Fishing In Hockey
In hockey, ‘fishing’ is the act of standing outside of a battle while using your stick to try and pry the puck out. It’s typically encapsulated by poor body positioning when battling to win space and the puck.
Many players fish to avoid physical contact, others because they have an overreliance on their stick abilities. Some use fishing because it often has an easier escape hatch should they actually win the puck.
While all players fish at some point, generally speaking, less is more. Fishing becomes a serious problem when they rely on the act as their go-to tactic.
Notice how Laine (White #29) stops moving his feet and is simply reaching. Hint: if your chest is parallel to the ice surface… you’re probably fishing.
This lack of body positioning on his opponent allows them a clear path to gaining and maintaining puck possession.
Fishing is something that Matthews (Blue #34) has worked hard to remove from his game. Early in his career, fishing was a significant problem.
The close-up doesn’t look great either.
Now Matthews is highly proficient at winning these puck battles due to better personal tactics. So, lets’ dive into those habits.
Better Than Fishing…. Position Before Possession
Rather than fishing, players should use more effective techniques and concepts to win more puck battles. The most effective adage is position before possession.
Rather than simply reaching with a stick lift, players drive through their opponent’s hands to create a seal that gives them exclusive access to the puck.
Let’s watch a great example of Brad Marchand (Black #63) driving through the hands/hips of the puck carrier to establish body position.
The same great tactic from Trevor Moore:
This is an effective tactic all over the ice. On the breakout, we see Patrice Bergeron (Black #37) first establish a seal via body positioning before the puck arrives. Fantastic.
Position before possession, creating seals, and driving through the opponent’s hands/space is how players who are “small” play “big” and how bigger players can best use their size to create an advantage.
When looking at Auston Matthews, he’s been looking great!
Check out this fantastic seal (a.k.a. “Building a wall”). The opponent has no chance to win this puck.