Skating is often referred to as the foundational skill in the sport of hockey yet few players ever reach their true skating potential. So to kick off 2006 how about skipping the annual ritual of making resolutions that are destined to fail, you know the ones, “I promise this year that I will turn in all of my homework on time and always be nice to my sister” and instead make a resolution to master your skate blades? Oh I can hear you now…. “What makes anyone think that becoming a better skater is a resolution I can keep? After all, that takes practice and practicing skating sometimes means no puck, and no puck means no fun, NO THANKS! I’ll stick with being nice to my sister!” Not so fast, or should I say, not so fast enough to barely get by, this article is about keeping resolutions, so here are 5 simple ideas to help you finally become the skater you were born to be.

Do 200 ankle rolls everyday; 50 right, 50 left, and 100 alternating.

At the end of every stride and sprint push should be a strong toe snap. The toe snap is the moment when the stored energy leaves the ice. It is your follow-through, just like when you throw a baseball, and without it you are far less powerful.

After the toe snap comes the recovery, the motion that brings the foot back under the body. Many players think that the recovery begins in the hip but actually it should start with the toe. This way the recovery blade ends up much closer to the other foot but uses the same amount of time as a hip generated recovery.

So what’s an ankle roll and how can it help? Sit down and lift your feet in the air. Starting with your right toe pointing toward the ceiling move just the foot (not the leg) clockwise, all the way around in a complete circle, repeat again and again. Do the same with your left foot, moving counter-clockwise, and then alternate feet. This is the toe snap and recovery foot motion and this repetitive exercise creates a correct kinetic memory. When you consider that on-ice at full speed your feet will need to do this about 4 times per second it’s easy to see why it is so important that this be a natural motion. A correct toe snap and ankle roll recovery means 8 or more inches of extra push per push with no extra energy or time expenditure. In just 1 second that’s almost 3 feet of additional pushing power, I call that “free speed”!

Take the stairs.

Most of us have stairs in our homes, there are stairs at many schools, and stairs at a lot of rinks. This year resolve to use each step as an opportunity to become a stronger skater. Here’s how, whenever you go up stairs do it with your feet sideways but your upper body facing straight upstairs. Your midsection will be slightly twisted with your chest leaning forward just past your knees. Once you’ve got that try skipping a step each time. Try running upstairs like this too. I’m sure you’ve figured this one out… this works to increase the power in your crossovers. Notice the deep knee bend, complete extension, and forward lean. Make sure you do this both ways. A deep under push will be the on-ice result!

Measure your pure power.

Speed is made of only three things, and one of these things is power. Do you know how powerful you really are? This very simple drill will answer that question and provide you with a goal-setting benchmark.

Start on the goal line, do a T-push and hold the 1-foot glide until you slow to a stop. Take note of how far you traveled. Good goals for distance on the single foot push are:

  • Mites- first blue line
  • Peewees- center line
  • Midgets- opposite goal line
  • College players- opposite wall

Repeat with the opposite foot.

You can improve your pure power by increasing the knee bend, staying in your knees while you push (not popping up), keeping your body straight, and using the pushing arm as leverage. Any on-ice resistance training, such as pushing a tire or pulling a partner, will help increase skating power. Every few weeks take this measurement again. Set a realistic distance goal and resolve to reach it by December 31 st 2006. My guess is you’ll not only reach it, you’ll exceed it, leaving your opponents in the dust!

Skate the length of the ice 3 times on one foot, no touching with the other!

This drill takes tremendous balance, edge control, physical strength, and determination; all building blocks for elite level skating. Once you can do this try making each trip down the ice a little different by including backward power pulls, turns, etc. just make sure you do it without touching the other foot on the ice. I call this drill “Your Worst Nightmare”. Give it a try and see if you can figure out why.

Finally, simple idea #5, this one is for the coaches… MAKE SKATING FUN!

Skating as punishment for poor game performance sends a message that skating is something you only have to do when you’re in trouble. If you want your players to be better skaters then it is up to you to not only make skating something they don’t hate but to make it something they actually like doing! “Fun” isn’t a bad word and it doesn’t need mean “easy”, it just means interesting. Try adding races, games, and training tools to your practices. Make it your goal in 2006 to come up with new creative ways to help your players reach their true skating potential.

So here’s to exceeding your expectations in 2006. Have a powerful, balanced, and lighting fast New Year!

(You may be wondering… if power is one of the three ingredients of speed what are the other two? Good question. Catch this column next month to discover the recipe for speed.)


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