Using NHL data to improve skating performance of young players

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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. www.hockeyinstitute.org  [email protected]

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We can learn a lot from the data.
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To analyze how NHL forwards skate during a game, it is best to watch one player for his entire shift.

We did this to analyze the game-performance skating characteristics of NHL forwards. Game tapes of the New York Islanders were watched. The Islanders had a camera high in the stands so that we could see the players for most of their shift. Defensemen were not analyzed.

Game-performance skating characteristics                     

We analyzed 12 NHL forwards for 12 periods from the Islanders and three other teams. We viewed the second period because we considered it neutral.

There were 27 skating characteristics analyzed: 15 timed and 12 frequency characteristics. We analyzed the skating characteristics in quarter-second increments by stopping and starting the tape. The results improved the understanding of game-performance skating.

This research was done in 1992, and some skating characteristics have likely changed as the game has evolved and rules have changed. The results still give us a good understanding of how we can use NHL skating when designing skating drills.

How do NHL forwards skate during a game?  

  • NHL forwards spent 39% of their shift time gliding on two skates, however it was never sustained rather, the average time spent in a skating characteristic was 1.87 seconds.
  • High intensity skating and backward skating were similar: 4.6% and 4.9% of the shift, respectively.
  • NHL forwards spent 9.8% of the shift struggling for puck or position. This percentage most likely is different now with rule changes.
  • NHL forwards had slightly more left gliding and cross-over turns than right turns.

We can learn a lot from the data . . .

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