It’s no secret that skating is an important element – if not the most important element – of hockey, especially in today’s game. Not only is skating the method of getting up and down the ice, but also the way you maneuver in tight spaces, around the crease and in the corners, and win races to the puck.
Needless to say, it can give you a leg up on the competition.
“If you can skate, it makes the game a lot easier,” said Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere. “I think the game today is full of so many great skaters. It’s the new trend and the style of the game – you have to be able to skate to play. Today’s game is all about skating and skills.”
For Gostisbehere, skating is a part of his game that he’s worked the hardest on since he was a kid growing up in Pembroke Pines, Florida. He learned form and technique from power skating instructors, coaches, and his older sister, Felicia, who was an elite figure skater.
Gostisbehere continued to work and train through three years at Union College where he won an NCAA championship in 2014, and credits his skating ability to helping his NHL Entry Draft stock, where he was selected by the Flyers in the third round (78th overall) in 2012.
“You never stop putting in the work when it comes to skating,” said Gostisbehere, who was runner-up for the Calder Memorial Trophy his rookie season in 2015-16. “It’s the one skill I think you can always improve.”
Here are Gostisbehere’s tips to develop and improve your skating skills.
Incorporate off-ice training and games
To build better hockey players, we must build better athletes. USA Hockey has made it a priority to incorporate age-specific, off-ice training at all levels to address this.
“Off-ice, you should be doing a little bit of training and plyometrics, anything that will get your legs and core working hard,” said Gostisbehere.
Here are some off-ice exercises and games for 12U players:
Some of these can be done individually, but games and races can be incorporated into practice plans to foster a fun and competitive environment.
For more dryland training materials, visit: http://www.admkids.com/page/show/2019135-age-specific-dryland-training
Make yourself uncomfortable
When it comes to edgework, Gostisbehere said the key is putting your legs and body in uncomfortable situations in practice.
“Sometimes I balance on one leg with the puck and do edgework with the other edge,” he said. “Anything I can do to put my body and myself in uncomfortable positions and situations, it can make you a lot better.”
At 12U, many techniques can already feel uncomfortable for kids as they experience awkward growth spurts. Some adjust more quickly than others, and that’s OK.
Safety and small areas
At 5-foot-11 and 180 pounds, Gostisbehere knows he’s far from one of the bigger bodies on the NHL ice. Strong skating helps him give, receive – and avoid – body contact, something 12U players should be working on as the boys prepare for body-checking at 14U and the girls game ramps up in intensity. Small-area games are a great way to develop those evasive maneuvers.
Skating skills allow Gostisbehere to retrieve the puck in the corners with confidence and also jumpstart his team in transition by joining the rush into the offensive zone. His skating has made him a very valuable NHL player.
“You can definitely skate your way out of trouble sometimes,” Gostisbehere said. “I know I use that ability in my game sometimes just to get me out of trouble. I like to escape and evade people, so if I can use my legs and skating ability to do it, it definitely helps my game.”