The wrist shot consists of two major motions:
- Sweeping the puck forward while transferring your body weight.
- Pushing and pulling the stick hard and fast and snapping your wrists towards the end of the push-pull.
You need to be able to do all the different motions well, on their own. Then you need to put everything together and time everything properly. Timing is crucial. I suggest breaking down the wrist shot into small motions and making sure you can do each separate motion before you try the entire wrist shot.
Going on to more specifics...
You want to grip the stick properly to make your wrist shot as easy and efficient as possible. The top hand should be in either one of two grips.
- Hold the end so that knob is inside the palm of the hand with the thumb wrapped around the stick and next two fingers gripping the end and with the pinky closed into the palm and resting on top of the butt end. With this grip, the two fingers after my thumb are behind the butt end and the fourth finger is resting on the side of the butt end.
- If you have a weak forearm/grip, hold the end with the thumb wrapped around the stick and the next three fingers
As for the bottom hand, place it on the stick so that you arms are about shoulder width apart.
New note: Dip the leading shoulder before skating into the shot. (from Jarick)
You start with your weight on your back foot, slide the front foot forward, and twist your torso. This provides a lot of the power behind your shot.
You want to time your motions so that you smoothly transition from transferring your weight forward to twisting your torso. Think of your body as a spring.
To exaggerate the weight transfer, you can step forward with your foot, actually lifting your foot off the ice.
I usually don't have too much trouble with the weight transfer action, because it's a natural instinct from playing other sports.
Cupping the puck and sweeping motion
The proper starting position is to cup the puck with your blade closed near your back foot. Then sweep the puck forward, keeping the puck on the heel of your blade. The sweeping motion should be straight and smooth. As you sweep the puck forward, put down with your bottom hand to put some pressure on the blade so it flexes, but not too much. You just want to use enough force to flex the stick, while the majority of your weight transfer focuses on moving the puck forward.
Make sure the puck isn't too far away from your body. I find it easier to shoot wrist shots with a short stick because the puck starts closer to my body. However, you don't want the puck so close that torso gets in the way of your elbows.
I have a lot of trouble with my wrist shots because I always open the blade of my stick too early. The blade starts closed, then when the puck gets near your front foot, you quickly open up the blade, and snap your wrists to close the blade. If you do this right, the puck should stay at the heel of your blade throughout the entire sweeping motion. You don't open up the blade until near the very end.
All the work of putting your weight behind the puck and sweeping the puck through does no good if the puck falls off your blade. This happens to a lot of beginners. They can't lift the puck, their shot is weak, and the reason is that the puck is falling off the blade because either 1) they're opening up the blade too soon and/or 2) the puck isn't staying on the heel of the blade during the sweep.
Kevin Muller mentions the importance of keeping the puck on your heel in this instructional video.
You can do the following exercise on or off the ice. Without the puck, practice transferring your body weight and sweeping the puck. Work on this motion until it becomes natural. A good way to remind yourself about weight transfer is to start with all your weight balanced on your back foot and your front foot in the air, then step forward with your front foot. Obviously you wouldn't do this in a game, but it reinforces the idea behind the weight transfer.
When the puck gets near your front foot, open up the blade and then push-pull the stick. You push with your bottom hand and pull with your top hand. You want to do this as fast and hard as possible. Again, do this as fast and hard as possible. The proper technique is wonderfully explained in this Total Female Hockey video.
The speed of the push-pull determines the timing of when you start the motion, i.e. where the puck is in relation to your feet when you start the push-pull. Also, you should be twisting your torso while you do the push-pull.
As Coach Kim explains in the above Total Female Hockey video, you can practice the push-pull motion off the ice without a puck.
Wrist snap and follow-through
As you push-pull the stick, when the puck gets to the end of your blade, you want to snap your wrists really fast and hard so that the blade opens, then flips over and closes. Point the stick blade towards the target and follow-through. The stick should point straight out in front of your body if you follow-through properly.
If you get the push-pull, open-close motion of the blade, wrist snap, and follow-through sequence right, the puck should spin off your blade and not wobble in the flight.
When you are on the ice with pucks, you can practice the push-pull and snap motion separately from the weight transfer/sweeping motion. Put the puck near the front foot and just do the push-pull and snap without any weight transfer or snapping motion. Kevin Muller explains this exercise in the same video from previous section. If you do this exercise, you'll realize how much velocity you get from just the push-pull and wrist snap alone.
- Make sure you are holding the stick properly. Hands shoulder width apart with the top hand holding the stick with the pinky off the end. Start with the puck close to your body.
- Weight transfer from back foot to front foot. Slide the front foot forward
- Sweep the puck forward in a smooth straight line, while pushing down with the bottom hand to flex the stick.
- Make sure the blade stays closed during the sweep.
- As the puck gets near your front foot, twist the torso and push-pull the stick really hard and fast.
- As the puck leaves the end of the blade, snap your wrists hard and follow-through.
- Concentrate on power, spin, accuracy, and quick release.
If you practice off-ice, make sure you wear your gloves while you're shooting. You need to get used to how the stick feels with your gloves on.
Practice shooting facing perpendicular to the target and also facing the target. The position where you face the goalie is called the triple threat position because you can either pass, shoot, or make a move. When you get good at stationary wrist shots, start practicing wrist shots while skating forward.
If you master the wrist shot, try learning the hybrid wrist shot/snap shot. This is what the pros use because it has a quicker release. NHL player Mike Cammileri demonstrates the more modern version of the wrist shot in this video. To see a more in-depth instruction video, check out HowToHockey's explanation of the traditional and modern wrist shot. The modern wrist shot focuses on quick release and relies mainly on the forearms and flex of the stick for power. There is very little weight transfer and the puck starts pretty close to the front foot, compared to the traditional wrist shot.
Many thanks to Wild About Hockey and its great article on improving wrist shots. I incorporated some of the tips from that article into my post here.