Posted by Dean Holden at April 7th, 2013
by Diane Ness, 21 March 2013
Last summer we had the chance to meet up on the ice with one of the nation’s top speedskating coaches, Dave Cruikshank. You may have also seen Dave at the Let’s Play Hockey Expo at the Easton booth just a couple weeks ago. Every year we meet with Dave to discuss some different philosophies and techniques. Whether it’s speedskating or figure skating, there is so much to be learned in the world of skating if you look outside the box. Dave mentioned to us that speedskaters reach top speeds around 40 mph, more than twice as fast as hockey players, so there is a lot to be learned from this sport.
About a year ago I had written an article about the mechanics of a stride along with some drills that you can do. Talking with Dave, we went into much more detail about about the recovery of a stride. What should the motion feel like? How far should a skate come back in? What should the hips do on the recovery? We were able to have some of our skaters try tweaking their recovery and it seemed to be an easier, more natural motion on the skater.
The most important part of a stride is the push. The push goes to the side, pushing on an inside edge. As the skater is moving forward, the push looks like it is coming from front to back but the skater is actually pushing out. If you push straight back you will get on the “flat” of your blade and not go anywhere. The more you push back, you tend to get a “high kick” when your blade leaves contact with the ice.
Now that we know we start by pushing out on our edge and finish that push with the leg fully extended, how do we recover? A good way to think is “around and through.” This is opposed to just bringing the skate right back underneath as it puts a lot of torque on your groins. This is a more natural range of motion for your feet and legs to recover. When we recover “around and through,” the feet should come back underneath our hips almost in a circular motion. Our skates don’t necessarily need to recover and touch each other as that does not happen in a game, but bringing them under your hips keeps you efficient. When a skater moves to full speed, only the frequency of pushes should get faster; recovery should still come underneath the hips.
In the photos, you will see that Casey Wellman grips and pushes out on his edge in photo No. 1. In photo No. 2, you can see his extension and how he is finishing his push. In photo No. 3 you can see the proper recovery or “around and through.” Notice how he does not just pull his foot directly underneath, but how it is a much more natural range of motion to come back under his hips. Also, notice his skate is low to the ice, avoiding a “high leg kick.”
I encourage you to get on the ice and try this addition to your stride. It should feel a little more natural and in no time will become a habit with practice and quality repetition.
Diane Ness has been a full-time professional skating coach for over 35 years. She has coached both figure skaters and hockey players alike and is a former U.S. gold medalist in figure skating. She is the Director for the Pro Edge Power hockey camps and the Learn to Skate program at Highland Park Arena. Ness is the skating coach for the New Jersey Devils, the University of Minnesota men’s and women’s hockey teams and the U.S. Women’s Olympic Hockey Team. She has trained players in the NHL, AHL, NCAA, USHL and NAHL.