I'm right-handed, which way should I shoot ?

Last updated: Thu Oct 30 17:16:18 GMT 1997
Back in the old days, in Canada, the first stick a young player would take to the ice with was not curved at all - enabling them to swap hands anytime during a practice with no problem or delay. This would also, perhaps more importantly, allow coaches to start the season with drills for which all the players could play as left or right shooters as required. This would enable everyone to determine the curve which was natural for each player to use.

As players progressed through the ranks, aiming to reach the NHL, they would obviously settle on which way they preferred to shoot (in reality after a few training sessions). Using a curved stick enables them to have more control when stick handling, and also makes lifting shots easier. A curved stick does make backhands harder to control, but this obviously isn't a big enough handicap for some players. If it weren't for the fact that they can draw a penalty for illegal equipment some players would no doubt use the hockey equivalent of a boomerang.

These days, straight sticks are more or less non-existent in Canada, and more so in the UK, so how does a rookie decide which way to shoot ?

The obvious answer is that they use what seems most natural, and once they've played with the stick for a while they will feel comfortable with it. Whilst this works, this is a fundamental difference between the hockey played in the UK, and elsewhere in the world.

A recent survey on the Internet showed that a significant number of British players, regardless of handedness, shoot right. However. in Canada the majority of players shoot the opposite way to their handedness. This was the major difference in the survey, and the Western USA showing a similar trend to the UK. Interestingly, these figures are also backed up by figures of sticks sold, with the rest of the world selling approximately 90% with a left curve, whereas the UK has figures of 91.2% right curve in 1994 - which has shown a gradual decline to 88.5% in 1997, perhaps this is due to the influx of left shooting Canadians and Euro-Cans in recent years.

So, I ask again, how does a rookie decide which way to shoot ?

In Canada, their national sport is Ice Hockey, so the youngsters will be less influenced by other sports than, for example, in Britain, where Cricket, Golf, Tennis and Field Hockey are the most similar, in that they involve a stick, club, racquet or bat.

These sports all involve, either the need for power from the strongest hand, or a very limited supply of "southpaw" equipment, which would perhaps explain why 98% of goalie sticks in the country are left curve, a stick is relatively cheap when compared with the cost of a catcher and blocker.

Many of the replies to the previously mentioned survey tried to explain how they play the way they do. The over-riding explanation from those who shoot opposite to their handedness is a combination of the following reasons:

Interestingly enough, a couple of Canadians pointed out the disproportional number of left-handed golfers in their homeland.

Also, it can be seen if you study the multi-national NHL rosters, and those of the European teams, that it seems to be that the only British players who are so much more likely to shoot the same way as their handedness.

So, I ask again, how does a rookie decide which way to shoot ?


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© Malcolm Preen, 1997