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 move side-to-side, equal and opposite to leg movement.
Here is an example of Connor McDavid Wide Strides at The NHL All Stars Skills Competition
Watching Connor McDavid’s video above, it is obvious he is one of the fastest players in the NHL that has a wide stride. The overall technique of the wide stride starts has a deep knee bend (approximately 90-100 degrees of flexion) to get a strong long push off and getting the recovery skate on the ice quickly to start the next push off.
Let’s go over a few simple steps to gain a Wide Stride.
The key component to be efficient and fast you must have a good balance. It is important to start by having your knee bent and chest up in a hockey stance when slowly skating down the ice to improve your balance. You want to center your chest over the knee and then over your skate with each stride. Watch out when skating down the ice not to standing straight up or bending too far forward.
You will always want to start in a hockey stance when commencing any stride drills. You want to push the skate out to the side, which your stride should be at approximately a 45° angle and raise parallel to the ice. It is very important that you fully extend your stride without curling the foot or kicking the skate up in the air behind you. If you notice your skate kicks up too much in the air it means you are bending too far over. Also, if your foot curls at the end of each stride, it means you are not fully extending.
**Remember** Point #3 of “What we know about fast hockey players” – Make sure you load the opposite arm back and drives it forward on each leg stride.
Here is a video example of a simple stride drill staring in a hockey stance – Credit Mike Bracko
Striding and Gliding
Next is to start combining striding and gliding, so that you can skate more like in a game setting. You start in a hockey stance then proceed to what you learned in the first drill. After you have performed 4 to 5 strides, you will what to transition to gliding still maintaining a hockey stance for 3 seconds and then back to performing 4 to 5 strides to end the drill.
Here is a video example of the drill progression of Striding and Gliding – Credit Mike Bracko
You want to perform drills that will enhance your stride width. The great thing about these simple drills above (I have used) it’s simple and helps players increase their stride width by having them skate over the top of a line of small pylons. Also, these drills will force you to skate with a wide stride and quick recovery. Remember, the key to these drills is to start slow in motion and get into a rhythm of extending the stride followed by a return underneath the body. Arms and legs should work in a fluid motion. The next step is to perform the same drills faster and always move your feet, so you can start looking like a fast player
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.
Here’s a fun Off Ice training exercise example – Credit 247 Hockey
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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