Contributed to Players By: Eileen Peerless

Skating Techniques & Tips

As the hockey season begins, all players need to assess their readiness to play the game. Conditioning is essential and each player should take some responsibility in making sure they are in shape. Don't wait until the first practice. Running, even if its running in place, and biking, even if its repeated trips around the block, are good exercises to increase the heart rate and oxygen intake. Running uphill or running stairs are also good exercises. Conditioning is very important to the athlete and will have a direct bearing on play. The more conditioned an athlete, the better able they will be to play the game.

To help with your conditioning, don't waste time. Get on the ice right at the start of each hockey practice. During the warm-up portion of the practice, skate at half speed continually around the rink, gradually increasing speed by concentrating on the push-off from the inside edge toe, getting a full extension of the pushing leg. Swing the arms front to back, not side to side. Let the elbows swing forward in rhythm with the pushing foot - right foot push, right elbow forward.

Technique for the stride: As the inside edge of the right foot pushes, the right elbow will swing forward so that the weight of the body will be transferred from the pushing foot to the gliding foot. All the weight should be over the gliding foot at the completion of the push. As the pushing leg recovers under the body and the push begins with the left inside edge, swing the left elbow forward transferring the weight onto the gliding right foot. This transfer of body weight is essential for an effective, powerful stride. It is important to feel the weight transfer from pushing foot to gliding foot making sure there is a full leg extension (with no bend in the knee) of the pushing foot.

The push in the stride is with an inside edge to the side. If the pushing foot goes too far back, or behind the body, it will be pushing more on the flat of a blade and will have to be picked up and returned under the body. For speed, the returning foot should never be more than half an inch off the ice in its return. The path the foot takes pushing out to the side will be the path it takes in its return under the body.

To increase stride speed in this conditioning exercise, work with a partner of about equal ability. Skate together around the rink with one skater leading as the other tries to pass; encourage each other to keep moving. Concentrating on form while skating around the rink during warm-up will help the stride.

While conditioning is an important element in playing the game of hockey, it should not be a substitute for correct skating technique. The best-conditioned athlete may not be the fastest because of poor technical execution. Conditioning can certainly help with overall play, but good skating is the result of good technique.

Tips for the skater:

  • The skate blade is your most important piece of equipment. Without a properly sharpened blade your effectiveness on the ice diminishes. Check the blades frequently for sharpness. Use the index finger at a 90 degree angle to the blade and feel for the "bite" of the edge. When that "bite" lessens, or if the edge feels smooth, sharpen the skates immediately. Be sure to wipe the blades clean after every skate!
  • Proper fitting skates are important. Don't lace the skate boot too loose. If the skate does not provide a snug fit, there will be too much give in the ankle and the skate boot will hit the ice when doing crossovers or edges.
  • Find time to practice skating skills. Make practice sessions quality time. Don't skate around the rink over and over, but spend time the practicing edge drills, backward skating, the stride, and turns. Good skating comes from proper technique and quality practice time.
  • Skill development does not start with speed first. Skills should be learned at a comfortable pace. Increase speed as comfort level increases. If speed is emphasized before a skill has been learned properly, speed will ultimately decrease because there is no foundation from which to build. Even with proper skating skills, speed is a factor in skill breakdown.
  • Backward skating requires a straight back. Don't drop the chest forward when skating backward. The back is straight as you push off the toe executing a small "c-cut." While body weight is over the front part of the blade, a too-forward lean of the chest will affect balance and speed.
  • Edge drills can improve skating. Practice both forward and backward inside and outside edges. This will improve not only balance and skating confidence but will also improve all other skating skills.
  • Always make sure the feet support the body. Body weight always goes from the pushing foot to the gliding foot to provide power in skating. Don't reach out beyond where the body can be supported or balance and speed will be sacrificed.

Good technique and skill development leads to faster skating. If you are a new skater, don't try to hurry your skating development. Take the time and effort to learn correct technique. If you are a more advanced skater, make sure your technique is correct so that you can have maximum speed with minimum effort.