By Nate Leslie, MA, and Coach Warren Nye
Every skating coach has a unique style of teaching, and their own way to pass along their passion for their craft. I sometimes wonder if those skating experts or “Power Skating” coaches don’t try to invent their own list of skating tips as a marketing angle.
If you search out some of the leading instructors online, they all have certain points they encourage. And a surprising number of them actually contradict one another. One coach will emphasize a recovery phase straight back under the body after the stride, while the next believes in an extended stride, toe flick, and recovery back under the body from behind.
Skating Coach Mike Bracko, PhD, has identified 5 common themes among some of the best skaters in the NHL, regardless of the minor differences. I like this approach because I am convinced that all players look, skate, shoot, pass, and play in a unique way unto them. It’s the principles or the details that govern their technique that are similar. While we cannot make every skater look exactly the same, we need to embrace the unique nature of every body type and biomechanical makeup.
- Wide stride. It is physically impossible to stride straight back; the ideal stride extends laterally beside the body. It’s the forward momentum on the ice that makes it appear that the stride moves towards the 4 o’clock and 8 o’clock directions.
- Quick recovery. The quicker a skater gets his/her skate back to the neutral position under the body, the quicker the next stride can begin.
- Deep knee bend. Stride extension is only possible with a deep knee bend. Stride length is reduced the straighter the legs begin in stride. Furthermore, the large quadricep muscles and glutes are required to generate power, and only engaged by beginning every stride in a deep squat.
- Exaggerated forward lean. Just look at speed skaters for an example of this. Ironically, we often teach players to skate with their chest up and shoulders back. It is most important, however, to lean forward while maintaining a deep knee bend at the same time.
- Arms and legs move in sync, and in opposite. Watch some skaters (especially younger ones) and you will often see their legs moving, but neither arm generating any momentum or flow in the stride. I often ask these players how they would feel playing soccer with their hands in their pockets. The question is always received as rhetorical, yet for some reason players are hesitant to really pump their arms when they skate. Pump your arms to generate speed and balance!
These 5 tips will help improve your skating in a matter of minutes. Ask a friend with a smartphone to take some video of you skating a few laps and see how you’re doing.
Nate Leslie played 7 years of professional hockey in Europe. He is co-owner of Leslie Global Sports, which runs hockey camps, skill development, and coaching mentorship programs worldwide. He holds a Masters degree in Education. Coach Warren Nye is the founder and CEO of UltimateHockeySource and the UHS ProShop. He has served as player, coach, and manager, and has coached many players who have gone on to play professional hockey.