Why the Pugi Puck?
Puck control is the fundamental aspect of ice hockey that almost always decides who wins and who loses. It’s what allows a team to successfully play its systems, to wear down the opposing team in the offensive zone, and to draw penalties. It’s also what a coach means when he says, “Let’s play our game.” Because of this, many coaches devote large portions of practice and drill sessions to effectively moving the puck within pre-designed systems. This is where the Pugi Puck comes into play.
There are many off ice stickhandling drills, as well as many other off ice hockey training methods, that can increase a player’s ability to move or maintain control of the puck. You’ve probably seen or used some of these yourself, steel stickhandling balls being one example. The Pugi Puck is something less conventional, though so effective as to be used by the University of Minnesota, the University of Wisconsin, and the U.S. Women’s National Team. It’s used at high levels because it gets excellent results.
The Pugi Puck is an oversized rubber cylinder with removable nylon sliders that mimics a real puck. The difference is that its size makes both on and off ice stickhandling drills a lot of work. Weighing in at 2.75 pounds, this 2” high, 6” inch wide behemoth was created in the Czech Republic as teams were training with rubber tires, an obvious connection, as you might initially think that the Pugi Puck actually looks like a small tire. Though also obvious is the Pugi Puck’s connection to a successful off ice hockey training regimen. This is where the Pugi Puck gains its effectiveness: its size forces players to exercise with proper form.
The reason for this is the Pugi Puck’s natural tendency to create levels of inertia which are difficult for players to overcome. Whether practicing on an ice sheet or doing off ice stickhandling drills, the player must employ the use of his legs and abdominal muscles to effectively control the Pugi Puck. He is thus forced into an athletic stance that is necessary for him to move the Pugi Puck as he would a normal sized puck. With the lower body in action, the hands must follow. In order to get the Pugi Puck off the stick—or to handle it when receiving a pass—the player’s hands have to remain in the proper position so that the puck’s size can be controlled. Since the player’s’ hands are properly positioned, it follows that his stick is, as well.
With the player in the proper position, the remaining factor is the placement of the Pugi Puck on his stick—the large size of the hockey training tool requires the player to utilize the blade of his stick in its entirety. Since the player has already assumed a full athletic position, the complete use of his stick blade maximizes his strength in sending, receiving, and handling the Pugi Puck. The full-body symmetry necessary for using the Pugi Puck is what everybody wants when building positive muscle memory, so that they can easily and automatically execute their team’s systems while in the rapid pace of a game.
Of course, the Pugi Puck isn’t hockey’s version of snake oil; it will not cure a player’s or a team’s ailments instantly. In order to be effective, the Pugi Puck must be properly used as one of many tools in a player’s on or off ice hockey training program. With this in mind, the Pugi Puck is certainly worth a try. It’s a unique tool that can help refine a set of skills that is immensely useful for players who are either developing or maintaining their stickhandling abilities. And with its weird size, the Pugi Puck can be a whole lot of fun, to boot.