Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid (image above) is the league’s best player and there are so many factors that make him a top NHL talent. What sets him apart from everyone else is his speed and wide stride that helps him to easily fly past his opponents.
Playing hockey in the 80’s and 90’s I was always of the smaller stature, 5’11 being at my tallest. Speed was my major tool to contend with the much larger players. As hockey progressed over the years, so did the “Speed” of the game. In this article, I will provide some tips that helped me to improve my skating stride width, quick recovery, arm movement.
The characteristics to improve skating (technique) performance Coaches and Trainers need is to use drills based on objective information, which has been proven by the traits of fast players. Here is some info to what we know about fast hockey players and as follows:
1. Fast hockey players have wide strides.
2. Fast hockey players skate recovers quickly to get under the shoulder to start the next push-off.
3. Fast hockey players’ 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.
4. Examples of these skating traits are the way Connor McDavid skates. Coaches and Trainers need to execute drills that will get our players skating comparable to fast elite players.
Here is an example of Connor McDavid Wide Strides
The reason fast players have a wide stride is that after they push off, they need to get the recovery skate on the ice quickly to start the next push off. Watch McDavid, it is obvious that one of the fastest players in the NHL has wide strides. Another reason why these players are fast is that they have a deep knee bend (approximately 90-100 degrees of flexion) and get a strong push off.
We want to perform drills that will enhance stride width. The drills that I have used for stride width are having players skate over the top of a line of small pylons. This drill forces the players to skate with a wide stride (and quick recovery). Start the drill progression by getting players to skate straight over a long line of cones. Remember, the key to this drill is to never skate slow, always move your feet.
Here is a video example of the drill
Next, the Coach should follow with the drill progresses so that the players skate more as they do in a game setting where they stride and glide.
Here is a video example of the drill progression
Two Important Tips
1. Skate Maintenance
I always stress to my players – “Keep your skates properly sharpened at the level you feel the most comfortable”. Get to know the person who sharpens your skate and always get them done with the same sharpness. When you know what works for you, keep your skates in that state as much as possible. This will greatly benefit your skating skills. Checkout Dennis & Co. at Toronto Pro Hockey Shop located in Vaughan. Let Them know… You heard about them from HockeyNeeds!
2. Off Ice Training
Take part in an off-ice-training program that combines power, flexibility and endurance. A perfect skating technique without strong powerful legs will not let you attain your full potential in terms of speed and explosion. Focus on a program that will build power, endurance and flexibility.
When practicing any skating exercises on ice or off ice, remember to focus on efficient, controlled movements. Done correctly, these skating exercises will help you to improve hip mobility, knee bend, stride length, balance, and explosiveness. Your goal is to skate with perfect technique regardless of how fast your legs are moving.
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