Getting that first step on an opponent can be the difference in winning loose puck battles. Photo by Christine Wisch
When we look at skating there are many different avenues we can look at. For this article, I would like to share with you what direction I like to go when skating and training during the summer and why. With so many options, it is important to understand and establish what is most important and disregard all the rest.
First, when I say there are many avenues to go down I would like to explain what I mean. When you are training in the summer, you can scrimmage, do small area games, do game drills or just do more games. Is this helping your individual development?
Remember, drills and skills are different. Just doing a drill for the sake of doing a drill serves no purpose. When we look at skating specifically, we can look at over-speed, technique skating, or conditioning. In the “video post” world we live in, skating has somehow turned into a lot of shock and awe drills. I have seen kids jump over tires, spin around in the air, do forward to backward flips on one foot, all really for the sake of a “wow” factor. Is this the best use of our ice time?
Here is the problem. With the limited amount of time that we get to spend with skaters in the summer, we want to make sure their skating skills are “functional.” What I mean by that is the skating skills they are actually going to use in a game. Get back to the nuts and bolts. When skating with pros (and even youth skaters), time is precious and important. Some kids I will only see five or six times in the summer. When I have to cover edges, balance, power turns, crossovers, backwards, transitions, starts and stride, this doesn’t leave any room for “filler” drills. There are fundamental skating skills that need to be worked on. The only way to get improvement is through quality repetition through actual focused practice habits.
Some of the jumps and things aren’t bad, they just aren’t something in which an entire lesson should be focused around. Establish what is important and disregard everything else. Off-season training is really quite simple. If you need work on your skating, skate. If you need work on your shooting, shoot. If you need to get stronger, get in the weight room. When we try to do a million other things, we end up spinning our tires in the sand and nothing gets better. Ice time is too valuable, make the most of it.
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.