There is no denying that skating is the most important attribute for a hockey player. From a vast reduction in “clutching and grabbing” to the removal of the two-line pass rule, the progressive changes to the game of hockey all benefit the fleet of foot. The simple fact is if you are a poor skater, you are severely limited in how far you can go in the game.
Here are 5 of the most common skating deficiencies and how they can easily be addressed (Remember, the older a player gets, the harder it becomes to make lasting adjustments to skating style):
There is nothing more spectacular than watching a beautiful skater in mid-flight. It’s the perfect combination of grace, power, and rhythm. The foundation of all of that beauty is posture. From a teaching standpoint, everyone has their terminology when it comes to posture and the skating stride. I like to use the term “Power Position”. This is the first thing I teach, and it’s something I preach over and over again throughout every session because it’s the one thing that often creates or breaks good habits.
The proper power position for a beautiful skater is to have the knees bent, butt out, chest up and head up. Like this:
The power position allows for strong balance, explosive agility and ample body control.
Examples of poor posture:
- Bending at the hip instead of the knees, with a tendency to drop the chest towards the ice producing a “hunched over” skating style. By bending at the hip and dropping your chest, you are removing a great deal of power from your stride. You’re also exposing yourself to a greater potential for injury.
Building off of and going hand-in-hand with “Posture” is “Depth”. By depth, I am speaking about the height of the center of gravity of a player. The deeper you can get in your power position and stride, the more explosive you will become. Players with lower center of gravities are also much more difficult to knock off pucks. One of the best examples of a player with great depth and a low center of gravity is Edmonton Oilers’ winger Taylor Hall, who just happens to be one of the most explosive skaters in the world.
Benefits to Adding More Depth:
- Faster, sharper and more powerful turns
- Longer, more powerful strides and crossovers pushes
- Better balance for puck protection
- More explosive transitions and pivots
Building off of “Posture” and “Depth” (You can see the trend here), another component to the perfect skating style is “Extension”. Extension is like the “Finish” to a golf swing. With each stride or push on a crossover, you want to explode through the toe of your skate, snapping and rolling each push off the end of your skate blade. Your heel should not be kicking up towards the seat of your pants, as is desired for sprinters. It is common to see this deficiency in poor skaters; a deficiency that severely limits the amount of power being applied to each stride.
Something to Note:
- Remember that there are two pushes for every crossover. The first push from the outside leg to start the crossover and the second push from the inside leg (underneath) to finish the crossover. Each push is equally important.
- Flexibility & Core Strength
One of the keys to becoming a better skater has nothing to do with being on the ice. In order to become an elite skater, you need to prepare your body by increasing flexibility, especially in the hips, abductors and adductors, and by strengthening your core. This allows players to have better posture, body control, depth and explosiveness. As a former player, my biggest gains as a skater were realized when I began introducing dynamic stretching and core workouts into my daily regime.
- Hips & Shoulders
One of biggest things young players neglect when skating is using their whole bodies to their advantage. Skating isn’t just about your legs, it’s a full body motion and every little thing comes into play. Whether it’s turning your shoulders to maximize speed on crossovers or driving your hips to the target when taking a one-timer, it’s important to use your whole body when skating.