One of the physical skills that makes hockey more unique than the rest of the majors out there is the need to have excellent balance on skates. Whether it’s carrying the puck in to the zone, working along the boards, or even skating back to get in to position to score, your effectiveness in the game depends largely on how well balanced you are on your skates (you can’t be all that effective if you’re flopping around on the blue line).
A great exercise to help improve your balance can actually be done outside of the rink. Start off by standing on one foot with your eyes closed for as long as you can. Switch legs and try the other side. Comfortable? Great – now repeat and this time try and do single-leg squats, flexing your knee to 90 degrees. Hold the position for 30-seconds and then switch sides. Once comfortable, extend to 60 seconds.
When you’re good at holding these single leg squats with your eyes closed, try hopping from leg to leg – 30 seconds on one leg, 30 on the other. Go back and forth as long as you can hold the positions without shaking or losing your balance. As you get better, extend the hold time. The longer you practice, the better you’ll find your balance on skates.
Believe it or not, coaches who incorporate this exercise in to their team’s workout regimen actually have their players wear their equipment when doing the reps on dry land so that they’re more comfortable and better balanced when wearing their gear. I would recommend trying this out, but I’m not sure how your neighbors would react should they happen to see you in a window hopping around with your eyes closed on one leg while wearing hockey equipment ;-)