Hockey games demand too much concentration for players to be thinking about how to skate; therefore, skating is the most important skill to practice. Regular practice is the key to improving skating ability.
Skating involves three phases: drive, glide, and recovery.
Drive. In the drive phase, players generate power through a skating thrust to the side. The back leg extends fully, followed by a final push off the toe of the skate (see figure 8.9a).
Glide. In the glide phase, athletes maintain the body over the glide foot to maximize each stride length. Shoulders line up over the knee, which lines up over the toes (see figure 8.9b).
Recovery. In the recovery stage, players quickly bring the extended foot back under the body midline, which ensures that the hips are over the skates with each extension (see figure 8.9c).
Generation of power is called the Z: All three joints are flexed, with knees over toes, chest over knees, and head up (see figure 8.10).
The ready position is the building block for all skating. Just as a strong base gives a pyramid strength, the ready position provides a sturdy base for hockey players.
Players take the ready position with skates parallel and their feet shoulder-width apart, toes pointed straight ahead. Players bend the knees until they are in line with the skates’ toes, lean the body slightly forward with the head up, and place one or two hands on the stick. The stick blade touches the rink surface.
Players develop power with fast, short strides, then use longer and less frequent strides as speed increases. The stride starts with feet shoulder-width apart and all weight on the push foot. A player turns the push foot 35 to 40 degrees and pushes to the side and down, pressing the skate wheels or blade firmly against the rink surface. As he forces the push foot out to the side, the player pushes the knee of the other leg forward, extending the push skate leg as far as possible, through the ankle to the tip of the toe. After finishing the stride, the player transfers weight to the forward foot (glide leg) and lifts the push foot slightly over the rink surface. The player bends the knee of the back leg and pulls it forward, close to the gliding foot, keeping it close to the rink surface and placing it back in its starting position to complete the recovery phase. The player then starts the next stride with the opposite foot.
Teach your players two basic starts to begin a forward stride quickly and easily: the V-start and the crossover start.
For the V-start, the player starts in ready position, then turns the heels in and toes out, making a V with the skates as he leans slightly forward, putting weight on the front part of the foot. (See figure 8.11.) He starts to drive with either the right or left skate and alternates legs with each stride. The player makes the first stride with each foot a short, driving stride, as if running. He makes the next two strides slightly longer and reduces the angle between the rink surface and the wheels or blades. The player’s third or fourth stride should have a wheel or blade angle of 35 to 40 degrees, and he should keep his skates near the rink surface for a quick recovery phase. The player gradually straightens up as speed increases.
For the crossover start, the player starts in ready position, then turns the head and places the stick in the direction of intended travel. He then takes the outside foot and steps over the inside foot, staying low and not hopping. When the outside foot contacts the rink surface, the player must keep it on the inside edge, using it as the driving foot in the push phase. The player takes the original inside skate and places it on the rink surface near the driving skate, forming a T with the skates. Finally, the player drives with the inside edge and continues the stride.