Practice makes permanent
Posted by Dean Holden at May 3rd, 2014
by Diane Ness, 17 April 2014
In skating, one of the main areas of concern is getting every skater’s center of gravity lower to the ice. This means getting your knees bent, your ankles flexed and your butt down. This does not come with a few repetitions of drills, but rather with countless hours of an actual concentrated effort.
Skaters should focus on training in an uncomfortably low position. Once the skater is able to do this, every skating skill becomes easier. It’s very simple: The lower you train, eventually the more comfortable you will become in that position.
You will notice in the photos how low Zach Parise is and the position he is in. When you look at the game photo you will also notice where his head is in relation to the dasher, how wide his base is and how far over he is over on his edges.
There is a direct correlation between the summer training photos and the game photos. His knee bend and low center of gravity has become so ingrained in his muscle memory that it is a natural way for him to skate whether practice or a game.
There are three main reasons why bending your knees and having a low center of gravity is important. First, is the amount of power your legs can generate from a 90-degree knee bend. When you think of where all of your skating power comes from, it comes from your legs. This is the reason you don’t see any speedskaters standing up straight while competing. Downward force into the ice from the skate blade provides speed. Knee bend provides explosive downward force.
Secondly, when your knees are bent properly, every push you make becomes longer. When you have little to no knee bend, you are really limited with the amount of extension that you have from each push. Whether it’s a stride or a crossover, all speed is generated from pushing your edge against the ice. Plain and simple, the more knee bend the longer the skater’s extension will become.
Finally, if you look at a player like Zach, who is small by NHL standards, you will notice he never gets knocked off the puck. This is because, much like in the photos, he has such a strong base and a low center of gravity; he is very hard push him off balance. Whether he is in the corners or in front of the net, his knee bend and leg positioning makes him a very stable skater and is extremely strong on his skates.
Training for this position should be done consistently and correctly during skating sessions. I will put these skaters through different movements, all of which will focus on technique and lowering their center of gravity.
Pucks should not be used when starting out like this. One-hundred percent of our focus is dedicated into just the technique.
We also will use an iPad to give immediate feedback to our skaters. Most of the time skaters think they are bending their knees low enough until I actually show them the footage. I have found every skater can always work on getting lower to the ice. A good rule to go by is “You can’t get low enough.”
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.