By Jamie McKinven
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 hockey skating deficiencies and how they can easily be remedied:
There is nothing more spectacular than watching a beautiful skater in mid stride. 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 hockey skating stride. I like to use the term “Power Position.” It’s 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 makes or breaks good habits.
The proper power position for hockey skating is to have the knees bent, butt out, chest and head up. 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 referring to a player’s center of gravity height. The deeper you can get in your power position and stride, the more explosive you will become. A player with a lower center of gravity is also much more difficult to knock off the puck. 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 so happens to be one of the most explosive skaters in the world.
Benefits to Adding More Depth:
- Faster, sharper, and more powerful turns
- Longer, stronger strides and crossover pushes
- Better balance for puck protection
- More explosive transitions and pivots
Taking Posture and Depth one step further (you can see the trend here), another component to the perfect skating style is Extension. Extension is similar to 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 shortcoming that severely limits the amount of power being applied to each stride.
Something to Note:
- Remember, 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.
4. 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 hockey player, my biggest gains as a skater were realized when I began introducing dynamic stretching and core workouts into my daily regimen.
5. Hips & Shoulders
One of principal things that young or beginner players neglect when skating is using their whole body to their advantage. Hockey 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.
Understanding where deficiencies in your skating style might exist, and taking these steps to correct them, will help you to become a much better hockey player. And remember: the older you get, the harder it is to make lasting adjustments to your skating style. So don’t expect immediate results.
Jamie McKinven scratched and clawed his way up to the minors, only to fall short of his ultimate dream of playing in the NHL. Along the way, while riding the buses and living paycheck to paycheck, he discovered a great deal about life, love and the value of following through on a dream. McKinven currently coaches his former Junior “A” team, the Kingston Voyageurs of the OJHL. He is the author of the book “So You Want Your Kid to Play Pro Hockey?” which is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.com.