Clip Your Toenails and Other Advice from the Pros

Stephen Smith

Collected advice from hockey professionals, compiled by Stephen Smith.

“Don’t get disgusted with your performance.” —Johnny Bucyk

“Refrain from smoking.”—Toe Blake

“Of course a fellow’s got to know how to skate a bit, and not mind being roughed a bit, you know. The rest comes with practice.” —Ralph Henry Barbour, Guarding His Goal (1917)

“Let’s face it, you’ll never be a good hockey player unless you are a good skater.” —Ken Hodge

“You can’t take any fudge from anybody and be a hockey player in Canada.” —Derek Sanderson

“In Canada, it is customary to eat a good thick steak about 3½ hours before the game.” —Doc Brodrick

“Do not listen to remarks from the spectators. It is a habit, particularly at the general admission end of the rinks, to call all kinds of things at the goalkeeper and he cannot listen to them and keep his mind on the game.”—Percy LeSueur

“I have a theory that a goal-tender ought to have red hair.” —Ralph Henry Barbour, Guarding His Goal (1917)

“The most valuable of the backhand shots is the flip.” —Bobby Hull

“You’ve got to cheat on face-offs because it’s too difficult to win them fair and square.” —Derek Sanderson

“Boys—hockey is a ‘He-Man’s’ game, and my long association with this fastest game in the world has shown me that a really great hockey player is a real man from head to heels.” —Tommy Gorman

“The man with eyes for nothing but the puck will never be a high-class hockey player.” —Mervyn (Red) Dutton

“I never plan how I’m going to shoot when I go in on a goaler. I just get in there as fast as I can and look for a spot.” —Maurice Richard

“A priest once told me something I’ve never forgotten. He said that you can have two of the following three things —hockey, social life and education. You must have an education—so that leaves a choice between a social life or hockey.” —Gordie Howe

“I place emphasis on shoulder pads. Some players seem to think they can get along without them but that’s foolish. The better the shoulder pads the more confidence you’ll have.” —Bill Quackenbush

“Before a game we all pay a visit to the dressing room commode to make ourselves as light as possible.” —Keith Magnuson

“I recommend ping-pong and tennis. These sports develop swiftness and good reflexes. They improve your coordination and they use the same muscles which a goalie needs in hockey.” —Vladislav Tretiak

“No between-meal snacks if you want to keep your stomach happy. As for smoking, I do not indulge at all except for an occasional cigar.” —Maurice Richard

“I go easy on pickles and pastries. A steak dinner is the thing not less than three hours before playing a game.” —Black Jack Stewart

“Frankly, I haven’t any great dread of the slap shot. A very large percentage of slap shots hit you or miss the net. Usually a slap shot ‘telegraphs’ itself; you know when a player is winding up for one. I have found the best strategy is to go out to meet the shot and take a chance since, at best, it is an inaccurate type of shot.” —Bill Durnan

“To avoid unnecessary pain when the puck hits the end of your boot, keep your big toenails short. Do the same for your fingernails.” —Jacques Plante

“Don’t fight the puck.” —Bill Durnan

“When I was a defenceman I always tried to make an opponent stick

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Stephen Smith

Stephen Smith has written for the Globe and Mail, Toronto Life, Canadian Geographic, Outside, Quill & Quire, West End Phoenix and the New York Times Magazine. He lives in Toronto and at puckstruck.com.


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