Over the years, I’ve heard this sentence repeated thousands of times: “My child is a great hockey player; he/she just can’t skate well enough.”
What a strange conclusion! Skating and hockey are synonymous! Great hockey players always “have the wheels”. Without being proficient skaters, players end up being less than great.
Another sentence that I’ve heard repeatedly: “If they skate more they’ll get faster.” As if “more” equals “better”. Another strange conclusion! Quality skating is more valuable than quantity skating. Ice time spent standing around, or spent doing push-ups and sit-ups, shooting on goalies, and going through meaningless drills day after day, accomplishes little in the way of skill development. Having youngsters play 80 games a season does not teach skating skills.
After thirty years of experience, I KNOW that the only way to become a great skater is to learn to skate CORRECTLY. Technique is the foundation of skating. Technique is like the bottom of a pyramid; if it is not strong, the entire structure can collapse when under pressure.
Numerous specialists focus on conditioning for hockey - strength, power, endurance, flexibility and quickness training. Conditioning is of course extremely important. But, like skating technique, it is but one part of whole process. In observing some training programs, I’m amazed at how often skating technique is overlooked or not acknowledged as a vital part of the hockey player equation.
Another strange conclusion! Conditioning without proper technique training does not make players better skaters! To become an elite player, all aspects of hockey must be developed. Skating is and will always be the first and most important skill.
The speed in hockey is mind-boggling. Every year we see players who are bigger, stronger, and faster. But look at the NHL - which players are the fastest and the most skilled? They are predominantly Europeans. Why? Because these players learned how to skate before they were allowed to play games. Skill development was the most important aspect of their early training.
The Laura Stamm International Power Skating System is founded on correct technique. Only after learning to execute maneuvers correctly do we allow students to execute them faster, and then faster with the puck. Skating is a separate skill. The motions of skating are completely different from our natural motions of walking and running. I often tell students that they are the opposite of normal. They must be taught separately and thoroughly, and practiced for years. In my System we teach each maneuver in all its minute parts, and then combine the parts to create the whole.
The two most basic hockey skills to master are skating and stickhandling. But in effect, it’s difficult (if not impossible) to be a great stickhandler without being able to MOVE the puck down the ice FAST!
For the hockey players who want to improve their skills in the off season, my suggestion is to first enroll in a power skating program that offers excellent technique training. Then enroll in an excellent stickhandling program. The results will be worth the time, effort and expense.
Whatever you learn and whatever you practice, practice correctly. Remember: “Practice does not make perfect – only perfect practice makes perfect!”*
Laura Stamm, Copyright, May, 2002
*Jack Blatherwick, Team USA Year Round Training, 1986
*Howie Wenger, Fitness: The Key to Hockey Success, 1986