Good skaters refer to bad ones as “ankle benders,” because of how their ankles fall or bend in toward the ice. You won’t find any benders in Ann Arbor, Mich., home of the United States National Team Development Program, a college hockey prep course for America’s homegrown talent, whose recent grads include 10 2009 NHL draftees.
It doesn’t matter if you’re playing on the frozen pond or reppin’ the Red, White and Blue, “you can always be faster,” says Carrie Keil, skating coach for the NTDP. But if your form and technique fundamentals aren’t perfect, “you’re using your body inefficiently, and you’ll never be as fast as you could be if those problems were corrected.”
Here, Keil coaches you on proper form and how to apply pressure downward through the edges of your skates, so you can cut and turn without losing speed.
Turn your head first, followed by your shoulders, body, then feet. It’s important to get your body to act as a unit, and get your arms, legs and torso all moving in the same direction.
If you take a snapshot of an NHL player cutting or turning, you’ll notice his body is almost perpendicular to the ice, because he’s applying pressure from his hips down to the skate blade. His legs are at a deep angle to the ice.
Hockey players need a strong core. If your upper body lacks control, you’ll lose balance. If you lose balance, you can’t generate speed. You also need strength there to separate your core from your lower extremities to produce the correct weight over your skates so you don’t wipe out.
Knee and Hip Flexion
The phrase we use is “getting into the ice,” and not skating “down on the ice.” Generate pressure downward from knee and hip flexion through the edges of your skates.
It’s a misconception that turns and cutting are executed by dropping your ankle onto an inside edge, as that breaks your natural anatomical alignment. Cuts and turns are achieved through the knees, hips and rotation of the torso.