At the end of a long season, you may notice that most players’ skating technique begins to suffer. Minor things like a skater’s stride getting choppy or a skater not bending his/her knees are most evident. While most teams work on power play, penalty kill, breakouts and forechecks during the season, there leaves little room for skating and skill development.
As spring and summer are upon us, it is time once again to take a step back and revisit technique. Form skating and refining technique are essential. Being able to focus on a stride slowly, as well as concentrating on a deep knee bend, are crucial in continuing to progress as a skater. You will notice in the photos, a few pros working on mechanics and a deep knee bend during their session. Again, these are spring and summer sessions, the perfect time to sharpen technique.
Last year, I had a number of pros come back after their season (later if they made the playoffs). Some were out with concussions for most of the year, so they really wanted to focus on just skating and skill work. There is no rush, training camp does not begin again until late August, so taking things slow and making sure to do them right is key.
Starting from edges, balance and turns is always a good place to start. This will usually be the focus for a couple of weeks. From there, stride and crossover technique will then become our main areas for improvement. At this point, a skater should feel very comfortable with their knee bend and good command of their edges. Eventually, we will move into more difficult maneuvers such as transitions, mohawks and escapes. Not until we have a solid foundation will we move on to full-speed skating. As the summer progresses, we can then move into quick starts and overspeed. The key is to get these skaters feeling confident in everything we do before we increase the speed.
The key to all of this is starting with a solid foundation. We always use the analogy of building a house. The first and most important step is building a solid foundation. Once a house has a solid foundation, you can begin to build on top of it. The ironic part is that no one wants to go see a concrete slab into the ground. They want to see fancy lighting and upgraded appliances. Much like skating, we get kids that want to learn how to do a spin-o-rama before they can hold an outside edge. The only way we can work on advanced skills with a skater if there is something there to work with. Once we have a skater with a strong base, solid knee bend and strong edges, everything becomes much easier. Until then, we would basically be spinning our tires in the sand.
Spend some time building that foundation. When you look at any sport, it always comes down to executing the fundamentals. Hockey is no different. These skills will take some time to develop. Don’t rush through them, practice them regularly, especially when you get some time in the off-season. Good luck.
Andy Ness is the head skating and skill coach for the Minnesota Wild. He has also been an assistant skating instructor for the New Jersey Devils, the University of Minnesota men’s and women’s hockey teams and the U.S. Women’s Olympic Hockey Team.