The value of having a “good stick” sounds obvious, but many miss the fact that “good stick” doesn’t involve lunging at the opponent to knock the puck free.
By simply presenting your blade in the area of the offensive player’s puck-handling (stick-to-puck) while maintaining your defensive positioning, it’s stunning how often you make them do something they don’t want to do.
You aren’t trying to actively take it. There’s no reaching poke for the puck, and there’s no swing of the stick to knock the puck away, because those are weight-shifting actions that talented players expose and burn defenders with (particularly the swinging at the puck part).
“Good sticks” make it hard on the offense. They may have to pass it through a different lane than they’d prefer, or stickhandle farther behind their body than they’d like, or even chip it in rather than hold on to it and look for something better. It’s the professional hockey version of the annoying little brother’s “I’m not touching you, I’m not touching you” move.
Offensive players often stickhandle the puck into the “good stick,” even if it’s just a tick, which means the puck gets bobbled — and just like that a 50/50 puck is created. That changes the game state from an offensive zone possession to a puck battle, which is an instant-win for any defending team.
When everyone on the team has a good stick, your opponent is not only playing against five bodies, there’s a whole other minefield of well-placed obstacles to sort through.
Coaches should remind and illustrate the importance of a “good stick” at every opportunity. Any time a player handling the puck comes near you, extend your stick as close to the blade of the puck handler as possible and say out loud “good stick, good stick, good stick.” Players will quickly learn just how difficult it is to operate offensively when a defender extends a “good stick” into your workspace and leaves it there.