you can play against each other.
Of course, the next step to making the NHL is to start playing hockey games. You could attend all of the team practices available, but none will be the same as a match. During a game, you’ll play against a rival team that may be better or worse than your team.
In either case, a game is a great way to put your skills into action. You will have a score and a time limit, so that adds a bit of pressure. The more hockey games you play, the more experience you will get playing in that way.
Even if you start hockey late, you can still get enough experience to make the NHL. You may need to play more games per year than someone who started earlier, but you need to play hockey games.
Lastly, you should look to join a competitive team as soon as you can. While you can start with a recreational team, a competitive group will play more and will probably have longer practices. You can join a team with more advanced players, so you can learn from them.
You can then use that experience to boost your chances of making the NHL, even if you start competitive hockey in high school.
The average NHL player started hockey at less than 10 years old. But even if you’re already in middle school, you can still make the league. You just need to put in the work to reach your full potential.
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