Skating is the most important skill in hockey. Make it a point to start—and finish—your season fundamentally sound. It will be critical to your development as a young hockey players, says Andy Ness, the assistant director of Pro Edge Power.
Ness is the head skating and skill instructor for the Minnesota Wild. He also has worked with the New Jersey Devils, Gophers and U.S. women’s Olympic team.
“Everything you do involves skating, so it’s important to learn it right the first time,” said Ness.
Here are some tips from coach Ness to help you start the season in stride.
Fundamentals first, then move on to more challenging movements. Edge strength, balance and knee bend are the three pillars of every skater’s foundation—and it’s where most bad habits are developed.
It’s important to note that if bad habits creep in, they can be corrected. Even NHL players can fall out of form. But breaking those habits takes time, diligence and consistency. Slow your stride down and work with your coaches to identify your problem areas. Condition your muscles correctly, and then gradually build your speed back up.
Having a wide base and a low center of gravity is critical, but it’s not always easy to maintain. Staying low provides balance, power and agility through acceleration, crossovers, stops and starts, etc. Once players start losing their deep knee bend and stand straighter, they’ll lose power and balance. Condition yourself to stay low this season right from the get-go.
Want to impress at tryouts? “If you already know what is being graded for tryouts, know the expectations and prepare for them,” said Ness. “Front crossovers, back crossovers, power turns, partner passing, different drills—you can practice those skills over and over before tryouts. Come into tryouts ready to show what you can do.”
Really want to get better? “Wild players come out early before practice or stay late after practice. It’s different when you don’t get unlimited ice time, but you can find a way to work on things. Go in the garage and shoot a couple hundred pucks. Go to an outdoor rink, go to open skating or open hockey. That’s where improvement happens, and that’s where the fun happens.”