Game-Performance Skating Hockey Practice Drills

Game-Performance Skating Hockey Practice Drills
As coaches, we need to train our players in as close to game-like conditions at possible.

When working with hockey players to improve performance, the rule of specificity of training is the key to success. This means that as coaches, we need to train our players as close to game-like conditions at possible. This is very important when developing on-ice conditioning skating drills. The conditioning/skating drills must be as close to game-like skating as possible in order to improve hockey specific fitness.

Traditional Skating Conditioning Drills  

Put your hand up if you have used, or still use, the traditional on-ice conditioning drill of cross ice skating, where players skate side-boards to side-boards and they have to do it in 30-seconds. If your hand is up, let’s talk. Or have you used the classic conditioning drill of goal line to blue and back – goal line to center line and back – goal line to far blue line and back, goal line to the other end and back? Let me ask you, do your players ever skate straight, stop, change direction and skate straight eight times in a row? I am sure you are saying, “No, players rarely skate like that in a game.” The way the game is played now is that players do not “stop and start” as much as they make tight turns to change direction to maintain their speed and momentum.

Now, even though the above-mentioned skating drills are pretty good for conditioning, and give players a good metabolic load, they are not game-performance skating drills. When players are on the ice, they make left and right gliding and cross-over turns, they skate forward and backward, they engage in either body checking or body contact, they carry the puck for short periods of time, they shoot, they skate fast, medium, and slow speeds, and they glide with knees bent in a ready position. The point is that almost every drill we get our players to do must be as close to game-performance as possible. This is how players perform better in games.

Using YouTube to design drills

Watching games or highlights of any hockey, particularly NHL or elite female games, can help design conditioning skating drills. Watching players the entire shift (I realize they go out of the camera angle at times) can identify how they skate during a game. Their skating movements during a shift can be developed into conditioning drills. Start watching from the drop of the puck and watch them until they go off the ice, or until a whistle blows.

Examples of conditioning drills using game-performance skating

As coaches, we need to train our players in as close to game-like conditions at possible . . .



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Mike Bracko

Mike Bracko is a skating coach, skating researcher, strength & conditioning coach, and fitness educator. He holds a Doctorate degree in Exercise Science and Biomechanics and is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Coach through the NSCA. He played hockey in the AJHL, BCHL and NCAA (University of Illinois-Chicago). He does skating clinics with 300–400 hockey players every year specializing in 1-on-1, small group, and team skating with male and female players ranging in age from 8 years old to pro players.  He is also the strength & conditioning coach for the USA Men’s Deaflympic hockey team.  [email protected]

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