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How to Pivot on Defense and Offense

Skill Drills

Two minutes left in sudden death overtime. Game six of a best of seven, your team is up three games to two. You are on defense, and have caught up to an opposing forward with the puck who is streaking towards your goal.

Using your pivoting hockey skills effectively could mean the difference between spoiling a scoring opportunity or losing the game and having to travel to your opponent’s arena for game seven. Your team is battling to catch up but you are the only player between the puck and your goalie.

Gripping your stick tighter, you:

  1. Bend your legs
  2. Execute a Mohawk turn (step, glide step) so you don't trip over your own skates, gliding in front of the forward into a backwards skate.
  3. Keep your head and body low, so you maintain good control over your skating. No head bobbing.

The forward, impressed by your pivot dekes to try to get around you, however you steal the puck and pass it to an onside team mate. If, however, the forward had eluded your pivot to backwards, you can quickly pivot back to a forward skate and get back to your pursuit of the puck.

In this scenario, following the three fundamental pivot steps can keep a player on his or her skates, maintain momentum, speed and direction. There are four types of pivoting hockey skills both defensive and offensive players should be aware of:

  1. Forward to backward, going the same direction.
  2. Backward to forward, going the same direction.
  3. Forward to backward, changing direction.
  4. Backward to forward, changing direction.

Often in a game, the type of pivot you have to do depends on who has the puck, the position you play and where you are relative to the goal. Learning how to do a good Mohawk turn is an important skill for players to learn to do a controlled pivot and not end up doing snow angels on the ice surface as your opponent scores the winning goal. Surprisingly, the Mohawk turn is a move which is seldom taught by coaches but be sure to watch the video linked above to learn how to flawlessly execute it. If you watch Sidney Crosby play in the NHL, you will likely see him put on a clinic as a forward who pivots around the net and makes opposing defenders, and their goaltender teammates get dizzy.

Practicing the pivot is a skill which takes commitment, execution of the fundamentals, and time. You can’t just learn how to pivot to one direction every time, otherwise you will get blown past every time as you are recovering from an opposing direction pivot. If you have the opportunity, practice pivoting both ways around pylons, or hone your pivoting hockey skills with drills offense and defensemen taking turns trying to get the best of each other.

Same scenario as the first – this time you are the forward streaking towards your opponent’s goal. The defenseman has picked your pocket and stole the puck, and starts to flip it back to his line mate. You, executing a flawless forward to backward, changing direction pivot. You intercept the puck, head towards the net and score the winning goal. Game seven at home, yeah!

Ottawa Senators Coach Bryan Murray said of Crosby’s moves:

When he puts that hip out and starts to pivot, he's very hard to take off the puck. And you can't put the stick on him anymore in the way people have done in the past.