Since hockey is a game is built on speed, it’s essential to keep it in all facets of the game, whether a player is on the attack or getting back to protect the net.
As we ring in the New Year, hockey players who want to continue to progress in their development should resolve to work on a fundamental skill that is often overlooked as players get older: skating.
Hockey has always been the fastest sport on ice, but today’s game is – and will continue to get – faster than ever. So, players wanting to get a competitive edge will need to keep working on their skating.
Sean Goldsworthy is in his first year as the boys’ hockey coach at Minnetonka High School, where he graduated in 1990.
“Ice skating is the most fundamental skill a hockey player possesses,” Goldsworthy said.
The Skipper bench boss gives a few tips on how to become a better skater in 2018.
A hockey skate has two edges. However, while skating, players have three edges that they need to be comfortable with: inside, outside and flat (or glide) edge.
Additionally, there are multiple parts to each forward stride. Many skaters are aware of a need to practice their inside and outside edges to achieve maximum speed. Goldsworthy notes it’s also critical to emphasize the recovery phase.
Players who stride with a wide base (not bringing their stride leg fully underneath their bodies for the full recovery phase) are missing out on a lot of power in their stride. This is often called skating on railroad or train tracks.
Goldworthy said promoting a full recovery of the stride skate is important for two reasons.
“First, by starting the stride under the center of gravity, the stride width will increase as full extension is established,” he said. This is a length a stride goes from touchdown to push-off of one complete stride.
“Second, as the transfer from the stride skate to the glide skate occurs under the center of gravity, the skate blade is likely on the flat edge, thus enhancing the glide phase, with less resistance/friction with the ice surface,” Goldsworthy said.
Putting the Power in Turns
During a shift, players rarely ever come to a complete stop. Using power turns is a good way to quickly change direction while maintaining speed. Putting the power in power turns, means maximizing your edges.
“Power turns are the product of proper inside and outside edges,” Goldsworthy said. “In order to hold the outside edge to completion, proper posture is essential. A lower center of gravity will allow the skater to hold the outside edge throughout the power turn, thus promoting a tighter radius on the turn and a complete crossover step with the outside edge.”
Coming out of a power turn with a quick crossover can help a player explode out of the direction change.
“Remember, a proper crossover is the product of an initial power turn involving both the push from the inside and outside edges,” Goldsworthy said.
Moving Forwards to Backwards
Change of direction also includes moving from forward to backwards. Hockey has evolved into a quick transition, counter-attacking game. In order to move from offense to defense, and vice versa, players need to perfect pivoting.
“Proper pivots require a mastering of all three edges,” Goldsworthy said. “Transitioning from forward to backwards requires proper external hip rotation along with proper placement of the edges.”
Opening up the hips and turning the feet, much like a ballet dancer performs a plie, is how to quickly and efficiently move from forwards to backwards without losing momentum. Getting knee and hip bend is difficult, but essential when pivoting.
“The focus on proper posture, sitting deep in the stance, allows the player to transfer from forward to backward without losing balance and power,” Goldsworthy said.
Since the game is built on speed, it’s essential to keep it in all facets of the game, whether a player is on the attack or getting back to protect the net.
“The hockey player with better skating velocity has an advantage in creating uneven offensive situations and playing a more effective defense,” Goldsworthy added. “Therefore, skating velocity is an important predictor of achievement level.”