It doesn’t matter whether you play defense, or are on the forward line, you want to have a strong forward stride to outpace your opponents.
Save the Running Man for the Dance Floor
Regardless of your skating style, you want your skate blades to have good contact with the ice surface, so you don’t look like you are jogging down the ice. Your toes should be pointed in the direction you are headed at the start of each stride. When you draw your leg back to push off with your first stride, you want your skate to make an arc like a reversed letter “C”.
When you do push off on your stride, your rear foot should be in a 90 degree angle to your leading foot, so which will give you a short gliding motion forward. Your first push will give you a straight leg at the end of your pushing motion, the second push will have a slight sideward push and increase as you gain momentum. Your first few strides should be shorter as you build power and speed in your pushing leg, and then you extend your stride longer as you build momentum and speed. This is called “The Evolution of the Stride”.
Gearing Up Your Stride
In your first few pushes and striding motion, you want to have a lot of torque and power to build momentum, just like in first and second gear in a car, or when you ride a bike. As you gain speed, you want more blade contact with the ice, and more sideward motion. That way, maintain your power and speed.
Swing Your Arms for More Power
If you’ve ever watched Olympic speed skaters, you will definitely have noticed their swinging arm movements as they glide up the ice. If you are streaking toward the opposing end after the puck to grab a breakaway opportunity, or in hot pursuit after an opposing forward, you want to use your whole body for momentum.
When you stride forward with either leg, that is the direction you want to swing your arm. Be sure not to knock your own stick out of your grasp when you swing your arm over it to help out your stick-side leg.
When you glide forward with the other leg, use a pendulum movement with the other arm as if you were pushing off a wall. If you catch an opposing defenseman with your arm swing, they shouldn’t have been “on your six” so close to begin with.
Start with a crescent curve to plant your skate the first time for a powerful straight-legged push.
Your first opposing leg stride will be fairly short as you evolve your stride, the next few will grow longer. Gear up from first to high gear.
Once you are three or four strides in, use the arm not holding the stick to swing towards (or past) your striding leg. Think like a speed skater. As you make your third and future strides, transition from striding straight forward to having a sideways push to your stride. This maintains forward momentum in high gear.
Practice skating straight down the open ice as many chances as you can get. Watch out for speeding pucks, small children and Doug Gilmour-sized players that you might knock over when you have a full head of steam. You can work on your crossover skating techniques another time.
Ready? Set, GO!