The path to becoming elite starts with proper skating form!
Proper hockey stride and form are everything to a skater. The better one's form, the faster, more powerful, and more efficient a skater can become. Unfortunately, too many players learn the wrong form and techniques from a young age and then perpetuate those bad habits throughout their playing careers. These flaws in their form rob them of being the best they can be. That said, it is never too late to correct these faults.
The concepts behind proper skating form are actually quite simple and easy to implement. I call them the three B's, bend (knee bend), body position, and balance. Typically where most players fall down, figuratively, and in some cases literally, is in one or all of the B's!
Common skating form flaws include;
No knee bend - Lack of knee bend or being too upright robs a player of power and a long, fluid stride length.
Poor body position - Bending too much overall or bending specifically at the waist instead of the knees.
Poor balance - Head down, leaving a player off balance because of excessive forward lean.
The good news is all of these flaws are correctable If a player can get those three B's in line!
Below we visually examine the foundations of the 3B's as players (especially younger ones) are visual learners. Have your player examine these pictures and then emulate the form and technique on and off the ice ... it will only help them improve their skating and overall game. However, it will take time and effort to reconstruct poor habits, so don't expect your player to become Conor McDavid overnight lol!
In the image to the left, note the pronounced knee bend of the lead leg (90 degrees), the forward body lean (good forward momentum), and the full leg extension of the push leg. Keeping the knee bent forces the push leg to get full extension, which increases power, speed, and efficiency versus shorter, choppy strides. Additionally, the knee bend provides balance compared to a player skating too upright. Once again, we call your attention also to the forward body lean, which increases momentum. As aforementioned, the proper body positioning provides positive forward momentum, and also observed in this photo, the player's head is up (not down), which provides proper balance.
After all, a player's head is one of the body's heaviest parts. If a player's head shifts downward too much, it becomes increasingly heavier (as the illustration to the right shows), which can leave a player off balance. Remember, a good bend should always come from the knees, not the waist, as the latter (along with your head down) makes a player top-heavy and off-balance.
In the image below, we take a look at the same three B's but from a side view. Again, note the player is not upright but possesses good forward bend, coming from the knees and not the waist, with his head up, providing proper balance. Also, note that the front knee bend is at 90 degrees, forcing that full stride extension from the push leg, which produces maximum power and speed.
As a player, skating has always been my strength. At an early age, my mind was also very analytical, so I used to study (and then emulate) how players did things, whether it was hockey striding, baseball swing mechanics, or even golf swing mechanics (still trying to master that one, lol!)
The point is the proper form in any sport is essential for success, and hockey is no different. However, the concepts to get a player there are quite simple; all the player needs to do is emulate and implement the right approach.
Once players can effectively skate with good form, they can use that skill to improve other areas of their game, such as puck protection. In our article entitled, Use your edges, speed, and/or strength to protect the puck, we highlight how good edge work (the result of good skating form) can be a useful tool in protecting the puck and creating more scoring opportunities for yourself as well as teammates.
I will leave you with this final thought, which I heard from a very wise and older volunteer t-ball instructor in my town. "Practice does not make perfect ... Practice makes permanent!" So a player can practice all they want, but if they don't practice properly, they are just permanently cementing bad habits.
Suppose you're an involved coach or parent. In that case, I urge you to take some pictures or videos of your player skating and then reference back to these pictures and point out to your player the differences in what they are doing versus what they should be doing ... after all, kids are visual learners!