Jarret Reid: Power Skating: The Winning Edge
The great ones all make it look so easy. For most spectators, watching the speed and agility that drives a hockey game is like watching magic.
It’s not magic. And it’s not easy. It takes years of practice and intense mental and physical focus to perfect these skills. And it takes a solid grounding in power skating techniques.
What is power skating?
Power skating is a collection of extremely valuable techniques for a hockey player at any level -- from elite pros to kids just getting their footing on the ice. In many ways, it’s a cornerstone of high performance hockey. That’s why for the past 12 years I’ve focused my training, teaching and coaching efforts on helping the new generation of elite hockey players develop and hone solid power skating skills.
Power skating is all about physics, and it’s a physics lesson every serious hockey player needs to learn. It’s about controlling territory on the ice and putting your opponent in a vulnerable position.
Power skating is designed to improve a player’s speed, agility, balance and multitasking skills on the ice. At Wave Sports Centre in Burlington, where I teach power skating techniques, we use a series of exercises and drills to achieve this.
Students learn a series of crucial maneuvers, such as edge control, crossover, how to lengthen their stride, how to start and stop rapidly, how to shift efficiently from forward to backward motion and more.
Many of the top NHL players have gone through power skating training, and it’s paid off in their performance and scoring. They include Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid, Morgan Riley of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Brendan Gallagher and Nathan Beaulieu of the Montreal Canadiens and Matt Duchene of the Colorado Avalanche.
Speed is key in every skating move, whether the player is moving forward, backwards or laterally, turning or launching into explosive starts. If you watch McDavid play, you notice his great ability to accelerate and weave in and out without losing any momentum.
Reactive Linear Crossovers
One other important element of power skating is the reactive linear crossover. “How do McDavid and [Sidney] Crosby literally break away from the pack?,” writes TSN commentator Frank Seravalli.
“According to Crosby’s skills coach, Darryl Belfry, it is with the use of linear crossovers. It isn’t a crossover in the traditional sense - like skating around in a circle - but rather crossing their feet in acceleration, at top speed, while skating in a straight line.”
In crossover training, players learn develop a low stride to crossover ratio. The top 25 NHL players crossover once every four strides, compared to once every 12 to 14 strides for most players, Seravalli noted in his TSN article.
These techniques can be kind of hard to visualize. Prodigy Hockey has some helpful video and photos of the basics.
Blade edge use
To gain an edge, you have to know how to use your edges. Blade edges have several important functions: they are tools for moving in a curved path, and for pushing against ice.
At first, many students don't understand the importance of knowing how to use edges well. It’s necessary for getting a grip against the ice, which in turn increases power and speed.
The part of the blade that’s touching the ice affects your ability to execute moves properly. For example, you'll use the front-middle section of the blades for quick starts. Leaning on the inner side of the blade maximizes grip and control.