What Makes a Good Hockey Skater? Parts 1 & 3:
Welcome back to part two of my multi-part series examining the technical aspects that constitute a ‘good’ skater in hockey.
In part one, I examined the importance of having sound lower body structure to ensure stride efficiency and efficacy.
In this article, Im going to examine the role a player’s hips play in a myriad of skating movements.
Hips Don’t Lie
In hockey players, hips don’t lie.
Having dynamic, flexible hips allows hockey players to engage in highly dexterous and complex skating movements rather seamlessly.
Having tight, non-dynamic hips will cause hockey players to experience severe hindrances in a multitude of patterns and movements which could limit their overall on-ice effectiveness.
Let’s look at why having dynamic hips is so important.
As skating becomes more and more dynamic at higher levels, so too does the requirement to have fluid, dynamic hips.
The mohawk (or 10-2/heel-to-heel) has become a staple in the modern elite skater. Watch the brief video below if you’re unfamiliar with the concept:
The mohawk allows a player to execute several dynamic actions throughout a game, such as…
Control their vision when attempting a wrap-around shot or pass:
Escape pressure in a lateral fashion without needing to employ a crossover:
Or generate fakes and deception to create scoring chances:
The mohawk has become an essential teaching point in skating instruction among young players, and rightfully so. It allows players to add an array of deceptive tools to their belt.
Below is another highly effective and simple drill to build your comfort level in the mohawk movement with a puck; I filmed myself completing it on a ODR a few weeks ago:
A few keys:
Build your comfort level on your inside edges with simple alternating inside edge pushes if you’re uncomfortable with the mohawk right away
Get low; in order to execute the movement properly, you need to get low into the stance and produce proper ankle flexion and knee bend
Lean into it; if you’re straight up and down, you won’t generate the momentum needed to complete the movement
Improve your hip mobility; if you have tight or immobile hips, you’ll never be able to consistently and correctly execute the mohawk
Open Pivots + Blended Catches
Having fluid, dynamic hips and building your comfort level in the mohawk movement allows you to unlock even another level of skating thereafter: open pivots, fakes and blended catch movements that require a high degree of shouldering speed (i.e., ability to blend multiple skills together).
For example, open pivot fakes on the rush to get by defenders:
Or seamless, smooth transitional skating with the puck, especially on your weak side:
And finally, executing blended catches in a mohawk fashion to generate deception and manufacture space for teammates:
A final hip-related concept is generating depth through crossovers to get your hips on a sharp angle relative to the ice. This is a critical aspect of skating when it comes to crossovers and weight shifts in order to allow players to grab as much consecutive ice as possible with each stride.
Also known as ‘falling’ — the concept is eloquently described below in a tweet from Mitch Brown. The concept relates to a skater’s hip angle relative to the ice, and their subsequent ability to ‘fall’ onto their next leg during crossovers and weight shifts:
The best way to help visualize the concept in an exaggerated way is to examine speed skaters.
Take this still photo of Canadian Olympic speed skater Samuel Girard for example. His sharp angle and depth to the ice is allowed by three factors:
Trust in his edges to get hips on lowest angle to ice possible
Hip mobility to grab as much ice as possible with each consecutive crossover
Combining 1 + 2 in order to generate as much momentum around his turns as possible and take the shortest path he can
In hockey, players aren’t necessarily trying to corner like speed skaters, but the concept remains similar for crossovers and weight shifts.
Players who can get deep in their stance thanks to elite lower body structure and edge work (like Sidney Crosby) can get their hips on a lower angle relative to the ice, thus allowing them to generate more momentum while cornering and maximize the efficiency of their crossovers and weight shifts.
To recap, having fluid, dynamic hips in hockey allows us to implement and improve upon:
Open pivots, fakes and blended catches
Crossover depth/weight shift efficacy
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