This entry is part of something akin to a trilogy, in that all three recent articles I’ve done deal with solving problems — and with us having more common sense — with the more background information we acquire. I’ll point you to the other articles a little later but, in the meantime, see if my premise isn’t right-on as we tackle the topic at hand.
– Dennis Chighisola
All You’ll Ever Need to Know About Hockey Skate Sharpening!
Before I get into this, let me caution new adult players and parents of young ones with this bit of advice… Some of what you’ll learn here might help a relatively new skater, but some of it might also hamper his or her efforts. Will it help for you to know all I’ll be sharing? Absolutely! However, if you’re at all in doubt about whether to apply any of this new knowledge, just ask me. That’s what I’m here for.
Okay, let’s back-up a bit, and envision your brand new skates still at the factory. Your new blades were “roughly” shaped, attached to their boots, and then your completely assembled skates were packed and shipped to where you’ll purchase them.
Notice that I said your skate blades had been roughly shaped. Shaped to accommodate hockey play, those blades have been cut from a section of steel that forms close to a 9′ radius arc. If there’s a problem, most advanced players discover that their blades don’t arrive as true to that radius as they’d like. So, re-shaping the blade might be the first thing on the new owner’s agenda.
Nor do new blades arrive sharpened. In fact, they’re often protected by a thin film of plastic that gets removed during the first sharpening.
Now, here’s where it’s helpful to know some related facts, this time when it comes to the shapes of blades used in the three popular on-ice sports…
It’s pretty easy to see that speed skating blades are longer than others, and that they’re close to flat. Both features are built into the blades to accommodate moving mostly on straight-aways and fairly wide turns.
In contrast, figure skates are curved quite a lot — in the shape of a 7′ radius arc, this to facilitate the many types of spins, turns and sharp cuts common to that sport.
I hope it then makes sense that the hockey skate blade is designed to incorporate some of the qualities necessary to the other two sports — being slightly flatter than figure skates to aid movements up and down the length of the ice, and quite a bit more curved than a speed skate so that the hockey player can turn, pivot, and cut with good speed. Hockey blades are also shorter than speed skate blades, this to help a player in our sport do quicker cross-overs, and to be far more agile on his or her feet.
Before going further, let’s make sure that our hockey blades are shaped properly, and by this I mean ensuring that the two blades are truly formed in a 9′ radius arc. As of this writing, I know of two methods for achieving a specific radius. One is accomplished on a machine built for that purpose called the Custom Radius; the other operation is usually performed by a prehavetty skilled technician who uses templates to trace a given desired radius.
As a brief aside here… If you’ve had your skates for a long time, and if they’ve had numerous “free hand” sharpenings, it’s quite possible that the blades have lost their true shape or radius. (The worst I’ve ever experienced was when the middle of my blade had been so worn that it was difficult for me to cut or pivot.) If you ever want to perform a naked eye test of your radius, just hold the blade upright on a smooth countertop, and notice how/if just the middle of the blade touches down.
Okay, to this point I’ve said that the correct radius for the hockey blade is in the shape of a 9′ radius arc. I’ll go further by suggesting that young, developing players should have their blades shaped in that way, with the balance point of each blade being set at “neutral” or “zero”, or so that the skater is balancing right over the midpoint of his or her blade.
With that, fairly advanced skaters can have their radius adapted to achieve various effects. I have prescribed skates to be shaped slightly flatter — in either a 10′ or 11′ arc, this to gain a little more speed in straight-aways. (Think about getting just slightly closer to the speed skater’s blade in this regard.) You should know that I never prescribe any such thing for a player who isn’t a really good skater. My feeling is that the player with good agility and cutting ability will only lose a hair in those departments, while gaining a little more speed moving straight ahead.
I almost always stick with the neutral (or zero) radius setting, while some advanced players and some old-time skate technicians like to move the balance point so that a skater is forced to lean slightly forward or slightly to the rear. Their rationale that a forward lean might benefit wingers who spend a great deal of time flying up and down their lanes, and that a backward lean helps a defenseman better move backwards. I honestly don’t buy either line of thinking.
With the hockey skate blades shaped properly, let’s now consider the actual sharpening process. For, this is where the dulled blade from the factory will take on the sharp edges that make it possible for us to actually skate…
Two things are critical to gaining a proper sharpening. First, the skate must be placed correctly in a holder, and then adjusted so that the blade hits squarely and at the proper level for when it meets the spinning sharpening stones. Secondly, the finish stone — or the one that actually gives the blade it’s final shape — should be “dressed” or re-shaped to ensure it cuts the steel blade properly (the blade is only going to take on the shape of the stone it passes by).
Let me suggest two things here… It’s a good idea to take your blades to someone you truly trust. The last thing you want is to have your tech talking to his girlfriend on the phone while mildlessly passing your blades by a stone. Some cost is associated with “dressing” the finish wheel, since an industrial diamond is used (and gradually used up) in this process, and it stands to reason that some technicians will do things right while some just won’t. Also, never stand in a long line waiting for your skates to be done, and especially never have them sharpened while recreational skaters are having theirs done. It should make sense that your skates just aren’t going to get the attention they deserve under such conditions.
The sharpening process usually begins with the tech passing a blade against a spinning rough or course stone, this acting as a way to remove old edges or to ready the blade to be shaped with new edges.
That accomplished, a blade is next passed by the finish wheel or stone to give it its new shape.
Near the end of the process, you’ll usually see the tech hold each skate up to a light while balancing a small coin across the blade. He’s checking to see if the two outside sharp edges are even. (It only takes one time to skate with an edge missing, or one edge lower than the other, because stepping on either feels like you’re falling into the Grand Canyon!)
You might hear the hockey skate sharpening process referred to as a “hollow ground”, because the blades are ground to create two sharp edges on each side with a hollow area in between.
Now, let’s go back to what we can learn from the other types of skates. For, it might help you to make a comparison between the way speed skates and figure skates are sharpened.
In the case of speed skates, a “jig” is used, this being a small contraption that holds a file, with the file being passed back and forth across the bottom of the blade. If you can picture it, this makes sort of a block shape, or the two edges are created — not so sharply, and minus the hollow described for the hockey skate blade. The idea of the not so pronounced edges is to lessen cutting into the ice and to lessen the amount of friction as a speed skater glides along the ice.
At the other extreme is the figure skate, which is sharpened at least close to the way hockey skates are done. Figure skaters, due to the nature of their sport, need the hollow grind and the sharp edges necessary to cutting, spinning, etc. And they’d likely wipe out easily if they tried any of their moves with a speed skater’s sharpening.
Okay, so what can we borrow from the way other’s sharpen their skates?
Again, only daring to work with hockey players who already have great cutting ability, I’ve tinkered with the relative hollow in their sharpenings to aid them in having less friction on the straight-aways. In most instances, some experimentation is needed to gain less friction while not losing too much edge control.
One last little tidbit… Lots of years ago I came across a science book that contained an explanation about why we can skate on smooth ice but not on glass. As it turns out, a skater’s bodyweight transfers down through a sharp blade edge, an immense amount of pressure through that edge creates heat that melts the ice right under, which in turn allows us to momentarily hydroplane on a thin film of water. As the blade passes, the water freezes right behind.
In closing, I like to prepare these kinds of entries so that members can do lots of troubleshooting on their own. I’ve mentioned some ways that I’ve achieved certain results by adapting things — like the shape of the blade or the length of the blade, as well as the relative shape of the hollow and edges. What I’ve also done, however, is to provide you all the different variables so that you may achieve quite different results.
Now, it’s my sincere hope that I also made my other point, in that we become better and better troubleshooters with the more we know about related topics.
Here’s the article that started it all — about “Knowing Lots of Hockey Facts“!
Then, when you get a chance, see how all my experiences from the past helped me form something that will likely transform the way a certain level does business (it’s about how I arrived at launching my new Junior Hockey Scouting Service).
You should know that this was a very difficult article to write, mainly because I feared forgetting something. So, I’m going to consider it a work in progress, and I’ll be prepared to alter it if need be. Of course, the only way I can do that is if you comment below or ask me questions.
I actually field this question a lot, probably because most folks know I studied in the old Soviet Union, and because I’ve been a Big Red Machine student for a good many years.
I think it’s also about time I explain better a statement I often refer to here, this by the late, great Anatoli Tarasov, about his not wanting to copy others for fear of being just second best.
With that, it’s always fun for me to talk about Russian hockey.
– Dennis Chighisola
Russian Hockey Skating Methods
I’m going to begin with that (as near as I can recall) quote by Tarasov, as in his suggestion that, “To copy someone else is to be second best.” And I’m going to suggest that, The Father of Russian Hockey would clarify that for us if he was alive today, just by adding a phrase, “beyond a point”. Ya, to copy someone else — beyond a point — would make one second best.
I’ve read a few times whereby certain NHL clubs have drafted a specific player in order to off-set a given divisional rival’s player who gave them fits. Maybe, for instance, a big and skilled centerman has been dominating them for a few seasons, so they go out and select their own big guy in hopes of turning the tables. Can you see the probability that the drafted player would be — at best, a shadow of the guy they’re trying to negate? I mean, what’s the likelihood that anyone close to the original player is out there and available at that point in history?
I’ve also often thought about how I’d try to offset a team that dominated in a certain way. In other words, I’m not sure I’d assemble my own team full of big guys to compete against a team that’s extremely physical, since there’s the likelihood of only being second best. I’d probably instead try to take advantage of their slowness (or some other shortcoming) and try to make them match my team’s speed (or whatever). I might do the same thing in reverse, as well, recruiting a physical squad to wear down a smaller, more skilled team.
Not that I’d actually do every one of those things; every situation is unique. Still, I would look at each problem I face, put it to Tarasov’s litmus test, making sure I’m not just creating a near carbon copy of someone else, and almost guaranteeing that I’d come out second best.
Which brings me back to that phrase, “beyond a point”… For, I know darn well that Tarasov came to North American and studied the Canadians. That’s documented, and he’s said so. How much he used from what he saw is something else.
I have to believe that he recorded every drill and every playing system he could. He and most other USSR coaches were that thorough. It’s just that Tarasov was adamant about one thing: Canadian boys and Soviet boys are not the same. They grow up differently– in vastly different societies, so not all North American training methods or playing tactics would work for his players.
In fact, Tarasov built a lot of his team’s initial playing style around soccer, a sport played as much by youngsters in the Soviet Union as baseball is played by kids in North America. If you’ve seen videos of his earliest teams, you had to spot the soccer influence — with their regrouping, or their extra-extra patience in taking shots.
There was yet something else those wearing the CCCP had going for them back then that was drastically different from most free hockey playing nations, and that was science. I mean, back in those times, every Soviet resource was available to their athletic programs, most likely because successful teams helped the government’s propaganda efforts.
Even though I know they weren’t showing us everything during my studies at the Moscow Institute for Sport and Physical Culture, I came home having discovered tons about plymetrics, building athleticism and enhancing sport specific strength. Actually, it would be a good 15-years before much of what I’d learned would be known to other North American coaches.
Adding to that, I discovered the concept of over-speed training purely by accident — or without anyone wanting me to (if you want to see something interesting, read about that and see my video on “Over-speed Training“).
Something else I found interesting… One day my interpreter brought me into the hockey office, and while we were shooting the bull, he asked if I’d like to see a printout of my biorhythms. Hmmmmmm… As I looked at the sheet, I smiled and said, “You guys use these to evaluate your players at given times, don’t you?” Oh, he swore up and down that wasn’t so (I’m actually chuckling to myself right now, just picturing his face). You can be the judge of his truthfulness. However, knowing those old Soviets didn’t leave any stone unturned, I have my own beliefs.
With that all as our background, let’s get to that skating — as well as a little about the other basic skills…
You can be absolutely sure Tarasov (as well as his army of coaches and scientists) initially employed many of the skating drills they saw in Canada, as well as at various World Cup and Olympic tournaments. And you can also be sure he acquired video footage of specific players. Where that not-wanting-to-be-second-best thing came in was when Tarasov and his people took their training a whole lot further.
When it came to skating, they’d developed ways to help their players go faster, harder and longer than anyone else. Ya, if there’s one thing all the Canadian coaches and players from the ’72 Showdown at the Summit series agreed upon, it’s that the Soviets were remarkable when it came to skating.
Of course, no one knew at the time that USSR scientists had developed a high level of off-ice training that could probably do more for their skaters than what others achieved on the ice. There was the over-speed work — again unknown to most others — when it came to skating. Also, at a time when few in North America believed in weight training for skilled athletes, the relatively small Soviet players were acquiring strength that would also amaze the ’72 Team Canada stars. Then, there was their research and work on conditioning, that made it possible for Soviet skaters to play at a frantic tempo from the opening face-off to the very last shift of a game.
Oh, and talk about those guys getting a lot of government help… I heard about (but never saw) a section of ice that was ramped so that the Soviet players were able to skate uphill. I haven’t a clue how they made that, or how they maintained it, since water flows downhill. For all I know, though, they could have had a hydraulic setup that allowed them to raise and lower the surface as needed.
As far as skating style goes, I can only give my relatively educated opinion… And, in my eyes, the Soviets weren’t pretty at all. What they were, however, was very, very efficient.
One thing I also noticed was that Soviet players seldom raised their skates up far from the ice. Of course we know now that that’s one of the key components to fast and efficient skating. (Actually, if you’ve never received my free video on “Skating Analysis“, you can watch it here, and also download a copy to keep — there’s a link at the top of the page for the download).
Then, just as a wrap-up, why not quickly get into the Soviets’ other basic skills…
I don’t think Tarasov was ever content with his players in the area of puckhandling, although you wouldn’t know it from the current crop of Russian stars gracing the NHL. From a personal perspective, I think the old Soviet coaches were doing the right things as far as skill development went, but it’s probably the one area where the players’ upbringing might have sabotaged a skill. I mean, the Communistic way of life discouraged individualism, and that may have prevented their taking on the “stickhandler’s mentality” I talk so much about within this site.
As for passing, now that was right up the Soviets’ alley… As I suggested earlier, soccer very much influenced the development of their hockey strategies, and that also held true in their emphasis on the passing game. Actually, they were dazzling at times, and as patient as could be at others.
When is came to shooting, it’s perhaps ironic that I just finished reading Harry Sinden’s rendition of that Showdown at the Summit. (For younger members, you might need to know that the former Boston Bruins’ coach and GM was in charge of the whole show for Team Canada, from picking the roster to coaching.) And, while Sinden wrote in his book that he was extremely impressed with the Russians’ skills, he said the exception was their shooting. If you want my opinion, though, Harry was talking into a recorder each night as the series was going along, so those were his immediate — 1972 — impressions. I suspect some of his opinions would change today, with a better understanding of what the Russians were really doing…
As far as the shooting goes, Sinden felt that they didn’t put the puck on net enough — of course, that’s the Canadian or North American mentality (“Shoot the dawgone puck!”). Little did he know at the time that the Soviets’ patience was by design. In fact, I’ve read that it often drove the Canadian players crazy that the Soviets wouldn’t shoot the puck, but instead waited for yet better scoring opportunities.
Sinden also said that the Russian pointmen didn’t shoot the puck well. Hmmmmmm… I’m sure that’s possible. Still, could it be that they knew then what we in North America know now — that million mile per hour shots are NOT the secret to point shooting after all? (For more on this topic, see my article on “Improving A Defensemen’s Point Shots“.)
Before finishing, I just wanted to add a few more things…
Although I’ve often mentioned the government resources afforded the Soviet sport teams, and especially ones that were as popular and successful as their hockey program, the country was very poor and lacking in so many things. The resources their hockey team was usually afforded were in the form of scientific help, while most of their equipment and facilities tended to be pretty old and worn. And they had fewer indoor ice facilities in the entire USSR than could be found within most regions of the United States or Canada (thus their need to create off-ice programs). My point, though, I guess, is that the best science in the world can beat you, while a new gym mat or a sparkling new barbell set generally won’t.
Lastly, if you came to this article looking for a magic bullet or a secret drill, I hope you’re not disappointed. I’m hoping that a better understanding of Tarasov’s thinking will help you more than anything. I do want to leave you with one good drill, though, and this one I created with the Soviet style of skating very much in mind…
Picture if you will a 5-man unit of my NEHI High School Prep guys heading out on to the ice for a 30-second mock shift. In other words, the five guys are heading over the boards and they’re going to move around the ice at a pretty good pace for about 30-seconds — no pucks or any other distractions, but just skating their typical game-line patterns.
Next, picture that I ask that group to skate the same patterns and at the same speed, but not pick up their skates. Oh, trust me: that it’s do-able, and that most players of the caliber I had could do it without a problem.
From a logistical standpoint, I arranged my guys in three 5-man units so that they could rotate through as normal lines would, so that they’d have plenty of open ice to use, and so that they’d get the proper work:rest ratio.
Now, if a coach is able to try this with his or her players, I think a couple of things become evident in short order… First, it’s actually do-able, as I said just above. Secondly, it doesn’t take long for most of the skaters to do just about every skating maneuver without lifting their skates very high — including cross-overs. Third, I think you’re going to recognize an economy of movements. Fourth, eventually let the players know that it’s permissible to pick their blades up just slightly when the need arises — the point, really, is for them to ultimately move and keep the skates low most of the time. Fifth, I think you will start to notice that a lot of players actually gain better lateral mobility as they perform this way, and they’ll tend to be better toward their weak side, probably because they’re working from a fairly stable stance; they’ll also be beaten a lot less as they approach an enemy puckcarrier, because they’re ready to react quicker in either direction.
As with my pretty famous “Toe-drags” Drill (explained and demonstrated in the Skating Analysis video), the idea isn’t to have the players keep their blades on the ice all the time during a game. No, what you’ll discover is that they’ll ultimately be able to perform nearly every skating maneuver while keeping the feet rather close to the ice.
This pretty good question arrived about a week ago. But, like a lot of other ones that require a great deal of thought, I’ve just sat and stared at it for days on end.
Truly, this topic might deserve a tome-sized answer some day down the road. For now, however, let me deal as best I can with a very insightful guy’s question in this relatively short post.
– Dennis Chighisola
Skating for Ice Hockey
Ron actually included a lot of questions within a larger one, so I think it best for me to at least try to answer each one at a time…
“I’m curious what your opinion is about all the hockey skating instruction on the market today. I’ve watched quite a few of the DVDs and videos on the market…including yours. You have a very simplified approach to hockey skating and as you said the rules of the game and the dimensions of the rink make hockey skating different from figure and speed skating. A lot of the other hockey skating instructors have different opinions on knee bend, arm swing, how to start, and so on.”
In all honesty, I don’t like bashing other skating instructors. At the same time, I can’t go without suggesting that most of those who run clinics or sell DVDs and videos have very little training in the sciences surrounding our game. In some instances, former figure skaters have done okay with a portion of what they teach, but they’re often missing the scientific background, and a knowledge of what I refer to as “the nature of our game” — or the challenges our players really face in the heat of battle. Of course, some have great marketing talents that get their opinions seen more than the PhDs who really know their stuff, with a lot of their methods getting so much exposure that they’re taken as gospel, whether there is any true basis to their claims or not. Then, for sure, there are those who climb down off telephone poles or slide out from automotive lube jobs to conduct so-called powerskating clinics at your local rink. Ugh. This doesn’t mean that a lot of guys and gals don’t do some good things; but it might mean that they can’t be taken too seriously when a debate arises involving skating mechanics, etc.
Al that said, one just can’t believe the naked eye — beyond a point. Instead, we have to trust what has been discovered in the lab by very qualified biomechanical (and other) specialists.
But does all this matter if you score tons of goals and win every race to the puck. I mean I watched this one russian’s hockey skating DVD and his theories on skating were much different then the other hockey skating instructors but man he was an awesome skater.
Oh, boy, does Ron have a good one there! Actually, I try to make it a very big point in my video about skating analysis, that a beautiful stride doesn’t mean a player can play the game.
If you can appreciate it, the nice stride is about having balance within the body, and thusly expending a lot less energy and covering quite a bit more ice than one who is rather out of sync. In contrast, an effective hockey player performs his or her duties in short, all-out bursts that are quite often out of balance. In other words, a player is quite often doing things like tussling along the boards with an opponent, dashing only a matter of a few steps for a loose puck, teetering off balanced and batting in a rebound.
As for that Russian skating instructor, I think I know the guy, and believe he and I have even spoken on hockey matters separate from skating technique. As Ron says, though, that guy surely can skate. Does that mean the guy can be a productive player? Absolutely not. Would his kind of skills help him be even better if he could play the game? Absolutely!
So again, skating skills — and especially proper skating mechanics — don’t necessarily mean someone can play the game.
Also, what do you think of the term “power skating” or should that term be phased out.
Once again, … My very first “clinic” was dubbed “powerskating”, only because several before me had used that term. We’re talking nearly 40-years ago, now. It wasn’t too much later, however, that I realized two things:
1) that wasn’t what I did at all — teach only skating, I mean. No, I mixed in almost an equal amount of puckhandling, and then I started to add the basics of passing, receiving and shooting. Then, even later, I incorporated a little bit of body-checking into the mix;
2) to use the word “power” in there is to suggest that that quality is more important than any others when it comes to effective hockey skating.
In summary, I believe there are a few things to consider when it comes to skating for hockey… First and foremost, we should rely on the many scientific studies that have been done on this movement (or trust me to do that for you). Next, consider how hockey skating differs from other sports, and what it’s really like for a player to deal with all the challenges within our game. Then, realize that — while skating is extremely important to hockey, it’s far from the only skill or quality that goes into the making of a solid hockey player. Lastly, while I may have expressed some negative feelings toward some so-called skating experts, I do believe that most of them do a great deal of good. Where they may overstep their bounds is in trusting too much their own observations over what’s known by true scientists.
I don’t know where or when it began, but quite a few years ago I started to realize that I can do a lot for bigger guys.
Among the players I believe I influenced quite bit were current and former hockey players, several who ultimately steered towards big-time college lacrosse, and even one humongous guy who got a shot as an NFL lineman. (Among the lacrosse players, a few of them or their dads actually told me that all the off-ice work I’d done with them was the difference in them making it.)
Little wonder I kinda smile when a parent brings a big, hulking kid to me for some quickening. And, little wonder I shook my head when Rik C recently wrote me for help with his pretty big son.
– Dennis Chighisola
Quickening A Big Hockey Player’s Feet
Let’s begin with some of Rik’s message to me, received through our Ask The Coach option up at the top of this page:
I’ve got an 18 year old that is 6’4 220. He is playing Tier 3 Jr.’s in the US. He has great hands is a 3/4 point per game player but the area of his game where he needs work is his skating…he is too upright and he doesn’t have explosive ability. Once he gets going he is fast and eats ice…as long as he keeps moving his feet. I’m hearing he should be on the Skate Speed ramp for 10 to 12 ups per session and on slide boards for about 5 reps to complete a session. My question is do you believe this will help? And how long does it take for muscle memory to take over?
Well, can my CoachChic.com friends appreciate why I shook my head and smiled as I scanned Rik’s question? Oh, I’d like it all the more if the family lived close to me, so I could make an in-person evaluation and even work with Rik’s son. However, he did an awesome job of describing the boy, and I can just see similarities in past students of mine as I read each part of that description.
With that, let me consider Rik’s real question — at the end…
I found it interesting that he described exact routines for a speed ramp device and for the use of a slideboard. The problem I see with each of those types of training, however, is that they both tend to help in an area that doesn’t seem to need all that much improvement. (After all, Rik does say that his son “… is fast and eats ice…” once he gets going.) Oh, I’m not saying that a player wouldn’t benefit from using either of those contraptions. Still, to do so right now seems to be wasting time that could be better spent doing some other things.
What I’m really hearing from Rik — and what I’ve discovered in dealing with numerous other big-bodied players — is a need to “get going” quicker.
Just as an aside here, I feel the need to introduce the distinction I make between being “fast” or “quick”… For, to me, speed — or being fast — is usually measured over a relatively long distance, perhaps like a race down the ice. On the other hand, I see quickness as being cat-like or agile, and being able to react in the blink of an eye within a few steps in either of four directions.
As yet another aside… I’ve found it interesting that over many years, most bigger or taller players do tend to skate rather upright. I haven’t a clue why this is. I will, though, try to make one suggestion below.
All that said, here’s what I would recommend for Rik’s son, as well as any other bigger players. Perhaps not so surprising, all of these recommendations are described in some detail within the CoachChic.com site…
1) Some sport psychologists have already agreed with my belief that there is a mental component to quickness. In other words, it helps greatly if an athlete first “thinks quickness”. With that, I like to have a player stand relaxed and with feet spread a bit, and then attempt to move the feet up and down as quickly as possible for about 8-seconds. The player should hardly bring the feet off the floor or ice. Sensing how that felt, I’ll ask him or her to see if he or she can do it again and feel the feet moving even faster. I’ll also often introduce the thought of running on a flaming hot surface (like a hot pavement), whereby it would hurt to leave the foot down very long. Said another way, I’d almost like to hear the feet tap lightly like a very fast drum roll.
2) Work on an agility ladder is exactly what this kind of player needs. Not only does it help enhance the above described quick feet, but it also helps quicken changes in direction (and quick take-offs).
3) Over time, rope skipping can be one of the best ways to improve footwork or foot quickness. (Just envision the way pro boxers ultimately move their feet while skipping.)
4) At 18-years old, Rik’s son should already be doing some plyometrics. The very idea of this form of training is to enhance explosiveness.
5) I usually resort to WallSits (sitting against a wall for about 20-seconds as if sitting in a chair), as well as some skating in an exaggerated sitting posture. A slideboard could also help here, if the player concentrates on that aspect of his or her posture.
As I’ve previously stated, there’s nothing wrong with the recommendations others may have made. If there’s a problem with those, the ramp device and slideboard would probably only help enhance areas Rik’s boy is already fairly good at. The ideas I’ve provided about should instead help with take-offs, and they should especially help his son to win many of the more consequential battles that take place in our game, these including quick, agile movements.
As for a timeline, I dare not guess. All I might suggest is that improvement is going to come from the above prescribed methods. And, I’ll offer, ’tis better later than never.
Hoping that helps, Rik, I also hope you’ll get back to me once you’ve had the chance to drink this all in.
PS: All the exercises I’ve described above are covered in much greater detail within this website.
I’m sure CoachChic.com members now believe deeply in the benefits of off-ice training, as well as the great positive transfer of skills that can take place from dryland to the ice.
In preface to this entry, I’d like you to watch (or review) the video on Sprint Training for Hockey Skating Speed, because it provides some great background, and because there is an overlap in the drills I incorporate in both sprint training and agility ladder work.
With that, there isn’t much need for me to say more in type — the two videos that follow will explain everything.
– Dennis Chighisola
Using an Agility Ladder for Hockey Quickness
Video 1 — Introduction…Loading...
Video 2 — Ladder Training – Coach Chic StyleLoading...
From there, there’s nothing to it but to do it!
You may think I’ve said this too often, but I firmly believe that social media sites like Twitter, Facebook and Google+ have connected me with some of the best and brightest in the world. That’s where I discovered most of the special guest writers here within CoachChic.com, and Facebook is where Dom Browne and I recently met.
As you’ll soon discover, Dom is a very bright young guy, and I can’t thank him enough for agreeing to share his study on the benefits of jump rope workouts for “hockey” players.
Okay, why did I use those quotation marks up above? It’s because Dom’s study was done with and for in-line hockey players. However, if you trust this old coach, you’ll appreciate that most skating techniques are identical, be they on wheels or blades.
So, enjoy, CoachChic.com members, and let’s thank Dom once again for his really high level contribution.
– Dennis Chighisola
Jump Rope Training For Hockey
By Dom Browne
I often get asked by hockey players I coach the best way to improve their speed. When I ask them what exercises they do I get the same response; “squats, lunges and deadlifts”, all of which are very good exercises and are fundamental for building strength in the legs. However, when I suggest jump rope training, I get the same reply; “Skipping?” I will explain the reason for my answer, using the study carried out for my dissertation as reference.
There are several different facets involved in skating and many skills are needed for each different movement. The forward start, crossover start, forward skate, crossover, pivot, backward start, backward skate, backward crossover, two foot parallel stop, one foot stop, backward stop and t-stop are the main skills involved in skating during a inline hockey game. During a game, players incorporate each of these to move around the rink and to gain a positional advantage over an opponent. With all these different movements being demonstrated in a game, it is necessary for the players to be agile… the pace of the game is also relatively high compared with other team sports such as soccer, rugby and field hockey, so players need to be fast and have extremely good acceleration, especially at higher levels.
Speed, agility and power are important components of sport performance. Acceleration and speed could be considered the power components of skating, they are consistently predicted by off-ice power tests such as vertical jump and the 40 yard dash. Although jumping, running and skating are biomechanically different, it is the power component of each movement that is very similar. Power is the amount of work done in a given time, the players skate very fast for short periods of time, giving a high power output. Hockey also involves significant balance or stability challenges because of the small surface area in contact with a reasonably low friction surface. An individual may be capable of sprinting at 27 or more miles per hour, but lack the explosive power to accelerate rapidly or to change direction rapidly.
Research investigating the effects of plyometrics on speed in ice hockey players is somewhat limited. Rimmer and Sleivert (2000) conducted an eight-week study to determine the effects of a sprint-specific plyometrics program on sprint performance. Results showed that the plyometric group significantly reduced both their 10m and 40m sprint times. Polhemius and Osina (1980) investigated the effects of weighted plyometric exercises had on conventional sprint training practices in university level track athletes. Pre and post measures of 40 metre sprint times revealed that those who performed plyometric exercises, three times per week for six weeks in addition to their conventional training programs, decreased their 40m sprint times. In both studies, plyometric training was assumed to have resulted in an improved acceleration phase due to a specificity training response, where ground contact times decreased and force production rates increase. It is reasonable to suggest that as ground contact times and stride force production rates are also critical components in skating at top speed, plyometric training may provide similar benefits to skaters as for sprinters. If players are able to decrease contact time with the ice while improving stride force production, the result is likely to be increased skating speed and, therefore, improvement on overall performance.
Plyometrics is very similar to rope jump training in terms of the type of load imposed upon the body. The main objective of the jump rope exercises is to convert elastic energy generated by both the force of gravity and body mass during eccentric or lengthening muscle contraction into an opposite force during the concentric or shortening contraction. A lengthening or eccentric contraction followed by a concentric contraction utilizes the elastic energy stored in that muscle during the stretching phase. When released this elastic energy can make a substantial contribution to the efficiency of the muscle contraction resulting in greater power output (Koutedakis, 1989). Muscle spindles located within the muscles react to sudden stretch by sending signals to the spinal cord, resulting in muscular contraction to resist the sudden stretch.
Buddy Lee is the official jump rope conditioning consultant to 25 U.S. Olympic teams and has published books explaining and discussing the use of jump rope training in sports. The U.S. Figure skating association made Lee’s jump rope training their number one off-ice conditioning technique for all levels of skaters. Lee (2003) states that rope jumping can be used to increase the aerobic capacity of an athlete when used for 10 minutes or longer, but the greatest benefits of jump rope training can be achieved when used to enhance the anaerobic energy system. This is done by using the training in short explosive cycles of 30 seconds, improving speed, agility, quickness and explosiveness, all of which are important in sports that require explosiveness and quick acceleration.
In 2007 I carried out research into the affect of jump rope training on inline hockey players of varying ages. The four timed tests carried out were the same as those used by Bracko (2001); agility cornering S-turn, 6.10m acceleration, 47.85m speed and 15.20m full speed. The control group undertook a simple 6-week training programme involving simple weight lifting based exercises focusing on the major muscle groups used in skating (quadriceps, leg adductors, hamstrings and rectus abdominus) along with some other basic muscular strength exercises. The experimental group also carried out this weekly schedule, but also a 30-40 minute jump rope training programme was carried out four times per week.
Figure 1. Skating tests: (a) agility cornering S turn, (b) 6.10m acceleration,
(c) 47.85m speed, (d) 15.20m full speed. Adapted from Bracko (2001).
Jump rope training at it’s best
At the end of the 6-week training programme, the experimental group showed marked improvements in their times for all four tested variables. The jump rope training improved agility by 2.95%, acceleration by 13.23%, speed by 3.17% and full speed by 11.85%. All of the improvements were significant. This indicates that jump rope training has a positive effect on speed and agility in roller hockey players.
An example of the jump rope training plan that can be used in my study can be found at the bottom of this page: Jump Rope Training for Hockey
See other works by Dom Browne: YGH Clinics
As you may know, I resurrected my Skater’s Rhythm-bar after having kept it slightly hidden for a few years. (In other words, I’ve only been using it lately behind closed doors and with special students.)
Two things made me pull those R-bars out of mothballs, however:
1) a former student and long-time pro player reminded me recently just how awesome that device is;
2) I’d noticed that a lot of my youngest students — both in the ADM program and in my own Learn-to clinics — were really flailing their arms and legs, and getting almost nothing for their efforts.
Anyway, I finally advertised a short course which has run for the past 5-weeks. And I thought I’d show you a few things that are almost always evident whenever I get into the issue of balance in the forward stride.
– Dennis Chighisola
Balance in Hockey’s Forward Skating Stride
I shot the following video on the first night my students and I gathered. I wanted to expose all the worst things that can be observed at a time like this (and I’ll explain more in awhile what I mean by “a time like this”).
Among the things I hope you’ll spot…
The hockey stick is terribly inhibiting to any skater, and especially so to a relative beginner. So, see if you can spot instances where a youngster’s stick hand moves through a very short, abrupt pattern, while the free hand travels through a relatively full range of motion.
On occasion, you might notice a player pumping the stick hand forward-to-backward while the free hand moves side-to-side. (Talk about wrestling within oneself, and really expending a lot of energy to get almost nowhere!)
I hope you’ll also notice how a youngster will sometimes restrict his hand, arm and shoulder movements to only a slight side-to-side action. And, calling into play the law of equal and opposite reactions, it’s important for us to know that such upper boy movements translate to equally abrupt skate thrusts to each side.
As for that thing about “a time like this”, well… Any “Before” shot (in a “Before and After” sequence) has to include the worst possible conditions, just so we ultimately get to see the extremes. And, in this case, the kids haven’t worked with my Skater’s Rhythm-bar yet, and THEY ARE FORCED HERE TO SKATE WHILE CARRYING THEIR STICKS. Ya, the sticks do cause a problem, as you should see.
Okay, so let’s take a look…Loading...
Actually, there were a couple of decent arm pumps within that footage, but there were also a ton of other mechanical problems I’ll deal with at another time. Hopefully you have seen the things I mentioned above, though. And, while I might apply a lot of science to the actual analysis of a player’s skating motion, I’m sure you realize now how easily the naked eye (or a very simply shot video) can expose a lot.
Now, it’s been about a month since my kids have trained with the Skater’s Rhythm-bar, as well as spent plenty of time skating without a stick. So, take a look at how they’ve come along (I’ll add some further comments later)…
Man, I’m getting such a great feeling, just watching that footage… I’m sure you’ll admit that the kids look FAR better than in the first video-taping. They are traveling much better, they’re more at ease in their movements, their left and right hands (and arms and shoulders) are moving through similar patterns, and aaaaaaah…
Down the road, I think I’m going to release a program that tells coaches, parents and older players how to make and use their own Skater’s Rhythm-bar. (I used to sell the R-bar and an accompanying hard copy training manual, but I don’t think that’s really necessary in this day and age.)
Really, though, a lot can be accomplished towards the desired end without a Rhythm-bar. I mean, I have all of my players (goalies included) train for brief times by striding without a stick. And, while you might be thinking of beginners here, I am going to suggest that the most advanced players will benefit from this sort of training.
Okay, questions or Comments? Let’s get a conversation going!
Aaaaah, I love it when folks toss their hockey problems my way (even if I’m not sure I can answer them)!
Okay, so I just received the following question (which might just be a huge challenge for me). Please take a read…
– Dennis Chighisola
A Great Hockey Skater Is Suddenly Falling(?)
This actually came by way of a Comment, but I thought it worthy enough to address in its own post. Here’s the question verbatim:
“my son plays in a novice select team is 8yrs old…a great skater..but is falling alot of late…..Why ??“
Hmmmmmm… Why, indeed.
Quite obviously this is a difficult one to answer without being able to see the boy. (I surely wouldn’t mind receiving a short video clip of the youngster, just so I might do a lot better than I’m going to right now.)
That said, the best I have to go on are the following assumptions:
1) dad says he’s a pretty good skater;
2) it sounds like the level the boy is playing is pretty decent;
3) it also sounds as if the youngster’s frequent falling is something that’s just started happening very recently.
The reason I wanted to state all that is because it probably at least makes it possible for us to discount the kid being an awful skater who ought to fall plenty anyway.
That established (I hope), my educated guess is that we have to look in two separate areas for an answer…
1) Equipment-wise, I’d look at the skates. Has there been a change in these important pieces of gear — either in a switch to new or different blades, or is there something wrong with a recent skate sharpening? (To be honest, I don’t think new boots would make a player fall, but something being drastically different about the blades or sharpening surely could.) And, of course, it would be nice if it was that easy to resolve the boy’s problems — by just fixing a piece of gear, I mean.
2) After that, we obviously have to consider a physical problem of some sort, and this I’ll question on several fronts:
- if recent skating problems happened about the same time the boy joined the current (select?) team, it could be that many pretty talented opponents are causing him to have difficulties keeping-up (having to change directions quickly, etc);
- I don’t usually associate growth spurts with kids far younger than puberty, but a sudden change in one’s body can surely bring about some difficulties with fine motor skills;
- God forbid, but I very long ago had a really talented student of mine start having some similar problems, and this was later diagnosed as a very serious health issue.
Okay, that’s where I am right now — suggesting that the dad work his way through that short checklist, first starting with the possibility that the whole thing has to do with an equipment (or mainly a skate) issue.
I’d also invite him to work with me on this, so that we could go back and forth to troubleshoot things. So, if you would, dad, let me know what you discover from going through that list, and even send me a short video clip if you can (I’ll provide advice if you don’t know how to do it).
Finally, I’m sure the dad won’t mind that I open this discussion to others. Ya, I think it would be helpful if anyone else has an idea they think ought to be included in the checklist I’ve plotted so far.
Oh, did I say I love questions? You know I do! And, I also love feedback or Comments from members, so please join-in!
Okay, so you figure this topic isn’t quite up to the kind of stuff we normally deal with here at CoachChic.com? Well, I’m personally an inquisitive rascal, and I want to know absolutely everything about my sport — from how things are made to how they’re best maintained. Only then can I make “educated” decisions when it comes to the seemingly more important stuff.
Of course, you can explore the Internet on your own to find information like the following. At the same time, you should know that I’m always looking for you, and attempting to locate information I feel you’d gain from.
That said, although I’ve watched countless new ice surfaces being put down, I actually learned a couple of interesting things about ice making from the following video. So, thanks to YouTube.com and the Discovery / Science Channel, I hope you enjoy…
– Dennis Chighisola
How Indoor Rink Ice Is Made
I promised last week that I’d provide a follow-up to the “Beginner Boards Bumps“, as soon as I could gather some video footage. So, here goes…
– Dennis Chighisola
Beginner Knee Touches
Now, I’d like to share with you something I’ve noticed over a lot of years, in that some players topple over easily in games, while others seem to find a way to right themselves and continue moving onward.
I know, you’re not thinking that’s anything real earth-shaking. However, let me explain that in another way…
I think a lot of kids just don’t know how to pull themselves back on-balance. So, once they’re put just a little off-balance, they give-up. And, that’s the learning experience I try to give my players — youngest to oldest — with a drill I call “Knee Touches”.
The photo to the right shows my beginner — Learn-to-skate — group performing that drill. As with lots of other such drills, we practiced this for many weeks in a brief off-ice session just before we took to the ice. (We practice lots of other introductory-type drills in that off-ice “SkateDrill” format, because the rubber flooring provides a slightly more stable surface for them to initially experiment upon.) Before you click on the photo to see my little ones in action, understand that I’ve asked them to slowly touch alternate knees to the ice WITHOUT USING THEIR HANDS. Of course, as you’ll see, the kids have varying success with that part of the drill.
The next photo once again shows those Knee Touches, this time with my slightly more advanced group — the Learn-to-play kids, performing them. Clicking on the thumbnail will show my little guys and gals in action. As you watch, try to envision a youngster being put slightly off-balance during game action. Like doing the drill, a player in a game really does have the choice between lazily falling or tightening his or her core muscles and rising back to action. So, watch for that if you will, before going on.
Now, you may have sensed that this was coming, in that I am going to suggest that there is very often a mental component as a player wobbles. In other words, while there is surely a lot of physical wrestling going on as a player teeters, I’m here to say that there are also some subconscious forces at play.
Please think about what I’m saying… The little guy in the above photo may have been tripped-up or knocked off-balance in the game action. As this happens, he surely will try to get back up. However, besides the physical, there’s something going on inside him that involves a quick thought process. Okay, click on the above photo to see the Knee Touch drill in slow-motion.
Finally, as you’ll recall, this brief series came about as I tried to troubleshoot a problem with my young Mighty Mites. Ya, they’re only little guys, and they’re not all that experienced. So, I figured I could give my kids a huge advantage if they could stay on their feet more often than their opponents. Repetitive bumps again the boards gave them tons of experience in dealing with collisions, but I think that drill is more physical than anything else. From there, having the kids constantly rise and lower themselves — and giving them the choice between falling or righting themselves — gets a little more into the mental side of this problem. In a way, I think my kids get mentally tougher with this drill, or maybe they gain a sense that they actually do have a choice oftentimes between falling or getting quickly back into the action.
PS: If our Learn-to-play and Mighty Mite seasons went much longer, I’d bring the older group to the next progression of this drill, which has the kids skating down one stretch of the rink and doing those Knee Touches while they’re moving. Far down the road, this drill is combined with puckhandling.
It’s quite possible you want to question me on this entry, particularly when it comes to my making such a big deal of out what I see as a mental component to falling or not. That’s okay, though… And I’d love to discuss that right here with you.
By Dennis Chighisola
A lot of this piece is really about troubleshooting, because it’s such a huge part of what we coaches and parents have to do for the sake of our young players.
Actually, I’m constantly on the lookout for problems in my kids’ games (no matter their age). And, I’ve mentioned often to you how I’d make either mental notes (or more often, written ones) as I observed my young Mighty Mites at play.
Anyway, over one short stretch early in our season I noticed that those little guys needed more help with their stability. Oh, they are only 4- to 7-years old, and they are just beginners, so they’re expected to take their spills (even if someone opens a door to allow a gust of wind to knock them down – ).
Still, there are cures for such things. And, while I was able to fall back on a couple of my old standbys for this problem, I’d have invented something if it had to come to that.
Now, I’m going to save the other drill until I can get some footage to show you. In the meantime, let me show you an introductory body-checking drill I call Boards Bumps.
To the right you can see my little guys moving very close to the boards. They are actually coasting along and periodically bumping against the boards. The idea is to allow them to gain the feel of bumping – or being bumped. They’ll usually wobble a little with each bump, and they’ll sometimes even fall. But again, the idea is to give them repetitive opportunities to “feel” the bumps, and to learn how to adjust to each.
A little at a time, they’ll learn to spread their skates slightly (for a wider base), and to sit a little lower (for a lower center of gravity). We coaches will constantly remind them to do those things as they pass by, and we’ll also constantly remind them to keep two hands on their sticks with their sticks down on the ice.
You should know that there is/was a lead-up drill to the one you’re going to see here. In that one, each player stood next to the boards, assumed a good strength posture, and then bumped the boards 5-times. After resting for a few seconds, each player would then turn and bump the boards with his or her other shoulder. And, on their own, the kids would continue to do that as we coaches moved among them to provide feedback.
As an FYI… The above drill can be done off-ice and at home, in the event a parent wants to help his or her child behind the scenes. There’s nothing better than to have your own young one (or older one) being the only player standing after an on-ice collision.
Okay, now that you have the gist of it, the next photo is linked to a video that will open in a new window. Notice that the kids are just getting the hang of this – actually, all of them are at different levels right now, mainly because they vary so much in age.
Finally, I’d like to remind you again about our need to constantly troubleshoot the problems our kids are having. And, if ever you have any difficulties solving a problem, well… That’s why you have me here.
Please DO add your Comments or questions below!
Well, I find it pretty interesting how the Olympic Games spur extra interest in the various winter sports. For sure, I’ll bet the excitement surrounding the ice hockey tournament has attracted a lot of viewers who probably don’t normally watch NHL games (live or on TV), and it will also likely bring a lot of young parents to all of a sudden look into skating or hockey lessons for their kids.
Hockey isn’t alone in benefiting from increased exposure, of course, and I’m sure sports like skiing, snowboarding, curling, figure skating and speed skating will also see a rise in new fans and new participants.
Oh, yes, speed skating… I’ve noticed quite a boost in searches for information about that sport, and I’ve also noticed some of those searches link both speed skating and hockey skating. As a matter of fact, here are a few questions I’ve seen in recent days:
- Why don’t speed skaters use their arms?
- Why do speed skaters pump with one arm?
- Are speed skaters faster than hockey players?
- Could speed skating training help a hockey player?
Of course, I’m not supposed to be an expert on speed skating. However, I used to employ a speed skating coach to work in my summer hockey schools, and we spent quite a bit of time exchanging teaching and training ideas. Oh, and our common student, Eric Flaim, ultimately made a name for himself in the long-blade sport, winning a Silver Medal in the ‘88 Olympics held in Calgary. So, I will at least take a stab at those speed skating related questions.
– Dennis Chighisola
Speed Skating Versus Hockey Skating
Let me start by trying to get those first few questions out of the way…
1) I don’t know what games a questioner was watching if he or she thought figure skaters DON’T use their arms. They surely do, but let me handle the rest of that in the next section.
2) Those who posed forms of the second question got it pretty much rightly, in that we’ll most often see speed skaters pumping just one arm (I’ll deal with no pumping a little later).
Now, I’ll have to ask my CoachChic.com friends if they’ve ever noticed that speed skaters pump a specific arm, not just any one. I mean, they don’t pump the left arm because they’re left handed, whatever. No, they mostly pump the outside arm – which is always the right one, this to aid in their mostly counterclockwise skating pattern.
I said “mostly” – in reference to the arm pumps, because there are times when they use both arms, and there are times when they don’t pump either. And, I said they “mostly” skate counterclockwise because only the outdoor version of the sport has fairly long straight-aways, while the so-called short track event includes almost all turns to the skater’s left. (In other words, the track is so short, that there are hardly any straight-aways.)
As an aside here, know that I really don’t get a chance to watch a lot of the various events. However, there seem to be some huge (but perhaps not obvious) differences between the outdoor and indoor versions of this sport.
In a way, I see the outdoor event on the huge track as an all-out sprint against the clock. Skaters are staggered for most of the race and separated in their own lanes, so the only thing that makes sense to me is for a contestant to race at 100% against that clock.
In contrast, it appears to me that an awful lot of strategy goes into the short track event. I mean, skaters aren’t confined to lanes, and they consequently don’t always skate all-out as they attempt to outwit and out-maneuver their opponents. My guess is that the lack of arm pumping – after the take-off – is due to the short-tracker’s need for more control and even greater streamlining than is required in the long track events.
Then, one more thing about the use of a skater’s arms (actually, those who study the biomechanics of skating would say that skaters use their shoulders in that motion)… If you get the chance, please review the video I made for you about “Analyzing the Forward Stride”; there’s quite a bit explained there about arm (or shoulder) actions, as well as about the body’s need to stay in balance for the sake of energy efficiency and momentum.
When it comes to the take-off, I’ve said that there is hardly a difference when running or skating – with a brisk forward and backward pumping of the arms aiding greatly in getting either a hockey player or speed skater (or sprinter) quickly off the mark. Once under way, however – or once we get beyond the take-off (within just a few steps), we shift to a “skating mode”, in which the skates push outward and the arms need to travel through a side-to-side motion to balance everything.
4) Okay, now for another question, as in, Will speed skating training help a hockey player? Well, before tackling that, let’s take a look at an awesome YouTube.com video featuring TIME’s Sean Gregory as he learns how Apolo Ohno prepared for Vancouver (by the way, something like the “turnbuckle” or belt arrangement shown in the start of the video has been a staple in The MOTION Lab for a good 6- or 7-years, and I’m soon going to make these fairly inexpensive contraptions available to you in the CoachChic.com Hockey Store)…
So, do you want my honest opinion when it comes to the training shown in that video (of course, minus the specific short track on-ice stuff)?
I’d say that everything – from the belt training to the stairs workouts — would be awesome for a hockey player. Actually, we use almost all of those methods with our hockey players in The MOTION Lab.
That said, I do need to add one caveat… Don’t ever forget that our sport is not based solely upon a pretty, powerful stride. No, hockey players need to shift gears, react in all directions, and oftentimes handle a puck as they’re moving. Come to think of it, they also have to skate for their lives with opponents oftentimes trying to run over them!
3) Which brings me to the question I obviously avoided early-on. For, I would be willing to bet on a speed skater if he or she was matched against a hockey player in a straight-ahead race, or a sprint in one direction around the rink. Drop a puck, however, and all bets are off. Ya, everything a speed skater does — from training to dressing — has to do with those two kinds of races. As soon as lateral movements and stops, starts or cuts are required, my money is on the hockey player.
But again, much shown in that video would be good for an ice hockey player.
Finally, remember that I don’t see myself as an expert on speed skating. So, I surely would appreciate hearing from those who might know a lot more about both versions of that sport.
PS: TIME’s Sean Gregory actually has a series of videos available over on YouTube, and I’d highly recommend you view them. And, if he has a great collection of those up-close studies for sale, I’d love to own them.
Please give me your feedback on this one, huh? And I’d like to hear from both hockey and speed skating folks!
I hate to do this but, I am going to reserve this information for members only, this for a very special reason. You see, what I’m about to share is a little on the tricky side, and I suspect it could be misapplied if not truly understood. Moreover, this topic gives me the chance to put yet another one of those so-called hockey wives tales to rest, hopefully, once and for all.
– Dennis Chighisola
Do NHL Players Tie Skates Differently?
This question actually came in an email I received about a week ago. Unfortunately, the sender didn’t provide a name. No matter, it is a very good question.
Now, it must have been a good 20-years ago (probably more), when my son returned home from his latest minor pro hockey season, and when he suggested I try something a little different. What he asked was that I try skating without using the top eyelets in my skate-boots. In other words, tie the skates normally, but stop the laces and tie the bow at the next-to-last hole.
Quite honestly, I think I showed a big question mark on my face when I heard that, but my son continued, “Try it, dad. Wait until you feel how much flex you get in your ankles!”
So I did try it, and I quickly became a believer. In fact, I’ve been tying my skates that way ever since, and I’ve been sharing that bit of advice with my older students and players, too.
Notice that I said “older” students and players there. For, I really don’t recommend that approach until a player is pretty dawgoned strong, and until a player has TRULY mastered his or her skating. Hence my reserving this information for those who are into the CoachChic.com way of thinking. In other words: everything in time, everything in proper sequence. Or, as I’ve said countless times within these pages, “Never skip steps!”
As an aside here, going down an eyelet on a good player’s skate tying really does help him or her to achieve better ankle flexibility. And, with that, I can see my players looking all the more – I don’t know, I guess “stylish” is the word. From a skating analysis standpoint, the added flexibility allows a player to nicely snap the ankle at the very end of each thrust.
Of course, my son had gotten that tip from some other guys he was playing a medium level pro with, so this was something that was obviously known within that level (and most likely higher). So, when that email arrived in reference to NHL players tying their skates a little differently, it should make sense that I’d answer, “It’s pretty likely.”*
Slightly connected… I know that some years ago I heard that Soviet players were sometimes practicing with their skates virtually untied. (Whoa, that has to be a challenge!) The idea in doing that, of course, would be to make practicing (MUCH) more difficult, so that skating in games — with a regular skate tying — would ultimately feel a lot easier.
Okay, so let me briefly switch to another slightly connected topic, that having to do with tying the skates of very young, or much less experienced skaters. Actually, while this point was raised by one of my Mighty Mite parents the other day, it also gives me the chance to address that wives tale I mentioned earlier.
It seems that the dad’s son had just been called-up to play and practice on a Mite C level team, and the coach of that team recommended that the dad wrap tape around the boy’s ankles (to evidently gain better ankle support). Hmmmmm, and ugh…
Now, I can be at least a little compassionate towards that youth coach. After all, he doesn’t have the benefit of knowing the things my members do – about how to analyze a stride, or about the need for ankle flex in the skating movement. And, he likely doesn’t realize how applying very much tape around the ankles could make a player skate in almost a robot fashion. In other words, with the feet and lower legs pretty much fused together, it should make sense that the player is going to move rather rigidly. (As an FYI… I don’t mind a player making one or two wraps of tape around the top eyelets, this to keep the laces from coming undone. Any attempt to lay the tape on heavily or very tightly, however, IS going to cause the aforementioned robot-like problem.)
Trust me, that I didn’t leave that Mighty Mite dad hanging. Instead, I spent a short time observing the boy moving around the ice during our recent pre-game warm-ups. And, based on my 40-ish years of studying such things, here are the possibilities I considered before even looking at that youngster:
- I think the first challenge for a beginner skater is in learning to manipulate the thin steel blade that extends-out from each skate-boot. Please think about what I’m saying here, in that the skater wears the boot snugly tied to his or her foot (which isn’t tough at all), but then he or she has to control the blade in order to really skate. (Ever hear the expression “edge control”?) Actually, good control of a skate’s blade takes unbelievable coordination of tiny muscles in the foot, with different combinations being required to glide, cut, stop, move forward, backwards, or whatever.
- Appreciate that some beginners – and I’m mainly talking about very young kids here – are a little lazy. I don’t mean this in a harsh way at all. What I am suggesting is that some 5-year olds might actually try to conquer their wobbly blades, while some others might not really focus well at first, or they don’t totally understand the coach’s instructions or demonstrations — yet.
- One other possibility also has to do with rather young kids, and especially kids who are hurrying towards some other goal without worrying about what’s happening with their feet. Far from the lazy type, this kind of player is usually extra aggressive, and just doesn’t have the patience to worry about how he or she will get from Point A to Point B.
As a final note here, one should only skip to the above checklist after ensuring that the player’s skates fit properly, that they are of sufficient quality to support him or her, and that they are tied correctly. Of course, the above also assumes that there are no serious physical or learning disabilities present. (On occasion I will notice a youngster doing something rather odd in his or her skating movement. Presuming there isn’t anything physically wrong, however, I’ve provided the best ideas in the world to solve almost every beginner skating problem in my video on “21 Must-do Beginner Skating Drills”. I’ve also included more help in separate articles and videos under the General Skills Advice category.
As for my young Mighty Mite, I kinda knew ahead of time that the best way to describe him would be found in Point #3 above. Sure, he’s still new at skating, so there’s a little of Part #1 involved (with him and all of my little guys). But, the main problem – if there even is a problem – is that the youngster in question is hell-bent-for-leather. I mean, he wants the puck, he wants goals, and he is seemingly not caring how he gets to do those things (right now). So, does it stand to reason that his footwork isn’t going to look very pretty? You bet. But, does it seem to have anything to do with his skates? Absolutely not.
As yet another aside, my preference is for players who are zoned-in on the puck. (Some of the prettiest skaters in the world can’t play the game, and some of those have been buried at center-ice or implanted into the local rink’s boards. So, while “pretty” can be good, “effective” is a far more important quality in my book.)
To sum-up all of this (and to add a little more), let me make these points:
- Beginners need all the help they can get, and this includes good quality skates that are fit properly and tied properly. And, since beginners do need all the help they can get, I’d lace their boots all the way up through all the eyelets.
- My biggest fear is that the parents of an intermediate will (skip steps and) go right straight to the advanced way of skate tying. I’d much prefer that kids in this category 1) gain the benefits I mentioned in the above point, 2) become REALLY proficient skaters under normal skate-tying conditions, and 3) build-up their ankle strength to the point where they might be ready to perform stressful movements with the top eyelet not tied.
- I actually advise my players and students on an individual basis when it comes to making equipment changes. So, it isn’t like I tell all kids at a given age or level to do away with their top lace-holes. Instead, I usually sense that one player could really benefit from doing this, while another of the same age and level will not. When I do prescribe this, I will have a player test it in an easy practice setting, and I’ll usually suggest that he or she continue practicing through the long off-season. Again, it’s rather stressful if one is skating hard with the skates tied in this manner, so I’d prefer my kids get plenty of chances to build-up strength and to get used to the new feel.
Finally, if you want more of my feelings on whether NHL players are tying their skates in the way I’ve described above, I’d be willing to bet that a great many are. However, a lot of this would have to do with where a player came from, as well as what sort of player he is. Furthermore, pro athletes can be a superstitious lot, and they are often open to or resistant to change, depending on so many things. So again, I’d guess many current pros are tying their skates differently, but probably as many will never change the way they’ve always done what they’ve done.
Now, this has really been fun! A number of avid members offered their thoughts on the following problem (begun over at “The Tight Turn (or Boston Turn“), and I got to interact with them (which is always the most fun).
Anyway, to recap things, just in case you’re jumping in late here… The first photo below shows my young buddy and grandson, Anthony Chic, protecting the puck and making a tight or Boston turn around a defender. And, although he’s one of the best at this ploy, the camera catches him making one glaring mistake — at least at the moment that photo was taken.
From there, a bunch of my CoachChic.com friends tried to figure what this zany old coach was getting at. And, while most seemed to be coming kinda close to what I was seeing, no one really hit it dead-on.
With all that, I’m going to do my best below to explain myself.
– Dennis Chighisola
Troubleshooting the Tight Turn (or Boston Turn)
Okay, it’s quite possible that a lot of my great friends here are ultimately going to slap their foreheads and mutter to themselves, “That’s what I meant!” And, while many of you — especially Jerry Z, Ravi and Ozzy — almost sounded as if you were hinting at what I’ll suggest, I don’t think anyone really said what I was looking for. (After I’d prepared this piece, Michael G actually came as close to the answer as anyone.)
Anyway, (to the left) let’s start here with the original photo of Tony C fighting off that defender. I’m showing this again, just so we’ll have a frame of reference.
Next, to give you a sense of how this old coach sees such things, let me show you the same picture (below), but with the defensive player removed…
What I’ll normally suggest (or joke about) to one of my students who strikes a pose like this is that, “If someone opens a door and a little breeze enters the rink, you’re going to fall on your dawgoned ear!” Can you see it? Anthony’s skates are both FAR outside his center of gravity. And in such a posture, he has no strength — or no stability — whatsoever!
Then, I’ve doctored that photo again (below), but this time moving Tony C’s inside foot/leg closer to under his center of gravity. So, take a look, and see if he just might be a whole lot stronger in that stance. (Moving parts around within that photo wasn’t easy, and it’s not exactly how I’d like it to look. But, it still should give you a sense of what I’d be aiming for.)
Now, in reality, I’ve solicited Comments and withheld my thoughts for a time so that I could address some other common issues when it comes to a move like this.
You see, there are a kzillion hockey “wives tales” forever circulating around the rinks — and particularly within youth hockey circles, with a number of them either raised or hinted at in the accumulated Comments. So, please allow me to tackle some of those, because I think these points will help an awful lot of my friends deal with some of those so-called wives tales:
- If you have the time, go over to YouTube and watch a few of the highlight reel goals. I guarantee you’ll find most of your favorite players — from Ovechkin to Crosby to Datsyuk — making big-time plays with one hand on their sticks. You see, a player can only make very narrow dribbles and dekes with the stick held in both hands. And, while I’ve picked on Anthony here because I found a flaw at one moment in time, he is actually doing a ton of things right in that play. For example, notice how he is able to extend his reach with the stick held in one hand, so that the defender doesn’t have a prayer of getting to that puck. As importantly, Anthony is able to fend-off his man because his other hand is free to do so. Oh, and by the way… Because all of my students and former players can do everything both ways, Tony C would be just as comfortable extending the stick far out in his left hand and holding-off his man with the right.
- I think a lot of the wives tales — or false impressions — stem from players or youth coaches “thinking” they see something they really don’t. And one thing I sense a lot of folks around the rinks believe is that the skates should be arranged one behind the other when executing a quick cut like this one. Oh, for sure, the inside skate must lead — a little — in the tight turn. But, to move with the skates in a straight line also removes strength and stability.
- I loved that one of my NEHI HS Prep kids jumped in on this conversation. And I also love the chance it gives me to address something else… I mean, you will hardly ever hear me say or see me write, “Keep your HEAD up!” Why? It’s because the EYES are the important thing when it comes to puckhandling! Actually, the best attackers in the hockey world look down at the puck; one can’t carry for very long without occasionally checking on it. That said, can you just imagine a great puckcarrier bobbing his or her head up and down as he or she moves down the ice? Geeeeeeze… What a good attacker should really do is hold the head fairly steady, use split vision to see almost everything, and occasionally just move the eyes with quick glances — down, up, etc…
- I am going to suggest here that our game is one of constant adjustments. And I’ll further suggest that any given technique might be good at one moment and not so good at another. As an example, I’ll often joke to my older students that they can skate like figure skaters in open ice, but they’d better drastically change their posture as they enter traffic. In other words, large and pretty cross-overs or an upright stance might be okay with no one around you; but, you’d better sit low and spread those skates as soon as there’s a chance for body contact. Said yet another way… Within just a few seconds, we might see a player in a speedy or graceful posture suddenly shift to a bracing stance; he might go back to an open ice stride, and then quickly return to the strong and stable position.
Oh, and one more thing about those wives tales… Supposing a young player or youth coach spotted Anthony’s photo and presumed that — since he’s a pretty dangerous attacker — his technique is one to emulate — to a tee. Well, you and I now know that it’s true in many regards, yet it’s definitely not in at least one other. If they picked-up on his method of protecting the puck, I’d say they’re on the way to better skills. However, if they hung their hats on the way he’s been caught in his foot placement… Well, can you imagine a coach teaching that method for the next 10-years? And that’s what I’m getting at about a lot of those so-called rink wives tales. They were based on a wrong assumption in the first place, but nonetheless keep being spread and spread and spread.
Finally, I can’t tell you guys — Jerry, Scott, Ravi, Wilder, Ozzy, Mike and GKelly — how much I appreciate you jumping in here. Honest to God, I couldn’t have done this piece without your help, and I’m praying I haven’t discouraged you (with a few of my teases) from weighting-in on future conversations. I love you guys!
Oh, as for a prize… I was originally thinking about an all-expenses-paid trip to Pluto. As it turns out, I can’t afford that. So, I’m hoping Jerry, Ozzy and Mike will settle for a shorter ride — maybe to Jupiter? (Thanks again, guys; you’re the best!)
PS: Anthony Chic recently told me that the defender in that photo actually took a penalty on the play. So, while I’m suggesting that he could have fallen on his own, an official evidently blamed the ensuing spill on the defensive player. Ya, there are some advantages to being tricky out there on the ice, including drawing a lot of penalties. Oh, well…
No way should the conversation end here. So, please DO add your Comments below!
This post could really be entitled “What’s Wrong with this Picture?“, because that’s exactly what I’m going to ask you.
This photo happens to show my young buddy and grandson, Anthony Chic. And, while he is really one of the best at protecting the puck in these types of plays, he’s making one glaring mistake — at least at the moment this photo was taken.
So, here’s the deal… I’m not going to complete this post until a number of members have weighed-in, or offered their opinions or guesses. Once I do receive a number of Comments (down below), I’ll share with you all I know about tight turns (or so-called Boston Turns).
– Dennis Chighisola
The Tight Turn (or Boston Turn)
This is but another entry I’d promised Eric S some time ago, in reference to his question about alternative high speed skating drills.
And, just so Eric and other members know… Once in awhile it takes me a few days to gather some video footage to show what I’d like to show, and a few more days to put the video and photos together. And that was the case with the following exercise, in that I had to wait until my next team practice to shoot the following…
– Dennis Chighisola
Towel Pulls — for Speed & Form
Now, this exercise has been used in sprint training for quite awhile (and I’m guessing the drill has probably been known by a number of names).
If you take a look at the nearby photo, you should notice that one of my players gets a chance to work on his running form as a partner supports him (or holds him back a bit). Quite often that partner holds something like a towel at both ends to support and slightly restrain the runner, and thusly the name, “Towel Pulls”.
I’d need an awful lot of towels (or whatever) to accommodate all my players, so I’ve resorted to having the supporting partner hold the back of his teammate’s jersey — be it in our off-ice or on-ice form of drilling.
In my own adaptation of this exercise, I look for three phases…
Phase One – I ask the back partner to provide some resistance for his partner to work against, and during the first few seconds I’d like the front guy to concentrate on running (or skating) form.
Phase Two – Seconds later the pair start moving, with the runner or skater working faster and faster.
Phase Three – Finally, the back player lets go of the jersey (or towel), whereby the runner or skater usually shoots out like a rocket.
If you click on the last photo (to the right), you’ll see this pair working together in action. The sprinter doesn’t do badly for one of his first attempts at this exercise. However, you might notice that his arms and legs could travel in wider ranges of motion. Still, that IS why we practice, isn’t it?
PS: Studies have proven that there is a direct correlation between running speed and skating speed. So, if I am able to help my players run faster, it makes sense that such speed gains will ultimately transfer to their on-ice game.
You know how much I appreciate your feedback. So, please do add your Comments here!
A few days ago, member Scott Thurston chimed-in on my article about “A Difference in Hockey Teaching Levels“. As Scott said, “I find a lot of truth here”, in reference to some of the nervousness experienced by adult level beginners as they try new things.
Scott went on to say that he has “several mental blocks”, these primarily having to do with forward and backward cross-overs.
Then, shortly after I’d let Scott know that I’d prepare something to help him with his game, I received a very similar question from another member, Jamie Lockwood.
In Jamie’s case, he’s helping with his young son’s Mite C team, and he’s hoping I might offer some thoughts to help his son and other kids on the team become more comfortable using their outside edges. As he describes it, many of them “are dragging their inside foot/toe on turns rather than leaning with them on the outside edge.” (I’ll deal with Jamie’s other question in a separate post.)
Finally (and sorta laughing at myself here), after having said in that earlier article about how differently I normally have to approach the unique age groups, I find that Scott’s and Jamie’s kids’ problems can be handled very similarly.
– Dennis Chghisola
Help for Beginner Cross-overs
To begin, although Scott (and almost everyone else I know) describes a cross-over problem as being with the skate or leg that is swinging over, the real problem is with the insecurity of bearing one’s weight on the other skate. In other words, if one feels a little unsteady crossing the left skate over the right, it’s because that player is uncomfortable with putting all of his or her weight on the right skate. (By the way, this left over right thing is the most common among beginners — of any age.)
I can also picture exactly what Jamie is saying about his young kids… And, I’d be willing to bet that most of the ones who are dragging a skate on their turns are doing so mostly as they cut towards their right. Why so? It’s for the very same reason Scott feels unsteady, as in not trusting carrying the weight on the right skate.
As an aside here, I’m not sure if this is or isn’t a cultural thing. If you think about it, we all learn to run the bases in baseball while circling towards our left. So, if you’re from a baseball playing nation, just envision the discomfort of running the bases in the opposite direction, or mostly bearing our weight on the outside edge of our right cleat. (Laughing at myself again… I’d mentioned in a recent post about my high school football exploits. So, let me tell you that, while I scored a number touchdowns or had long runs sweeping towards the right, I absolutely hated if the quarterback called a play sending me out and cutting in the other direction.) Again, I don’t know if it’s a cultural thing, but more new skaters do have difficulty placing their weight on the right skate for any length of time.
Now, the key phrase in that last paragraph — and the key to changing things for the better — is that part about “placing their weight on the right skate for any length of time“. Ya, most of us can stand on the left skate, and even rock from edge to edge for a spell. But, it’s balancing on the right skate “for any length of time” that gives us an uncomfortable feeling.
I will say that there’s a benefit to the fact that an adult player can at least understanding this, and eventually do something about it. So, while Scott might struggle (due to the voices I joked about in that earlier piece), he probably can make a more concerted effort to solving the problem than can Jamie’s little ones. In Jamie’s case, I wouldn’t even mention this stuff to the players; instead just get them to do certain things certain ways.
Okay, thanks to one of my great young Team NEHI players, Alex B, I was able to shoot some quick video last night before our Junior High School Team practice. First, however, I’d like you to note the poses in the two adjacent photos. For, in the beginning, I have new skaters just stand with their feet crossed — right over left for about 10-seconds, then left over right for an equal length of time. While holding a given pose, I want the players to rock from side to side a bit, thusly shifting the weight from skate to skate. As you can imagine, this forces a little bearing of body-weight on each skate, but in the least threatening way.
Next, I ask a player to just slowly cross in place, right over and then left over. Take a look as Alex performs these…
You may have noticed that the previous drill caused just a slight use of each outside edge. But, I’d like to step that up some by having a player do larger, exaggerated cross-overs. The idea is for the player to really go slowly and far up with a leg, this so he or she is spending a longer amount of time on the other skate, and a little more time on that skate’s outside edge. Here, take a look…
I’ll usually move to a slower version of my “2-step Drill” next. Actually, this is an advanced movement my older players do often on the ice — in place, moving forward and while skating backward. For beginners, this drill has the most benefit right at the transition point. In other words, as you watch the video below, notice that Alex has to push-off with an outside edge as he comes out of a stop and tries to cross in the new direction…
Now, there are two other areas of CoachChic.com that should help you both immensely… I have quite a stretch of cross-over and change-of-direction drills included in the “24 Must-do Intermediate Skating Drills” video (and you might also find some help within the other two (Advanced and Beginner) videos. The other area that could help a lot is the one where we follow adult in-line skater, Jerry Z, as I help him along the way. (Start at the very beginning of those entries.) Don’t let the in-line part of that area bother you; Jerry’ problems are very similar to what early ice skaters go through.
Also, don’t discount the use of the skates on a rink’s rubber mats (Jamie), or somewhere safe at home (Scott), like on a small carpet square. Trust me, there is a great deal of skill transfer from the off-ice practice to on-ice capabilities.
By the way, crossing-over is crossing-over, when we’re talking about beginner skating challenges. In other words, all the in place exercises I’ve shown you are at the same time going to make it easier for a player to do the exact same thing when moving to the ice. Those drills can also be done when moving slowly forward on the ice. And, once a player is comfortable doing the crosses that way, it shouldn’t be too difficult for him or her to do them slowly while going backwards. Then, from that point onward, the speed of the drills should be based on how well a player (or players) can keep their discipline. In other words, there’s no sense in a player trying to go faster if he or she suddenly avoids doing the crossing movements properly.
Lastly, I know exactly what Jamie is talking about when he says that his young players drag a skate as they make a cut. That would be an inside skate (maybe closest to a pylon), and usually the right skating while cutting towards the right for most kids. Why? For the same reason noted above, in that it can be uncomfortable bearing weight on a certain skate. Ironically, I found some footage of Jerry Z performing this movement in one of our earliest sessions together. He’s far better at this now, but if you’ll notice in the video (click on the photo below), Jerry’s turning and crossing problems are the exact opposite of most new skaters, in that he had difficulty turning towards his left. By the way, this skating maneuver is often referred to as the Boston Turn.
Now, other members might like to know that Jamie and his son skated with me last winter in my Learn-to-play clinic. And I’m kinda hoping that he remembers a drill I did with the kids that is similar to the one an in-line player is demonstrating in the following video. (Oh, by the way… I just dug-up this old clip from someone else’s website — go figure. Well, I guess it’s nice to be popular. ) Please click on the photo below to see that video.
Then, a tip to both of you… There’s no way around the fact that “practice makes perfect”. So, don’t look for quick fixes, but long-term gains instead. In other words, practice those shortcomings as often as you can (hey, the pros still practice theirs). Oh, and good luck!
PS to Jamie: As promised, I’ve answered your question about backward speed in a new post.
Just so other members know, I’m loving it when guys like Scott and Jamie toss me questions or post Comments here. So, please do the same when you get the chance!
Eric S started this ball rolling a few weeks back, as he asked me about some suggestions for high intensity skating drills. I did the best I could with my first response (Part 1 and Part 2), but I still promised to add a little more here.
Now, for those who might get a bit turned-off with my dryland drill samples, please understand that it’s often easier for me to video-tape during our weekly off-ice sessions. At the same time, almost everything I show you from those practices can be done on the ice. So, don’t discount transferring any of these drills to a traditional on-ice practice.
– Dennis Chighisola
High Intensity Skating Drills – Part 3
Now, let me provide a little background to the following exercises. Thereafter, clicking on each of the thumbnails will show a different way I incorporate jump take-offs in both my off-ice and off-ice practices.
By the way, after having one of my high school students twist an ankle while trying to negotiate a rather rigidly constructed jump, I switched to foam barriers for a lot of exercises. Actually, the gadget seen in the following videos (and in the photo to the right) is made from a foam “noodle”. You probably know this as a swimming pool toy. It’s extreme inexpensive, and it can be discarded after it’s served its purpose. I formed the 90-degree angle with a wrap of rubber tubing, but I think tape would have just as easily done the trick.
Now, click on any of the thumbnails below to see my Team NEHI kids performing some light jump take-off training. Again, these exact same drills can be performed on the ice (actually, the first one — done on-ice — was shown in a previous video).
Just as a suggestion (or a safety precaution), I usually limit the amount of intense jumping exercises I do with young players.
What do you think? Can you or your player/s benefit from this kind of training? Please let me know in the Comments box provided below.
This is about a note I took as I watched our beginner (or Mighty Mites) team play in one of their earliest games a few weeks back…
Let me start by stating that my kids seemed as though they already skated faster than most opponents. What caused me to jot that note, however, was that I knew my little guys could be much faster, and that I’d want them to be far, far faster as we got deeper into our season.
As an aside here, I think this might be a way of conveying how helpful note-taking can be — for a coach like me, for a player, or for a parent. I mean, in this case I’m aiming at a long-term goal, and not one that’s going to be a one or two practice deal. Probably making this point even better, I recently watched one of my teenaged guys play in a scrimmage with his high school squad, and I noticed an area of his game that still needs some work. The fact that I recorded that in my diary when I arrived at home doesn’t help him now, since I won’t get to work with him again until next spring. What will help him is the fact that I placed it among my March of 2010 notes, with it then acting as a reminder to design some things that will help him (and other like skaters) with that problem. In the case of my Mighty Mites, my notes went under the next several Sundays, since that’s when we’ll be practicing.
Anyway, here are a couple of things I’m now doing for the sake of their skating speed.
– Dennis Chighisola
A Beginner Hockey Player’s Skating Speed
I hope you appreciate that skating speed can’t be solved by just one drill. As a matter of fact, beginners tend to move around the ice better and better just from gaining more and more experience on their blades. That said, there are a few things I feel I can do to hasten their development in this area.
If you haven’t done so already, I suggest you review two earlier posted videos (“21 Must-do Skating Drills for Beginners” and “24 Must-do Skating Drills for Intermediates”) as prerequisites to what I’m about to cover…
Going back to their earliest times on the ice for a moment, understand that most first-time skaters walk rather than skate, and they usually do this by inching their way along on the “flats of their skates”. In other words, they don’t immediately thrust with one blade and glide on the sharp edge of the other. No, again, they basically march or walk around the ice.
So, do you want to know what will ultimately encourage the desired push-offs or thrusts? The answer is to introduce some form of resistance against the skater’s movement down the ice. And, for beginners, I find their attempting to push a similarly sized partner down the ice on a chair works awesomely.
What you should know is that this kind of exercise almost adapts itself to the various player levels — or, should I say, the players from each level tend to use the exercise differently, and we can also coach it a little differently according to the players.
In the case of my Mighty Mites, I now view them as intermediates. Ya, while they’re still very young, my little guys get around the ice really well at this point. So I kinda push and prod them a little (not meanly or anything, but still trying to get them to work harder and faster), and I look for increasingly more speed with each repetition, and with each week that passes. (Some footage of this drill in action can be found near the middle of my video on “24 Must-do Skating Drills for Intermediates”.)
For this next one, it would be extremely helpful if you review my video on “Analyzing the Forward Stride“. For, in that analysis, you’ll see that a player’s arm — or shoulder — motions can help a great deal in adding rhythm, power and efficiency to his or her forward movement. And, this all translates to better forward skating speed.
Anyway, over the past month I’ve had my kids regularly practicing pumping their arms (without sticks) — while standing in place and while moving down one side of the ice. In the beginning we can expect a real forced, uncoordinated movement. But, over time, even the youngest ones will ultimately put things together. And again, when they do, you can expect that they’ll skate far faster than when their arms and legs were out of sync. (Click on the adjacent photo to see my kids in their earliest attempts at coordinating the arm/shoulder pumps with their skating push-offs.)
I hope you appreciate how much getting the sticks out of this drill really helps the kids concentrate on their arm and shoulder swings. As as matter of fact, I have my older guys practice their striding without sticks on a fairly regular basis. (Oh, as you’ll also notice, some of these little ones are already getting it. Actually, I just watched that video again, I thought to myself, “Aren’t they cute!!!” Ya, I things in perspective: These kids are adorable, but they also want to be taught to be successful.)
I’ve also added a second video from that group (click on the snapshot to the left), this one in slow-motion, so you can see how much of a difference the arm-swing makes in a young skater’s forward movement.
Finally, I can’t say enough about the benefits of holding competitions when working on skills that will ultimately require some urgency in a game. For example, the group we’re studying now frequently engages in races for loose pucks, with the winner getting a chance to continue on towards the goal for a shot. (If you click on this link you’ll see an example of that from an earlier post on “Loose Puck Races“.)
By the way, I also have these little guys do other sorts of races, sometimes with a little trick required in the middle. In one such competition, I find it very appropriate for kids at this particular level to race down the ice, do a belly-flop at mid-course, and then recover as quickly as possible to sprint for an end-mark.
Currently, however, I’m adding a competition to the arm swing thing. In other words, my kids are engaging in short races — again without sticks — while also needing to pump those arms.
PS: As always, I love to know what you think. Please comment and even share this article with your friends.
As promised (at least to Eric S), here are some video clips of the speed oriented drills I described in the earlier entry (High Intensity Skating Drills).
– Dennis Chighisola
High Intensity Skating Drills – Part 2
In the initial one, my kids work on their forward take-offs by first moving backwards. As you should notice when watching the video (click on the nearby photo), a shift in upper body momentum is needed in order to start the forward motion. Also know that I’ve dictated which way the kids should stop — with their skates in a vee, with the right skate or with the left skate.
The second video happens to show one of my quickest young skaters (an 8th grader). His technique is first shown in slow-motion, but you can really see how quickly he shifts his weight and moves his feet in the second part shown at normal speed. (Please click on the second photo to see that video.)
As noted in my earlier post, I oftentimes allow my players to work on their own when they’re practicing their take-offs. Yes, I like races at most times, to get the kids really working hard. At the same time, I’ve found they sometimes cheat in order to win races, and in this sort of drilling that likely means they’d avoid concentrating on technique. Anyway, clicking on the third photo will show some of my junior high school kids leaping while going backwards, and then immediately (or as best they can) taking-off forward as they land.
Photo four (and the linked video) isolates another 8th grader executing the latter exercise. And, as I also said in the previous article, I feel there’s a slight plyometric component to this form of drilling.
By the way, I go easily with — or limit — jumping exercises like these when it comes to my junior high school kids (or younger ones). So, at most, such a group will do something like this only once per week.
Finally, I just shot some additional video at our weekly off-ice practice, but that still needs to be edited and doctored for posting here. I promise to do that soon (as Part 3), because it shows some awesome twists to the above exercises, and I’ll also show you the way my kids work on that earlier noted “towel drill”.
Be a friend: EVERY worthwhile Comment really helps Coach Chic and our membership!
The following question was submitted by member Eric S. It’s a good one, but it can be difficult answering long distance (or without being able to actually see where his players are at a given time).
Nonetheless, I do know that Eric works with a fairly talented teen group, so I’ll approach things from that perspective.
– Dennis Chighisola
High Intensity Skating Drills
Q: Eric states that, “We always spend the first 7-10 minutes on the ice having our boys run some high intensity skating drills without pucks. Currently we have them run overspeed circles, once forward, once backward and once transitioning @ the hash marks. Then they do two sets of iron crosses and then one other high intensity start/stop drill that we developed. They have been doing these for about 3 weeks and we want to replace one of the drills with a new one every few weeks to keep things fresh. Can you suggest a few other drills of this nature that we could incorporate?
A: First, Eric, when you say that you do these rather intense exercises in the first minutes of a practice, I’m trusting that effective (and long enough) warm-ups are done prior to the hard skating. As you’ll read in some of what Scott Umberger and I have said, (other than the obvious injury prevention) more growth is gained from a workout if the muscles are properly warmed.
Continuing on that first point for a moment… Members might like to know that I begin most skill oriented practices with drills that need to be done slowly, and ones that tend to enhance skating technique. So, instead of using specific warm-up exercises on the ice, I kill two birds with one stone by having my guys do useful drills at a gradually building intensity.
Now, as for some drill suggestions, I’ll first remind Eric to refer occasionally to my video on “29 Must-do Advanced Skating Drills“. A goodly number of the exercises shown there would likely suit your needs. You might also check the few entries I’ve done in reference to speed training or over-speed training for some really good tips.
Then, a couple of things come to mind for specific drill ideas…
- It sounds like you’re attempting to satisfy my first suggestion. I mean, remembering that players need to be able to go quickly in four different directions (forward, backward, and in both lateral directions). My “2-step Drill” (shown in the above linked video) is a great one for lateral work.
- What I like to do with those directional drills is to also incorporate quick changes in direction. For example, if I want my players to work at quick, short forward bursts, I’ll begin the drill with the players first skating backwards, then breaking and shifting their weight to go forward. Sometimes we coaches will run races and oversee the drill with whistles or voice commands. However, a lot of the time I’ll let my older players work on their own. In other words, I’ll tell them what to do, and then I’ll allow them to do the drill in their own area (which frees me and the other coaches to move among them and to offer tips or feedback). Again, these can be done in all four directions, with the players beginning with a movement in the opposite direction.
- Now, I only do this next one with my older guys (because it’s pretty stressful). Actually, it’s the same kind of drilling I’ve just described, but with a plyometrics component added. For example, adapting the drill I just explained… My players will start skating backwards, but then they’ll jump in the air and immediately dash forward upon landing. Again, it’s pretty stressful, but it’s also pretty effective. And it can be adapted to use in all directions. (I’ll try to get some video of this form of training later this week and attempt to update this entry — or do a follow-up one — as soon as I can.)
Oh, by the way… When left to their own devices, most players will turn towards a favorite side to do their stop and take-off. Knowing this, I dictate ahead of time how they will stop — with a vee, turned to the right or turned to the left.
- Oops, one more great one just came to mind… By now, I’m sure you know how I like to adapt ideas from other sports. Such is the case with a sprinting exercise called “The Towel Drill”. In the gym or on a track, one sprinter has a towel around his or her waste, while a partner holds the ends of the towel to provide resistance against a short run. Part way through that brief but intense sprint, the partner lets go of one towel end, thereby letting the runner really burst out. (I tend to think there’s an over-speed component to going from lots of resistance to no resistance. ???) I like to use this drill both off-ice and on. And, when we’re on the ice, I have my guys hold their mates’ jersey-tails instead of using towels.
Come to think of it, the above drill could be adapted to accomplish a little striding technique work as Jerry Z is shown doing (using a bungee rope) in a recent video (click here).
Finally, Eric, I like the fact that you are attempting to rotate drills (much like I’ve also described elsewhere, or a lot like strength trainers use in “periodization”). Hopefully these few tips get you started. However, if there’s anything more specific you’d like me to deal with — or a drill you might want me to invent for you, please don’t hesitate to ask. Good luck! (Oh, I just remembered to ask: When are you going to send me some video footage of that “high intensity start/stop drill” that you developed? I know I’d love to see it, and I’ll bet others would, too!)
This PS to my members: Something evidently has (at least on occasion) gone wrong with the submission of questions. I mean, they sometimes aren’t immediately relayed to me as they should be. So, if you don’t see your question dealt with in a day or so (and I should answer that quickly), please email me. I really want those questions, and I especially don’t want anyone to think that I’m not responsive due to some technical snafu.
Be a friend: EVERY worthwhile Comment helps me in the search engines!
As you might recall, a big part of the reason I took-on Jerry Z (as sort of a private project) was that I felt this would greatly help you. Of course, Jerry has said that our work together has also helped him plenty.
My reason for raising that point again is that the following should give you further insight into the ways I study a player (or players), as well as how I tend to arrive at given solutions. Ya, I think it should help both beginners and advanced folks if you can follow this old coach’s thought processes.
– Dennis Chighisola
Improving Your Hockey Skating at Home
Now, I’d like to begin by showing you a fairly recent clip of our friend moving around the roller hockey floor. (Understand that there’s virtually no difference in the way I view an in-line skater versus an ice hockey player.) So, please click on the first photo (to the left) and watch that video before going on.
From my viewpoint, Jerry is miles from where he was when we first met. He actually doesn’t do badly moving around that floor nowadays. Still, my old but experienced eyes tell me there’s more that can be done to enhance his movements. And, in this case, I’d like you to watch that video again — this time concentrating on the slo-mo part at the end, to see if you can notice how his arms and legs are still just a little bit out of sync.
With that hopefully established, there’s something else at play here, and it’s something I think should help other skaters even more. You see, between our conflicting schedules (that make it hard for us to meet often) and the onset of winter here in New England (which undermines his outdoor training), Jerry is going to have to lean more and more on practicing indoors, at home, and in fairly small areas. So, as I just suggested, there might be some things you can borrow from what we’re now doing.
Okay, as we get into my trying to help sync Jerry’s movements, please click on the next photo (below) and keep referring to this video for awhile…
Now, over time, the R-bar will help loosen a skater and bring him or her into sync. So, that’s the point of my sticking with that form of training, as well as incorporating some of the things shown in the next parts of that clip.
Actually, as I was shooting that segment with the Rhythm-bar, I noticed that Jerry was still too tight or too rigid. So, I had him set aside the bar, and I asked him to just try to relax (be kind of “loosey-goosey” is how I put it). If you can appreciate it, any tenseness is going to rob Jerry — or any skater — of valuable energy. Oh, for sure a player has to do some things forcefully as he or she skates. At the same time, clenching the hands or tightening the upper body for no reason is definitely not good.
Lastly in the above video is a clip that shows Jerry wearing a weighted vest and jumping laterally for a short distance. Of course, skating isn’t just about the legs, and it isn’t just about pumping the arms or shoulders. No, skating is a full body motion (or at least it is if one wants power and maximum efficiency). And that’s what we’re attempting to work on with Jerry doing that jumping exercise. If you’ll notice, he didn’t really put it all together in his first trip down the floor. However, I think my giving him a mental picture — telling him to “really coil-up” — helped him look really good on his next attempt.
So, that’s about where we were early last week when Jerry visited the Lab again. And, still looking to pull everything together for him, I adapted a drill I normally use with my fairly advanced players, this incorporating the bungee cord I described in a recent post (“New England Hockey Recycles!“). Now, if you click on the photo to the right, you’ll see Jerry doing that lateral jumping movement again, but this time supported by the bungee. In reality, I’ve asked him to jump for a point just a little ahead, this to create some tension in the rope.
For your sake (and so Jerry can see), I’ve also included a slow-motion version of the above video. Clicking on the final photo you should notice how the rope’s supporting him is probably helping to sync the movements (or it’s probably making it easier for him to move in the right way). That said, there’s one more point… Like all relatively new skaters (and some more experienced ones), a good knee bend is a problem. I mean, I’ve probably sounded like a broken record to Jerry through these past months, constantly reminding him to sit low, or bend his knees. However — and maybe it’s because he’s working against a little resistance, but it surely looks to me as if he IS bending his knees a little more in that video!
Finally, that bungee skating approach truly is effective — for working on mechanics or form, and it can be adapted to enhance strength and/or conditioning for more advanced skaters. As I’ve explained in the earlier linked article, it’s really easy to make your own training device, and the materials can usually be obtained at no cost. Of course, as with all training devices, safety should be your first concern.
Now, I’m always worried that a more sophisticated member might discount things like I’ve noted above. That in mind, let me tell you about something that came to mind as I was writing this piece…
Years ago I used to frequently cross paths with local NHL scouts. Back in that time, I happened to read about a young tough guy who was borderline in making the jump from a minor league roster to the big club. The knock on him: His skating wasn’t up to NHL caliber.
Actually, I’d seen that player skate a few times, and I knew that his problems weren’t unlike those I’ve described above. Sure, that guy was only one notch away from the big time. But, that’s the point I’m trying to make here, in that very experienced skaters can have similar problems to near beginners. And, I can tell you that that out-of-sync thing is exactly what was holding the young pro back.
Well, to finish the story… I called the scout associated with that kid’s team, and I offered to square away his skating stride. The scout answered, “That would be great, but we just traded him (to wherever)!“
Want a professional device that’s even better than the rubber bands Jerry is using? Take a look at these Techni-cords!
Your Comments are truly welcomed here!
By Dennis Chighisola
A lot of years ago a young coach wrote me to ask about making his own agility ladder. For sure, these are available through sporting goods stores and on-line. But, that young coach was asking about building one for a very good reason.
You see, he’d watched a video showing my teams training with the ladders, and he noticed a couple of things that made mine a little different than the store-bought kind.
First, I actually like to use my ladders on the ice at times, or on a rink’s runway mats with my kids wearing their skates. And for this, my ladders had to have rungs that wouldn’t be damaged by skates, or that wouldn’t do damage to the players’ skates. So, I made the rungs out of strips of heavy rubber, with these strung along very heavy ropes.
Secondly, I wanted to add a little twist to the ladders my hockey players use… My thinking was that their footwork has to be in answer to all the obstacles they encounter in the game action. And that footwork is NOT in a set (18”) cadence as the normal ladders would have them do. So, if you’ll notice in the adjacent photo, the rungs in my ladders are spaced at various distances apart. (Actually, I made my rungs movable, so that I could adjust those distances as I wish.)
If you click on that photo you’ll see a brief video showing the rubber rungs and rope, as well as the odd spacing of the rungs.
Oh, and by the way… Most of my guys do a pretty good job of hitting the open spaces. As for those who don’t? Well, that’s just one of the reasons agility ladder training is a regular part of our training!
Might you have any ideas or questions on this? Your Comments really help me!
If you’ve ventured-off into training for other sports, you’ve likely come across sled-like devices that are used for adding resistance against the running motion. In fact, such a gadget is usually called a “sled”, and I’ve seen them used by sprinters, football players and rugby players, and I’m sure they’re being used by athletes in lots of other running sports.
So, why couldn’t such a training aid be used to add resistance against the skating motion? Well, the difficulty is that the metal “runners” seen on most sleds are made to be used grass or pavement, and they just wouldn’t work well on the ice.
Thankfully, about a dozen years ago, I saw a demonstration by a Swedish hockey player using something like the gadget shown in the photo below…
Of course, I couldn’t have run out to a local store and purchased such a thing. So, I took the next best step and built four of my own. Ya, I built more than one of what I dubbed a “Tow-trainer” because I frequently work with groups of players — in a hockey school, in a clinic environment or with a team. Oh, and by the way… As you’ll soon discover, the material at the bottom of my training aids allows them to be used on the ice as well as on pavement, on grass, or on a roller hockey floor.
There’s actually a reason my Tow-trainer is the subject of an article and videos right now. You see, as I’ve been working with Jerry Z, I’ve noticed that the next step in his development is to get him leaning forward and driving forward. Members who have been following Jerry’s progress should appreciate what I’m doing here, in that we’ve already solved a number of basic shortcomings in his game to this point, so it’s time for me to look for the next “grossest” problem. And that forward drive is it.
Now, Deb K — in a drill she calls Chariot Races — suggests that to apply resistance to the skating motion aids in two ways: 1) a player is almost forced to lean forward to gain momentum, and 2) a player is forced to turn the skates outward in order to achieve a decent grip on the ice (or pavement or floor). I totally agree with Deb on those benefits, and you should be able to see them actually happening in the videos to follow.
If you click on either of the two photos below a video will open for you in a new window.
Notice in the first video that Jerry Z must wrestle more than a little to get the Tow-trainer going. Yes, trying to get momentum at the start is difficult — with the device, and with the extra weight he’s added to it. (The bus sighted at the end of the second clip will be featured in a new agility drill to be shown later! )
Members ought to know that I loaned that Tow-trainer to Jerry after a recent session in The MOTION Lab. So I could only give him some rough suggestions on its use. The reason I mention this is because I’d have made some adjustments to the ways he used that device had I been at his first workout with it.
For one, I’d probably lessen — by about half — the amount of weight he put in there. As you can see, the load he used caused a motion that really wasn’t natural. Oh, it might be good for his leg strength, but not for our intended aims.
I would also likely use only a part of the hill he’s on, or that part that isn’t drastically steep. Ya, a slight incline would probably be good, but not too much.
I would also ask Jerry to shorten the distance for that drill. As I mention when it comes to using something like a slideboard, I prefer that serious skaters not work on their stride for longer than a period in which they can really focus on mechanics. For, once the concentration wanes, the skater starts to practice the wrong techniques.
Oh, and here are some serious safety tips I’ve learned from experience…
Be extra careful with a Tow-trainer’s use on a slick surface — such as on ice or on a SportCourt-like roller hockey floor.
Once a skater gets momentum, the sled will keep going after he or she has stopped.
I also now avoid having a skater do turns or cross-overs unless I can really control the training area. For, the device is going to really whip outward during such movements.
Now, those members who are here during the month of October, 2009 are fortunate to find directions for making your own Tow-trainer/s very easily and VERY inexpensively. You’ll find those directions in the *Gifts category. However, if you missed them, I plan to rerun past gift offerings at later dates. Promise.
Ya know, as I add content to this site, I truly wonder if any of these kinds of advice, drills or training devices can be found anywhere else on the Internet. I don’t know; what do YOU think? I’d really like to know — in the Comments below — if you’ve found anything here you don’t believe you’d have ever found elsewhere.
Thanks a ton!
– Dennis Chighisola
I’ve always promised to respond to my members’ needs. It gives me a great deal of satisfaction when I’m able to do so. I hope to accomplish that here, responding to a long-time member’s question.
As he explains it, Ravi is considering taking some figure skating lessons in an attempt to improve his hockey play. Before he does, however, he thought to ask this old coach about the merits of such.
Then, because there are more than two skating sports, please allow me to discuss this topic on a slightly broader scale.
– Dennis Chighisola
It’s probably been close to 20-years since I attended a hockey coaching symposium that included a lecture on skating by former NHL coach Pierre Page’. As I recall, Page’s college Masters thesis involved a study of the hockey skating motion (actually, I believe it aimed to also determine the factors that make some skaters faster than others).
Pretty obviously, this kind of lecture was scientifically based. And, all these years later, I notice that numerous other biomechanics experts agree with the points made by Page’.
All that said, he made a comment that day that really struck a chord with me. Apologizing in advance, that lecture was a very long time ago, and I’m probably not going to get it exactly word for word. However, the gist of what Page’ said was that, “Some skaters find it easy to make quick movements, while others are better at moving smoothly.”
I think Page’ suggested that the numbers are probably close to evenly split within any group, with about half tending to be quick by nature, the other half tending to be smooth. (Ironically, I could envision my own players back home as Page’ spoke, and I could immediately identify those two type of players within my own roster.)
Still, what was to come next was something even more profound, and even more appropriate to this discussion…
What Page’ pointed-out — and what I’ve found to be true, is that a player with one strength tends to have difficulty with the other. In other words, a naturally quick skater quite often has problems with smoothness, and the smooth skater frequently struggles to make quick foot actions.
Now, I have a gut feeling on this subject… For, what I’ll suggest is that the naturally quick skater is loaded with fast-twitch fibers. That’s what makes him or her quick. And, at the other end of the spectrum, the nice, smooth skater is probably dealing with mostly slow-twitch fibers, thus his or her struggle to execute really quick movements.
Are there players who fall in the middle of these two extremes? I don’t recall Page’ addressing that. However, I’d answer that in the affirmative. It just makes sense. In fact, I’ll suggest we could plot all of a team’s members on a Bell Curve, with small numbers of skaters falling at the two extreme ends, the majority falling in the middle. The group would still be split on the two sides of the bell — half being smooth and half being quick, but there would likely be only a small number of players who were extremely quick or extremely smooth.
Next, allow me to insert a brief but related personal experience… Going back to my earliest days of running hockey skills clinics, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen figure skating instructors salivating at the rink’s side boards as they watched my kids fly around the ice. Inevitably, they seek me out after the class, offering something like, “Wow, would I love to get such-and-such-a-player into figure skating!”
I usually — as politely as I can — shake my head and laugh. And then I usually follow with, “Little wonder. You guys start your skaters moving around the ice like little statues, worrying about their form from the very the beginning. Then, years later, it bothers you that your skaters are boring!”
Quite differently from their approach, my first aim is to create little daredevils in my Learn-to-skate and Learn-to-play clinics. I’ve always figured it would be easier in later years to tone them down a bit, rather than to do as most figure skating coaches do, later attempting to light a fire under their (robot-like?) kids.
This all brings me to a subject I frequently write about and speak about, or what I call “The Nature of Our Game”. In general, this study includes our ultimate arrival at what it’s really like for a participant to engage in a given game — be it hockey, figure skating, checkers or Monopoly.
Oh, I could go on for quite some time with this topic. However, let me cut to the chase… Hockey, of course, is a game of transition (meaning players must continuously switch between defensive and offensive roles), and it’s quite often referred to as a game of constant reading and reacting. Figure skating and speed skating, on the other hand, are more like planned events. In the case of figure skating, a participant usually performs a predetermined routine, with that routine being rehearsed hundreds of times. Nor are there many surprises in the sport of speed skating. Skaters in that sport know their always-counter-clockwise route beforehand, as well as the distance they have to travel.
Okay, let’s now return to the earlier line of thinking — in that some players are naturally quick, and some are by nature smooth in their movements. Let’s next consider the needs of each kind of player. For, doesn’t it make sense that a slow footed skater could use plenty of work on his or her quickness? And, does it make just as much sense that the quick but not so coordinated player could use help with his or her smoothness?
Those things in mind, I’m going to suggest that the quick but rough-around-the-edges player would likely benefit from a little work at body and blade control — or the things a figure skating instructor might be able to help with. As for the hockey player who is already smooth but lacks quickness, I’ll suggest that a figure skating kind of practice would only reinforce the slowness.
Don’t get me wrong here… The skating segments of my clinics and team practices include a little of everything — from figures-type work to some speed skating drills to exercises borrowed from quickness and agility kinds of sports. (I even borrow some skate sharpening techniques from speed skaters, but that’s a story for another time.) My reasoning: Quite obviously, players within my group have numerous and varied needs, which means that I have to cover all the bases.
Finally, I hope members soon come to know that I like to answer most questions in the way I’ve just done for Ravi. Oh sure, if I watched him take one twirl around the ice I’d likely know exactly how to advise him. However, I’d much prefer to arm him and my other CoachChic.com friends with as much information as possible. In that way, every different type of skater should be able to troubleshoot his or her own needs.
Be a friend: Your worthwhile Comment helps Coach Chic in the search engines!
I just received a question from a long-time Twitter and Facebook friend, Sandi, and this topic seems as timely as one can get. And, although it has to do with tournament prep, I’d have advised much the same if she was headed to an important tryout)…
You see, Sandi and her son are on their way to a hockey tournament a few states away, and she thought she might swing a little out of her way on the drive to have her son’s skates sharpened a little differently than usual. (Sandi had read elsewhere about my interest in a new sharpening method.) Thankfully she asked my opinion on this BEFORE venturing off-track.
My advice to Sandi was to NOT do anything differently from the norm as she sends her boy into the tournament fray. In other words, I suggested that she do everything to make her son feel comfortable, which includes doing everything as usual.
If you can appreciate what I’m saying here, there are times when experimentation can be helpful, and there are times when I would definitely avoid doing anything outside the norm. Many — or probably most — hockey movements require fine motor skills, and these can only be thrown-off by different equipment or different equipment alterations.
In my humble opinion, the right time to experiment — or to break-in new gear — is when there are several weeks (or even months) to acclimate oneself to a different “feel”.
Ultimately I suggested that Sandi and her son visit that new kind of skate sharpening shop on their way home from the tournament. At least the boy could try the results of that sharpening at home at a practice. From there, he could experiment and judge better whether he wants to continue using it in future games.
If you happen upon this article prior to December of 2011, I’m planning an awesome tournament for Mite “B” teams, that will take place during the week right after Christmas. Email Me if you’re interested in joining us.
PS: I plan on explaining the skate sharpening process in a coming post. It’ll be pretty in depth stuff aimed at helping my member friends really know their stuff in this area. My hope is that you’ll henceforth be able to also troubleshoot any blade problems when they arise. Then, when I’m really sure about the new sharpening process Sandi and I talked about, you’ll be among the first to know my recommendations.
Be a friend: EVERY worthwhile Comment helps Coach Chic in the search engines!
Actually, this topic should have been one of the very first ones addressed here. After all, isn’t skate tying part of the foundation for all a hockey player will do once he or she hits the ice? Thankfully, though, a member recently mentioned his bout with “lace bite”, which caused me to put the following together — for him and for all my other CoachChic.com friends…
Now, we have to begin with a premise (or two) here. I mean, the greatest skate tying job in the world isn’t going to help a player if his or her skate boots aren’t 1) of good quality and 2) properly fit. Those things assured, the boots should support a player through the rigors of hockey movements, even with a poorly done lacing.
And that last point is important to keep in mind as we go about tying the skates. In other words, a quality boot that fits right is already somewhat supporting the feet…
- So, understand that there is absolutely no need to pull the laces very tightly in the lower to middle eyelet areas. Worse yet, to tie the laces extra tightly over the arch area of the foot is going to put pressure on the arch, and it’s also likely to cut-off blood flow (since this area contains blood vessels that supply the lower portion of the foot). My advice then is to tie the lower and mid eyelets as you would dress shoes or sneakers.
- The real “support” in a skate boot stems from the leather (or more likely the modern day synthetic materials) that surround the ankle. And it’s the top three or four eyelets that — when pulled pretty tightly — will draw the skate boot snuggly around the ankle. (The number of holes involved in this can vary, but it is usually in the ball park of three or four eyelets.)
That’s it, folks.. Because there’s no real supportive impact in the lower to middle holes, and because there’s a danger of causing great pain by tying those areas too tightly, the laces down below should be left relatively loose. And, because the top eyelets are the ones that affect support, these are the only ones that should be pulled snugly.
Then, a few more tips…
After years of video analysis, I can spot from the far end of the rink a player with excess tape or laces wrapped around the ankles. There’s something unnatural — or rather robotic — to his or her movement, because they’ve lost the ability to really flex or snap the ankle from being so encumbered. (In a way, they’ve pretty much removed the ankle joint from the skating motion.)
Like the premise that skates should be of good quality and fit properly, it just makes sense that spending $2 for the right length laces is worthwhile. And, although there’s nothing wrong with using a light wrap of tape to just keep the lace-bow in place, excess tape should not be used in an attempt to gain extra support (hey, good boots and the right lace job take care of that).
Now, I’m always fearful of sharing this last tip, mainly because I don’t want the parents of younger, weaker skaters rushing things (let them first learn to skate and let them develop some foot strength). However — and this might help that skate bite victim… A lot of years ago, a pretty stylish skating pro player suggested I try not using the very top eyelets in my skates. (He was talking about stopping short at the next to last hole on each boot.) As he said (and it’s the very opposite of what those who bind their ankles with tape or laces achieve), “It really helps to get more flex at the end of each thrust!” I tried, I loved it, and I’ve ever since I’ve been advising my older players to do just that.
Since this article has brought about some spirited discussion by way of member Comments, I thought I’d add the following picture just so that we could all have a pair of skates in view while pondering various opinions…
Now, despite the fact you may have heard something contrary to any of the points you’ll find in the following video, I assure you they are all scientifically based.
As a matter of fact, while there are a few so-called “powerskating” instructors out there who have their own (unfounded and unscientific) opionions on the mechanics of hockey skating, the most respected authorites in our sport espouse exactly what you’ll find here…Loading...
Over recent years, studies have shown a correlation between running speed and skating speed. Yup, if a player skates fast, he or she is very likely to be a fast runner. And the same goes for a fast runner being an equally fast skater.
This, of course, is great news for hockey players who are looking for a way to increase their skating speed without the need for costly ice-time. In fact, as I’ve mentioned countless times in other entries — and I believe it’s the case here, the results of off-ice training often surpass what could ever be gained from on-ice work.
Now, I’ve done all the research for you, by studying what some of the best sprint coaches in the world are doing with their athletes. Then, I’ve slightly adapted some of what I’ve borrowed from them, mainly because we’re ultimately looking to help ice hockey players.Loading...
I found this little exchange interesting, and I hope you do too…
The other day my grandson, Anthony Chic, reported for his first off-season training session in The MOTION Lab. Mind you, he’d already been lifting through the past season up at college, he’d increased the workload after his season ended, and he’s already been hard at work at the local gym upon returning home.Loading...
So, the interesting part… Having gotten some ice-time in a pretty decent senior league game last night, Anthony happened to comment to me, “Gee, I can’t believe how much more powerful I felt last night!”
As we talked further, he explained how each skating thrust seemed to carry him so much farther. Yes, that would be the result of some of the leg work he’s been doing. But it would also reflect some of the upper body strength he’s gained. I mean, skating is a total body movement (as is running), so an increase in arm and shoulder strength is going to make each pump — synced with each leg thrust — carry him all the farther.
As in running, two factors come into play when one attempts to speed ahead… Part of an athlete’s forward progress is the result of his or her stride rate (how quickly he or she can step), and the other has to do with stride length (or how far each stride carries the athlete). Putting the two together — stride rate and stride length — you arrive at the runner’s or skater’s forward speed.
You might find it interesting that a lot of folks believe that stride rate is mostly governed by genetics. Of course, this is at least partially so. However, there are others — yours truly included — who believe the stride rate can be increased through special types of training (over-speed work, agility ladder workouts, sprint training among them).
Then — as with Anthony’s discovery, you should now realize that a skater’s stride length can be increased — through strength gains, and through improved mechanics.
PS: Next time my young buddy is up in the Lab, I’ll shoot some video and show you what one young college player is doing for off-season off-ice work.
Would you believe I claim to be the reason so many New England-based programs now hold weekly “Skills” sessions? I mean that, and here’s the reason why…
About 20-ish years ago, I was invited to sit-in as an advisor during the founding of a new AAA level youth program. The organizers had the right idea, aiming to bring the top young talent together under the tutelage of some of the area’s top coaches, and then give those players plenty of exposure to college and pro scouts.
In addition to practices, the organizers also wanted to include a weekly “powerskating” course for member players. I objected immediately, not to the offering, but to the naming of that offering. As I told them then, and I’m telling you now, that term is both misleading and confining. And here’s what I mean…
To begin, powerskating suggests that power in the skating movement has more significance than all the other elements. And, I can tell you that is not the case. (More on this in a future post.) Actually, everyone in that long ago meeting nodded in agreement.
Moreover — and as I suggested to those new program founders, a coach can’t spend a solid hour each week just dealing with skating skills, and it’s misleading to tell the paying parents you’re going to do one thing when you really mean to do more. I went on to suggest that players are far better off honing all their basic skills in a session — from skating to puckhandling to passing to shooting. And again, everyone in that meeting agreed.
Then, when the organizers prodded me for a better name for their weekly program, I shrugged and finally offered, “How about…errrr… Skills?” And “Skills” it was — for the next 20 or so years in that program, and with seemingly every new organization that’s since come along.
I highly recommend that EVERY member study ALL videos in this series — from beginner to intermediate to this advanced one.
With that, you’ll have a sense of the various progressions of each skating skill, or have an idea of the background for a given skill, as well as where you want to ultimately go with that skill.
Furthermore, it’s quite likely a player will be at different levels for different skills. And that’s just another reason I’ll continue to give MY members access to all the different skill levels.Loading...
I noted previously — in one of my Coach’s Notebook entries — that I’d noticed a good many of my young players either being tossed around by opponents or losing the battles whenever they had collisions on the ice.
So, I tried to think of ways I could recreate those situations in a practice setting.
In the first part of the following video, you’ll see my kids paired (with others of equal height and strength), and the pairs are doing something called “Shoulder Bumps”. (In a lead-up drill, I have partners lock arms, just so they stay close together and under control. That established, I’ll let them unlock the arms and go a little more live with their bumps. This form of drilling can also be done with the players not moving, or just bumping while in one spot.)
The second part of the video shows pairs of equally sized kids wrestling. I only let a given bout last for about 10-seconds, because it really does take a lot out of them.
What I’m trying to accomplish in both drills is to give my kids a chance to search for a strong posture. This should especially be noticeable in the second (wrestling) drill, whereby you’ll see most of the players really spreading their skates and lowering their butts.
By the way… As you might gather from my video on “Checking”, controlled versions of these drills wouldn’t be bad for beginners and non-body-checking players. Hey, collisions and jostles for position happen at every level of our game.
Then, I want to point-out to parents that they can use modified versions of these drills (and numerous other ones found on this site) to help their youngsters behind the scenes. Neither do players have to be on the ice to benefit from these drills. All a parent has to do is think a little, and make a few slight adaptations, to help a player stay on his or her feet while rivals take the spills.
The following video should give you a fairly good understanding about the principles behind “over-speed training”. Take a look — it’s just a short one. Then, after you’ve seen that, I’ll give you a further tip (below) that might help enhance speed at home or at a local park…Loading...
One of the simplest and easiest ways to perform over-speed training is to sprint downhill. The grade downward needn’t be — and actually shouldn’t be — too steep. For, while a player wants the help of gravity to go down the hill faster than normal, poor mechanics usually come about from running down too steep an incline.
If you’ll notice, there’s a slight overlap in drills here — between the 21 Must-do Beginner Skating Drills and some of those included in the following Intermediate level version. That’s very much in keeping with the way I recommend doing things, though… For, it does little good — and it can prove very frustrating — if one attempts higher level progressions before the basic ones are truly mastered.
Like the other “Must-do Skating Drills” videos, this one was created to help instructors teach group lessons. However, this approach should help everyone, since I offer some pretty good suggestions about key teaching points, etc.
I first created the following video to help other coaches teach Learn-to type clinics. However, what better way to also help the parents of beginners than to show them exactly how I do it!
Oh, and as a preface to this video, I suggest that members from all levels of our game take a look. Intermediate level parents and coaches will want to be absolutely sure every one of these skills is mastered by their youngsters. And, it wouldn’t hurt those dealing with advanced players to just gain a sense of my thinking when it comes to the game’s real basics….Loading...
I was noticing lately that some of my youngest and newest players were being thrown around out on the ice as if they were rag dolls. On yet other occasions, the same kids were losing the battles — and toppling over — each time they had a collision.
Now, I’ve discovered through the years that certain players don’t instinctively adjust their skating posture according to circumstances. I mean, a player can move in just about any posture when he or she is in open-ice; however, once he or she moves into traffic, that posture has to become far stronger, far more stable.
Two main things go into a stronger, more stable stance:
- a wide base (or spreading the skates);
- a low center of gravity (or sitting low).
Whenever speed is your aim, it’s important to obey certain scientific (as well as common sense) rules.
It should make sense that a player can’t train at top speed if he or she is tired. So, drilling should be done early in a workout, the working phase shouldn’t last for more than about 12-seconds, and the athlete needs adequate rest before being able to go all-out again.
It should make further sense that heavy, bulky or tight gear can slow or
otherwise inhibit proper movements. As a matter of fact, the concept
of “over-speed” training takes this even further, utilizing the likes of
downhill running and reversed bungees to actually assist a movement to be faster than normal.