Question: What is the importance of skating practice to hockey players - who
should practice skating technique and why?
Today's hockey is all about speed. Players fly down the ice at speeds not
conceived of in years past. Competitive players who aspire to play hockey at a
high level must master balance, agility, and maneuverability
players inevitably find the game of hockey more fun as their skating improves.
Skating is not comprised of a series of natural motions. In fact, the opposite
is true; it involves some of the most unnatural motions and maneuvers of the
human body. Therefore they must first be taught correctly. Then these motions
and maneuvers must be practiced correctly, consistently, and repetitively until
they become ingrained and natural.
Maneuvers should first be practiced without
the puck, and as they improve, with the puck.
Q: What is the importance of "skating position" to balance,
power and speed?
LS: Skating is an extremely precise and
intricate activity. Position is critical; any loss of it will inevitably have a
negative result. "
Skating position is actually a combination of many
components; these include knee bend, edges, leg drive and leg recovery, weight
shift, upper body positioning and control, usage of the arms, etc. The combined
correct usage of these components is critical to balance, power, and
Q: Is there a right way and a wrong way to teach hockey skating?
LS: I believe that the right way of teaching
is to break down each maneuver into its many motions or parts. Players should
learn each part separately and perform drills to perfect each part. The parts
must then be put together so that the "whole" maneuver is performed
There are several aspects of perfecting a maneuver. At first, we focus
on performing the maneuver correctly, then powerfully, then quickly, and
finally, all three (correctly, powerfully, quickly), with the puck and then in
games and under lots of pressure.
When teaching youngsters it's important to
understand that it takes several years to achieve the ultimate combination.
Elite players can achieve the final combination much more quickly.
I believe that
telling players to "do this" or "do that" or "follow
me" doesn't work. They don't know what "this" means. They may
think they're doing what you want them to do but each person's interpretation of
what you want them to do may be different. Everyone learns differently; the
challenge is to reach all students.
The teaching methods that I use stress
understanding (at all ages). I teach by appealing to the intellectual abilities
of the students, and then by incorporating all the senses - I want students to see
(visualize), feel, hear, and think. I call it the FAST method - FEEL,
ACT, SEE, THINK.
Some ways of explaining things work for some people but not for
others. Some visualizations work for some but not for others. Some drills work
for some but not for others. Therefore we must have many different ways of
explaining things and use many different drills to teach the same thing. I
always try to keep this in mind.
Q: How much skating should be done in hockey practices? When should the
puck be incorporated?
LS: I believe that skating should be
included in every hockey practice; not just skating for endurance but skating
for technique. Even if there's only enough time to practice one move or maneuver
for a few minutes out of every hour, this is better than no time at all.
it's most effective to teach skating maneuvers early in the season, review them
often, and have players practice them (on a rotating basis and for short
periods) as the season progresses. As players get moderately adept at a
particular maneuver they should then practice the maneuver with pucks. Because
youngsters can get bored if they don't use pucks we often let them practice the
maneuver with pucks even if they're not actually ready for it. When they
"mess up" stop and point out their mistakes.
A great way of practicing
skating technique in a fun manner is to have scrimmages that include
"skating rules" - i.e, how many times players have to crossover (or
turn, or pivot, or stride, or skate backward) before shooting or passing, etc.
Because kids love to "play by the rules" they'll try to conform to
them. Thus they'll improve while playing fun games.
It's interesting to note
that elite and pro players often prefer to learn and practice without the puck
because they can concentrate just on the skating techniques. They understand the
importance of perfecting technique. They know that incorporating the puck will
not be that difficult.
Q: How should coaches approach individual differences?
LS: There are always individual differences
- some because of the way people are built, what they're comfortable with, how
they learn, and what works best for them. I've seen players who skate fast but do
not skate the way I would teach them to skate (if I were teaching them).
However, if it works for them why try to change it? I always say (this is
slang), "if it ain't broke, don't fix it".
Also, there is no
substitute for talent! For example, people used to say that Gretzky could have
been better if his posture was better. However, I never saw anyone catch him
when he wanted to turn on the jets! Had I taught him from the time he was a
child, I would have worked on posture but at his level, I wouldn't have tried to
change his style because it worked for him.
Q: How long does it take to become a "complete" hockey skater
and hockey player? How can I accomplish this?
LS: Becoming a great skater and hockey
player is a long-term process. It takes years (approximately ten) to become a
great skater/player, just as it takes that long to become a great pianist,
dancer, tennis player, etc.
Some players think that after one or two power
skating clinics they've learned all there is to know about skating. Nothing
could be further from the truth. Most of my students who have gone on to excel
in hockey attended my clinics throughout their childhood and even into their
college years. Most of my certified instructors grew up participating in my
Q: How can I distinguish between a good power skating clinic and a
mediocre or bad one?
LS: Hockey skating techniques are based upon
scientific principles. A good skating clinic must teach and adhere to these
principles. Also, a good skating syllabus should be structured like a pyramid -
the object being to build a strong foundation. A lot of time must be spent
teaching basic fundamentals. More difficult moves and techniques are introduced
as players improve.
The most effective learning entails a building block
process. It takes time, patience, practice, repetition, and lots of trial and
error. While fun is always important, fun with learning is what makes a good
clinic. Clinics that offer a lot of gimmicks without teaching "hows"
and "whys", without addressing individual differences, and without
offering methods of improvement, are not.
When choosing a power skating clinic
this summer, keep this in mind. Also keep in mind that while "power skating
may not be the most fun part of hockey, it is the part of hockey that makes
hockey more fun."
Q:How do you define a fast skater? Does "fast" mean how
quickly players move their feet?
LS: Some coaches often look for players who
have "quick feet" because their interpretation of speed is how quickly
players move their feet. Quickness certainly is important because hockey is a
sprint sport. But fast feet alone do not necessarily result in speed.
Speed is a
measure of distance traveled in time (miles per hour or feet per second). Each
time players move their feet (stride), they should cover significant distances.
Moving the feet fast with improper and incomplete leg drive may look fast, but
in studying the distances traveled per stride it becomes obvious that these
Fast efficiency is our
goal. Some NHL players who exemplify fast efficiency are Doug Brown (former star
with Detroit Red Wings), Brian Rafalski, Mike Modano, Chris Drury, Paul Kariya,
Pavel Bure, Sergei Fedorov, Scott Young, Jaromir Jagr, Joe Sakic, Niklas
Lidstrom, Peter Forsberg, Martin St-Louis, Teemu Selanne, Scott and Rob
Scott Niedermayer won the speed competition in the 2004 NHL All-Star Skills
Competition. TV commentators noted they were amazed because his legs hardly
seemed to be moving. This is fast efficiency! Scott Niedermayer is one of my NHL
graduates; he's a shining example of my Power Skating System.
by Laura Stamm