The anatomy of a hockey stride

Hockey is a weird sport. Ever google stuff like v-start, mohawk turns (I don’t know if this term is offensive to the Mohawk people – let me know if you do), running starts, correct stride…

There is nothing that’s immediately helpful.

So here is random selection of what I’ve learned from listening to conversations, listening to Ray Ferraro, listening to coaches, some of which I don’t have the skills to do myself.

Three parts of your stride match the three parts of your skates. 
The entire time, the skate blade must be 90 degrees in relation to the direction of the push. 
1. The butt extension: first 5 inches of your stride is directly under your hip, using gluteus medius. I was taught this comes from the back 1/3 of the blade (not that I can do that.
2. The leg extension: from there pushing back at 45 degrees-ish. Be sure to keep your knees in line with your toe, or you’ll cause muscle imbalance and knee injury. This is through the middle of the blade.
3. The toe extension: from the toe of the blade. A complete extension has become practically impossible with the introduction of plastic/composite skates. But we must at least get as much as we can out of it.

Doing only one or two of those is like using 4 cylinders in your V6.

Don’t force the skates
The change in skating style since the introduction of plastic skates is very unfortunate. I imagine everyone realizes the tremendous drawbacks it’s had on the game of hockey, but, oh well, if one guy is wearing a really fast skate, you also have to. What’s the point of agility and creativity if you aren’t even around the play?
In these stiff skates, the shins are too vertical. Straight knees. Torso tilted forward. No tight turns. (think Zach Kassian) The players just look really really uncomfortable.
This exact thing happened 37 years ago to skiing. All I can say is that my friends had plastic boots from the get go, and I didn’t convert till grade 3. As a result, today, edges and I are the best friends. Even though I took up skating as an adult and it shows in my very awkward skating posture, people assume that I grew up skating. I never feel I have to force the skate. My edges and ice never have a disagreement.

There is a way to simulate this. If your ankles are strong enough and you’re at a practice or a public skate (i.e. acceptable risk of injury), lace up just to the top of the foot and leave the rest loose so you can’t overpower the technique. Practice some strides and turns that way. Focus on the contact between the soles of your feet and the insoles, and forget the boot, like how you would ride a surf board or skate board. After a while of this, you’ll develop a very intimate relationship with the edges. It’s a very wonderful feeling, and it’s absolutely worth the effort.

Using all the muscles available
Keeping the knee in line with the toe not only saves your knees but also utilizes all the big muscles that are available to you. This of course makes you faster as well as prevents fatigue and makes you more stable.
This is a good video to see this in action
One big mistake parents may make is that they get so excited that their kid is fast/good among peers that they don’t put them through power skating classes (or put them through “fun” classes). They might be ok among peers now, but technique will come into play as they advance. And, as we all know, bad habits are hard to correct if you let it repeat for years.

Learn the trick skating
I cannot emphasize the importance of learning trick skating. It teaches you to use any part of the blade (inside edge, outside edge, heel, toe), meaning you can start accelerating in any direction from any position. This shaves seconds in response time. It’s hard to shave seconds in a pure race.
Start from cross overs, hockey stops, and running starts. Then move on to mohawk turns and spread-eagle (aka “10 and 2”). Be very comfortable on outside edge. (shaves a second in stop-and-starts and in coming out of tight turns)
Once you run out of basics, keep moving on. I resorted to these.
Some of my friends might have seen that I sometimes glide just on my tippy toes or on my heel. That’s a practice, not a show.

Protecting oneself
Taylor Hall might be fast, but he’s very cringe-worthy. It’s easy to blame the hitters, but the onus is also on the hittee. Near the boards, in front of the crease, being leaned on, a player must, and is expected to, take a defensive/protective position. Learn to pick your head up, put your torso up straight, put both feet down, angle the feet and knee in such a way that it absorbs the jolt. This absolutely applies to non-hitting hockey. Especially in rec hockey where unplanned, unpredictable movements happen more often than the pros or the Olympics. Visualize it now and again so you can calmly place yourself in a safe position as a course of normal playing knowledge.

No jersey numbers
As a defenseman, we absolutely do not want to see your jersey numbers. You might see those fantastic stretch passes in NHL, but you only have to watch a couple of Canucks games to know that it’s a very low-percentage play even with an NHL passer and an NHL receiver.
Almost every time I get the puck, I see three jersey numbers. A couple of things wrong with this.
1. If I give you pass, the puck is naturally much faster than you and coming up from your blind side. You have a very very small window of opportunity to grab this puck. In reality, the puck is either so fast it blows by you or so slow that it gets picked off.
2. If you do receive this pass without going backwards, you will slow down – not stop – the puck just enough so the puck and you are the same speed. In reality, it probably bounces off your stick and goes down for icing.
If you think “But it happens!,” watch this footwork by Patrick Kane.

In practices and warm-ups, how do you pass the puck? Either passing drills or a variation of St. Louis (“corners”), you are facing the passer. In a game situation, this type of pass is created by
A. Receiver doesn’t take off too early so the angle between the passer and the receiver are max 45 degrees off north-south.
B. Receiver skates laterally east-west across the rink.
C. Receiver skates backwards like Kane did in the clip above – Notice this isn’t as safe as it might looks. Kane probably knew all 9 skaters were behind him.


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