Derek Popke and Florida Panthers captain Willie Mitchell during on ice training session>
Players of all ages want to be faster, quicker, and more explosive. They utilize beautiful skating strides in practice while zipping through cones with precision. And then…the puck enters the equation and their skating mechanics drastically go downhill. Understanding puck placement and hand positioning will improve a player’s overall skating speed, balance and explosiveness.
The overall concept is simple. The closer the puck is to a players skates the more off balance the player. This holds true for all mechanics of hockey skating: crossovers, turns, transitions, and overall stride. Poor puck positioning leads to the player’s hips being higher and minimal knee bend. It also limits the player’s ability to achieve power and speed.
The first step to improving speed with the puck is hand positioning. Players should have distance between their hands and body (jersey). A lot of times a player’s top hand will be on the hip and touching the jersey. Having their hands away from the body will push the puck further from the skates allowing the player to get their hips down while improving balance. It also allows the player to keep their head up while seeing both the puck and game play.
Lets briefly breakdown performing a glide turn with the puck. As the player enters the turn the top hand should be away from the hip and more in front of the body. This pushes the puck away from the body and instantly improves knee bend and balance. As the player begins to exit the turn, he should gradually push both hands a little further away from the body. This helps create space between the puck and skates to perform the power crossover needed to explode out of the turn. It will also allow the player to keep their head and eyes up.
The goal for all players is to close the gap between speed with the puck and speed without the puck. Small details such as hand and puck position will help players achieve better balance and skating speed. Remember when it comes to skating, its all about the details. Small details mean big things.
Derek Popke is the president and owner of Vancouver Hockey School Ltd. He has worked on-ice with the NHL Toronto Maple Leafs, ECHL Victoria Salmon Kings, and numerous minor hockey associations. You can visit Derek’s camps at www.vancouverhockeyschool.com. You can also follow him on twitter and instagram @derek_popke.
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