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Practice Makes Progress – Hockey Skating Improvement Guide Part 1

When it comes to taking your hockey skills to the next level, nothing is more important than practicing. Keep your skills sharp and improve basic skills you can build on in the off-season, and you’ll find yourself taking on more advanced skills ahead of schedule, beating the competition up the ice, and making the team you’ve been working toward!

Coach Joe and his player Brady are helping to show the step-by-step skills you can master. Remember that the more repetitions, the better the muscle memory will be and the less you’ll even have to think about it – the more agile you’ll be.

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1. Crossovers

Once you’ve learned the basics of forward and backward skating, taking on the crossover is the next step in advancing your base of hockey skills. Speed is incredibly important in hockey, and the crossover allows players to maintain and building speed through turns. A crossover requires the skater to cross their outside skate over their inside skate. Sounds simple, but it’s a difficult skill for new skaters. Start off slow, exaggerating the motion, and build speed as you master the skill.

Starting in a hockey stance, knees bent, turn your head in the direction that you want to go. Your stick should also point in the direction you’re going, allowing the shoulders and hips to also turn that direction. Begin striding into your turn. Lift the outside foot up and over the inside foot, placing it down ahead of the inside foot about an inch closer to the inside of your turn than the inside foot is. Allow your body weight to lean on the inside edge of the skate crossing over as you push. The opposite foot will lean on the outside edge of the skate. Crossovers require you to balance and push on your edges the entire time.

Crossover Collage

Point the ball of your foot down so that the first part of your skate to touch the ice is the front blade. If your heel is coming down first, it means you are standing up out of the proper position and losing power. Dig your blade into the ice and push off with your toe. This will give you the power you need to gain speed as you round the corner.

Practice this action repeatedly around corners of the rink or around face-off circles – picking up speed as you get more and more comfortable. This is easy to do at any daytime public skating session!

Feeling ambitious? Go backwards. To crossover backward, set yourself up in the same position. Instead of looking where you are going, you will be looking at where you are coming from. Cross your outside skate behind the inside skate, and push off with the inside skate. When you cross the outside skate behind the inside skate, be sure it is closer to the inside than the inside skate by about an inch. As with forward crossovers, step down onto the toe of the skate and push off with it.

2. Hockey Stops

Another important skill to master for changing direction and gaining power quickly is the hockey stop. Start by skating slowly and stopping slowly, in fact at first only using one leg to stop, not both. If you are just starting, try holding onto the boards and just pushing off with your leg and get the feeling of your skate sliding sideways.

For your first hockey stop, take a few strides to get moving, glide for a second and make sure your balance is right. Now lift a bit of weight off of the skate of your strong leg, rotate your hip, turn your skate (of the leg that you just lifted) about 90 degrees (so it is almost perpendicular to your other skate) and plant your skate in front of you, leaning on that skate’s inside edge. Your strong leg should now slow you down and then stop you. You should use your other leg for balance. Practice doing this until you get used to using the inside edge of your strong leg to stop. As you start to feel comfortable,  increase your speed until you have it down.

To do the full hockey stop, skate forwards, lift your strong leg, rotate your hips, lean back, and turn your body to the side so that both skates are now sideways. Plant your back foot and dig in until you stop. The front foot relies on the inside edge, the back foot on its outside edge. Work on these stops striding and stopping in both directions, picking up speed and exploding off the stop in a new direction. See it in action HERE.

3. Stick Handling Basics

Now we’re going to start working with a stick and puck on some basic handling. Start off stationary on your skates in a good hockey position, knees bent. Your non-shooting hand at the top of the stick, and your shooting hand about elbows length distance down the stick. For this exercise, we’re emphasizing keeping your head and eyes up to practice handling with your peripheral vision, meaning you can see the puck with your side vision without looking directly down at it – allowing you to see the ice in front of you, players from the opposing team, the net for a shot, or a teammate to pass to.

Stick Handling Collage

Move the puck back and forth, keeping the puck in front of you with the inside edge of your stick and then back with the outside edge, first keeping it in control and then gaining speed as you start to feel more comfortable. If you speed up and lose control of the puck, take your speed back down.

Got this down? Start to stride forward, pushing the puck forward as you skate with your eyes always looking where you’re going.

This is a great skill to work on at a Stick Time session, but is also something you can work on outside playing street hockey by yourself, training yourself to keep your head up and using that peripheral vision to both track the ball or puck while seeing where you’re going.

Keep an eye out for more skills and drills you can work on to improve outside your classes and regular practices to take your game to the next level!

Click HERE for our Figure Skating Improvement Guide.