Proper Skating Technique
By Robby Glantz
Wayne Gretzky once said, "If you can't skate, you can't play our game". So, it only makes sense to concentrate a lot of effort on this skill first in order to build a strong foundation. Proper technique is vital in achieving maximum speed, strength, ability, endurance and most importantly, a fun experience.
This article comes from Robby Glantz who is the power skating coach for the Atlanta Thrashers, LA Kings and has the largest hockey school in North America.
• Bend your knees and ankles so you cannot see your toes. Shoulders over knees over toes. Back straight and head up.
• Push one foot at a time putting 100% body-weight in each stride. One foot pushes while the other foot glides. Aim your push perpendicular to (directly against) the inside edge. Push out to the side, not behind you.
• Extend the leg until it locks (full extension), and then rapidly and fully return the leg back to the "Arrow Tip" position so you may start each stride from under your body for maximum power.
• Keep your feet very low to the ice at all stages of the stride. Don't kick your foot up in the air at the end of your stride.
. Top hand only on stick so you can swing your arms foward and backward the way you do when you run.
• Bend your knees deeply, again, so that they are covering your toes
• The back is straight, head is up and eyes are forward
• Start each push from directly under your body
• Pivot the pushing foot so that the heel turns out
• Push one foot at a time using all your weight on each thrust
• The pushing foot drives to the side to full extension forming a "Half-Moon (C)" in the ice while you glide on the other foot straight back
• Do not swivel your hips like you are dancing, maintain directness
When skating backwards your body posture and positioning are vital. You should feel like you are sitting on a stool with your behind almost parallel to the ice, keeping your back straight and your weight centered directly over the middle of your skates. Positioning your upper body and chest too far forward when going backwards will put too much weight to the front part of the skate and definitely take away from your balance, speed and power.
THE FORWARD STOP
In Ice Hockey, as you are surely aware, the change of direction using the quick stop (both forward and backward) is a vital fundamental. You must consistently work on and practice this very difficult skill, no matter what your level of play, in order to see marked improvement. As well, you are going to need to do your share of falling down when practicing. But do not look on this as a failure, in fact just the opposite, this means that you are getting closer to stopping properly now that you are breaking out of your comfort zone.
. Keep your eyes forward, your chin up and your back straight.
. Turn your hips 90 degrees from the direction you were traveling, with both skates turning at the same time.
. With your blades at a 90 degree angle to the ice, you will slide sideways across the top of the ice.
. Your feet should be wide and staggered at this point (not parallel), with the inside foot in front of the outside foot by a full skate length or more
. Your feet should be wide apart from each other (at least shoulder distance) and also wide as in staggered or uneven.
. The bodyweight should be distributed with the greater percentage to the outside skate (inside edge). If not, and you have too much weight over the inside foot (outside edge), than the skates will slide out from under you causing you to fall or lose your balance.
. Roll your ankles over so the edges of the blades dig into the ice causing you to stop.
. Be sure to counterbalance the stop with your upper body, by keeping your shoulders parallel to the ice, rather than leaning or dropping the inside shoulder down towards the ice.
When performing the hockey stop, it is important that you think of it more as a Hockey Slide first, and a Hockey Stop second. In other words, do not put the cart before the horse. Too many players think they can come to a screeching stop as if they are changing directions on a basketball court, for example. However, when you watch the most skilled stoppers in the N.H.L., such as Steve Yzerman or Paul Kariya, in slow-motion, you will realize that they actually slide there skates along the top of the ice before they come to a stop. And finally, when teaching the art of the Hockey Stop, inevitably someone asks the question about why one stopping side is stronger than the other (it should be noted that every pro player I have ever worked with has a weaker side, not only when stopping, but turning, etc., as well). The only way we have found to make your bad side stronger is to work harder on it and not to ignore it just because it becomes frustrating. But to take that one step further, really try to focus and concentrate on exactly what it is you do on your good side that allows you to perform the maneuver well. Once you have the steps sorted out in your head, it should then be easier for you to transfer those same techniques to your weaker side, as well.
IT'S A LOT TO THINK ABOUT
Do not worry about remembering everything. Pick the key points that you feel will most improve your skating and work those skills the hardest. Take your time when practicing and try not to compare yourself to your peer's progress, as we all have a different learning curve.