Modern history. Is that an oxymoron? History is the past but modern suggests currency. It’s kinda like that with the stick lift. It’s got this historical reference but it’s making a comeback. Especially with the big boys, the most elite players.
An extreme example of a stick lift by Bertuzzi at Detroit's Dev Camp.
If you ever watch video of games back in the day you couldn’t help but notice players stick skills and how they differentiate compared to today’s game. For most of us, the first “takeaway” skill learned on the ice was the two-hand stick lift. You know the one where you bear down and move your wood or carbon underneath your opponents stick and lift it allowing you to sweep the puck away changing possession.
Datsyuk uses a sneaky stick lift at the blue line to setup Sheahan with a breakaway.
In reality, there are all kinds of stick lifts. And they are all so sick. You’ve got the two hand FH (forehand), two hand BH (backhand), add in the reaches, one handers, blade lifts, taps to lifts (think a la Datsyuk) and man, you’ve got a lot to practice! The crazy thing is the development game doesn’t work on it. It’s got this kinda historical unimportance. It’s kinda out of style. Until now.
When learning how to stick check, today’s youth are unequivocally being taught “stick on puck” as their primary takeaway skill. And rightly so. Over 80% of all takeaways in NHL game play are a direct result of great “stick on puck” takeaway skill. This is a normal evolution as the game has moved into warp speed and coaches at all levels are working with their athletes to check with their feet parallel to their opponents while taking great angles reducing time and space. This type of checking sets up great “stick on puck” possibilities. Another key factor in today’s modern game is the way the game is officiated. Any type of takeaway that gets into an opposing players hands is going to cost you a couple minutes in the sin bin. We’ve seen a bunch of calls that would be even considered soft in this year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs, the league has been clear, any stick in the air even brushing the hands results in an arm up by the referee.
So, where does the “stick lift” fit in? We are a big believer in repping maximum skills. Meaning ones that happen the most in given situations and by positions. But having the opportunity to work with a ton of the world’s best players has taught us to understand that these elite players are also elite at some of the less important skills, let’s call them renaissance skills because the big boys are bringing them back and it shows in the playoffs. The reason? The game is tighter and battles become more prevalent than the regular season. In small radiuses and in tighter reduced spaces the stick lift can be valuable weapon.
Giroux undresses the lighting with a perfect offensive stick lift.
The other cool thing about the stick lift is that it can be used in all sorts of offensive situations too. Think of a rebound off a goalie’s pad and the puck is just lying at the top of the crease, the D hasn’t tracked it and the puck is under his triangle. A quick BH or FH two hand stick lift to wrist shot roof should do the trick. Red light baby! You often see guys coming in off the rush and lifting and opponent’s stick so his stick is no longer in the passing lane, you see this type of stuff on the PP too or even when an offensive player is being fronted net front on a point shot. A quick lift might open up those passing lanes or let a shot get through. All the best guys do it. It’s a skill that dictates.
So, next time you’re out on the pond working on your game lift a couple sticks both on the defensive and offensive side of the puck. Try some 2 hand reaches, a two-hand tap to 1 hand BH or maybe even just your typical two hand FH pitchfork. You’re going to need all of them, especially when the game gets tight and your coach taps you on the shoulder to win that big DZ faceoff to hold the lead. You just might use it there too!