Proper Skating Technique
Wayne Gretzky once said, “You can’t play our game if you can’t skate.” So, it makes sense to work hard on this skill first to build a strong foundation. Proper technique is important if you want to improve your speed, strength, ability, endurance, and most of all, have fun.
• Bend your knees and ankles so you can’t see your toes. Shoulders over knees over toes. Keep your head and back straight.
• Push with your whole body weight on each step, one foot at a time. One foot moves forward while the other one moves backward. Aim your push perpendicular to the inside edge, or right against it. Don’t push behind you, but to the side.
• Extend the leg until it locks (full extension), and then quickly and fully bring the leg back to the “Arrow Tip” position so you can start each stride from under your body for maximum power.
• Make sure your feet are very close to the ice at all times. At the end of your step, don’t kick your foot up in the air.
• Only put your top hand on the stick so you can move your arms like you do when you run.
Again, bend your knees so deeply that they cover your toes.
• The head is up, the back is straight, and the eyes are looking forward.
• Begin each push right under your body
• Turn the foot that is pushing so that the heel points out.
• Push with all your weight with each step, one foot at a time.
• The foot that pushes moves to the side until it is fully extended, making a “Half-Moon (C)” in the ice. With the other foot, you glide straight back.
• Do not swivel your hips like you are dancing, maintain directness
When skating backwards, how you stand and where you put your feet are very important. You should feel like you’re sitting on a stool with your back straight and your weight right in the middle of your skates. Your behind should be almost parallel to the ice. If your upper body and chest are too far forward when you’re going backwards, you’ll put too much weight on the front of the skate, which will hurt your balance, speed, and power.
As you probably know, the quick stop is a key part of ice hockey and is used to change direction, both forward and backward. No matter how good you are, you have to work on and practice this very hard skill every day if you want to see big changes. Also, you’re going to have to fall down a lot when you practice. But don’t think of this as a failure. On the contrary, now that you’re getting out of your comfort zone, it means you’re getting closer to stopping for good.
• Look straight ahead, keep your chin up, and keep your back straight.
• Turn your hips 90 degrees away from the way you were going, and turn both skates at the same time.
• If your blades are at a 90-degree angle to the ice, you will slide sideways across the top of the ice.
• At this point, your feet should be wide apart and not parallel. The inside foot should be in front of the outside foot by at least a full skate length.
• Your feet should be at least shoulder-width apart, and they should be spread out in a way that makes them look uneven.
• Most of your weight should go on the outside skate (inside edge). If you don’t, and you put too much weight on your inside foot (the outside edge), your skates will slide out from under you, making you fall or lose your balance.
• Turn your ankles over so the edges of the blades dig into the ice, stopping you.
• Make sure to counterbalance the stop with your upper body by keeping your shoulders parallel to the ice instead of leaning or dropping the inside shoulder down towards the ice.
When doing a hockey stop, it’s important to think of it more as a hockey slide first and a hockey stop second. So, don’t put the cart in front of the horse. Too many players think they can just stop suddenly, like when they switch directions on a basketball court. But if you watch the best goalies in the NHL, like Steve Yzerman and Paul Kariya, in slow motion, you’ll see that they actually slide their skates along the top of the ice before stopping. And finally, when teaching the hockey stop, someone always asks why one side is better 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). We’ve found that the only way to make your bad side stronger is to work on it more and not just ignore it when it gets annoying. But to go one step further, try to really focus on what you do on your good side that helps you do the move well. Once you know the steps, it should be easier to use the same techniques on your weaker side.
Don’t worry if you forget something. Pick the most important things you think will help you skate better and work the hardest on those skills. Take your time when you practice, and don’t compare your progress to that of your peers, because everyone learns at a different rate.