Hockey is comprised of numerous complicated and intricate skating maneuvers.
Each maneuver is comprised of numerous strides (steps) with each accompanied by a specific push. The totality of the pushes in a skating maneuver, performed correctly, powerfully, and quickly, results in speed.
There are four major pushes in hockey skating. I created names for these pushes to help players visualize, understand and apply them to their skating.
1. Forward Stride-Push
The “forward stride-push” generates power on the forward stride. It is also the first push of forward crossovers (a two-step sequence). See explanation of crossovers, below.
2. Backward Stride-Push
The “backward C-cut push” generates power (speed) when skating straight backward. It is also the first push of the backward crossovers sequence (a two-step sequence).
The “X-push” is the second push of crossovers. It provides power on the second stride (step) of both forward and backward crossovers. The X-push is often neglected or performed incorrectly, which results in poorly executed crossovers. See explanation of crossover pushes, below.
4. Forward C-cut Push
The “forward C-cut push” is the first push of a pivot (tight turn). It is also used in maneuvers that require agility and stability, such as when warding off an opponent or when protecting the puck.
Since a crossover is a two-step maneuver, every crossover is also a two-push maneuver.
Since the first push of a forward crossover is identical to the push of the forward stride, the first push of each forward crossover is the stride-push. The second push of each forward crossover is the X-push.
Since the first push of a backward crossover is identical to the push of the backward stride, the first push of each backward crossover is the backward C-cut push. The second push of each backward crossover is the X-push.
Principles Of Power Generation
Whether skating forward, backward, crossing over (forward or backward), weaving, starting, or turning, all skating pushes adhere to established principles of power generation.
There are four elements involved in power generation for hockey skating – the Windup, Release, Follow-through and Return.
The Windup is a coiling action – it is necessary to prepare the skater for power generation on the upcoming push. It can be compared to the backswing of a baseball bat, tennis racket or golf club.
The Release and Follow-through are the outward pushing action.
The Return (recovery) prepares the skater for power generation (speed) on the upcoming push.
Several factors are necessary to achieve a proper Windup, Release, Follow-through, and Return.
Edges: Every push is executed against an edge. Some pushes (as in the forward and backward stride) are executed against the inside edge. Others (as in the second push of forward and backward crossovers) are executed against the outside edge. In an effective push, the edge of the pushing skate grips the ice at a 45 degree angle. It is impossible to push against the flat of the blade or against a weakly-angled edge.
Knee Bend: The knee of the pushing leg and the gliding leg must be bent strongly – the angle between the thigh and shin should be 90 degrees. It is important to maintain a strong knee bend at all times. Popping, or jumping up, destroys both the push and forward (or backward) motion.
Body Weight: The total body weight (100 percent) must be directly above and balanced over the edge of the pushing skate. At the midpoint of the push, the body weight begins to shift from the pushing skate to the gliding skate.
Center of Gravity: While the pushing leg does the work, we are really pushing ourselves (forward or backward). In order to push our weight, each push must begin from directly under the center of gravity (“battery pack” or “power source”). The center of gravity is an imaginary circle, approximately three inches in diameter, located in the midsection of the body (belly button area). The skates must therefore be no further than three inches apart at the beginning of each push.
The pushing skate/leg must drive directly and fully against the gripping edge. Too many players allow the pushing skate/leg to “slip back” in a walking/running motion. All skating pushes are outward/inward, not backward/forward.
A push is complete only when the pushing skate/leg is fully extended - when the entire leg (hip, the quad, knee, calf, ankle, and toes) is locked. A well-executed follow-through results in the all-important “toe-flick” (the final push against the ice with the front of the edge).
Note: Full extension is based upon maintaining a 90 degree knee bend of the gliding leg. A lesser knee bend produces a lesser range of motion and subsequently an inadequate push.
The return prepares the skater for the next push. An incomplete return means that the skates and legs will be outside the “battery pack” at the initiation of the next push. The subsequent push will be inefficient and ineffective.
Players who push from a wide base feel as though they’re going fast because they can move their legs rapidly. In actuality they work hard and accomplish little. They also tire quickly because they waste a lot of energy “going nowhere fast.” The goal is efficient speed.
To accomplish efficient speed, each push must be executed correctly. If technique is faulty during any portion of the push the player loses thrusting power (potential speed) on that portion of the push.
If technique is incorrect at the beginning of the push (Wind-up), the player loses the first third of the push.
The second third, or middle of the push (Release), is easier than either the first or third parts, so most players get this second third. Unfortunately, many players ONLY get this third of the push.
If technique is faulty at the third-third (finish) of the push the player loses the final third of the push.
Loss of one third of power in a sprint sport such as hockey results in a damaging loss of speed. Loss of two thirds guarantees slowness.
Remember: Fast-legged skaters look fast, but this is because they are churning their legs furiously. Correct, complete and powerful pushes, performed rapidly, are the goal.
Remember too: Walking and running are natural motions of the body. Skating motions and skating pushes are not. They must be learned/taught properly and then practiced (correctly and repeatedly) over a period of many years.
For a detailed explanation of how to execute each hockey skating push correctly and powerfully, go to LauraStamm.com.