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Become an elite skater with some simple techniques ...

Proper hockey stride and technique are everything to a skater. The better one's form, the faster, more powerful, and more efficient a skater they can become. Unfortunately, too many players learn the wrong technique from a young age, perpetuating those bad habits throughout their careers. These flaws in their form rob them of being the best they can be. That said, there is always time to correct these faults.

Before discussing the proper techniques, let's look at some common mistakes many players make.

  • Poor knee and ankle bend - Lack of knee and ankle bend results in players being too upright, robbing a player of power and a long, fluid stride.

  • Poor body position - Bending too much at the waist instead of the knees/ankles.

  • Poor balance - Head down, resulting in too much forward lean, leaving a player off balance.

The good news is all of these flaws are correctable!


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Below we visually examine the foundations of the proper stride. Since players, especially younger ones are visual learners, we will use the images to emphasize our points. Have your player analyze 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, reconstructing poor habits will take time and effort, so don't expect your player to become Conor McDavid overnight; lol!

Good knee bend, full leg extension and head up

In the image to the left, note the pronounced knee bend of the lead leg (90 degrees), which provides good forward body lean, good forward momentum), and full leg extension of the push leg. Keeping the knee bent allows the push leg to extend fully, increasing power, speed, and efficiency versus shorter, choppy strides.

Additionally, the knee bend provides balance compared to a player skating too upright. The proper body positioning provides positive forward momentum, and also observed in this photo, the player's head is up (not down), which offers the proper balance.

A crucial part of good knee bend is tied to ankle flexion. Ankle flexion is a crucial component of a good hockey stride. It refers to the ability of the ankle joint to bend or flex, allowing the foot to move freely and generate power during skating. Ankle flexion plays a significant role in achieving proper balance, stability, and agility on the ice.

When a hockey player strides, the ankle flexes to push off the ice and generate forward momentum. This flexion is essential in maximizing the power and efficiency of each stride. A strong ankle flexion allows players to generate more force, resulting in greater speed and acceleration.

Flexing the ankle also enables players to maintain a low center of gravity, which is vital for balance and maneuverability on the ice. It helps players stay in a proper skating position, with knees bent and weight centered over the blades. This position allows for quick changes in direction, improved lateral movement, and the ability to absorb impact from checks or collisions.

Additionally, ankle flexion contributes to the development of a strong stride recovery. After pushing off, the ankle must flex upward to bring the skate back underneath the body for the next stride. This quick recovery allows for a continuous and efficient stride pattern, minimizing any wasted energy.

Players can use specific off-ice exercises and training drills to enhance ankle flexion. These exercises may include calf raises, toe raises, ankle rotations, and ankle mobility exercises. Stretching and flexibility exercises targeting the ankle joint can also help improve its range of motion and overall flexibility. Another way to enhance ankle flexion is not to tie the top eyelet of the ice skate. This is a practice I have always used and is also very common among many of the better skaters in the NHL game; having that top eyelet not tied provides better ankle bend and flexibility to create better knee bend and agility for tighter turns.

Head down increases head weight/decreases balance

Head position is another key factor affecting a player's stability and balance. After all, a player's head is the body's heaviest part. If a player's head shifts downward too much, it becomes increasingly heavier, leaving a player off balance (see illustration to the right). Remember, a good bend should always come from the knees and ankles, not the waist, as the latter, coupled with your head down, makes a player top-heavy and off-balance.

In the image below, we examine the stride from a side view. Again, note the player is not upright but possesses good forward bend, coming from the knees and ankle flexion, not the waist, with the head up, providing proper balance. Also, note that the front knee bend is 90 degrees, allowing the push leg to get a longer extension producing 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 how players did things, whether it was hockey striding, baseball swing mechanics, or even golf swing mechanics (still trying to master that last one, lol!)

Side view of a great stride: good push leg extension, lead knee bent, good forward lean, and head up.

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 pretty 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. Our article, "Use your edges, speed, and strength to protect the puck," highlights how good edge work (the result of good skating form) can be valuable in protecting the puck and creating more scoring opportunities for yourself and your teammates.

I will leave you with this final thought I heard from a wise and older volunteer t-ball instructor in my town. "Practice does not make perfect ... Practice makes permanent!" So, players can practice all they want, but if they don't practice correctly, they permanently cement bad habits.

If you're an involved coach or parent, 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!


Coach Kevin

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