We have known the characteristics of fast skaters for 45 years. To improve skating performance we need to use drills based on objective information which has been proven to be the characteristics of fast players. We know the following about fast hockey players:
- They have wide strides.
- After they push-off, their skate recovers quickly to get under the shoulder to start the next push-off.
- Their arms follow Newton’s third law of physics: for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, meaning the arms must move side-to-side, equal and opposite to leg movement.
Examples of these skating characteristics are the way Mathew Barzal and Connor McDavid skate. We need to do drills to get our players to skate like these fast elite players.
Many skating and hockey coaches think that a wide stride is a characteristic of inefficient skating, which is incorrect. Watching Barzal and McDavid, it is obvious that two of the fastest players in the NHL have wide strides. The reason fast players have a wide stride is because after they push off, they need to get the recovery skate on the ice quickly to start the next push off.
They are fast also because they have a deep knee bend (approximately 90-100 degrees of flexion) and get a strong push off.
We want to do drills that will enhance stride width. The drills I use for stride width are having players skate over top of a line of pylons/cones. This forces them to skate with a wide stride (and quick recovery). I have used “cone skating” with youth, adolescent, and older elite players. We start the drill progression by getting players to skate straight over a long line of cones.
The drill progresses so that the players skate more like they do in a game where they stride and glide.
The drill progresses again to focus on “game-performance” skating so that the players skate over cones adding turns, backward skating, and puck handling.