News & Updates
December 15, 2015
We’ve all witnessed the fluidity, freaky speed, and graceful stride belonging to Mr. Jack Eichel. Is this preternatural skill? Could be. And can we stop drooling over it? I can’t. And players everywhere always ask me: how can I skate like Jack Eichel.
So then, here’s an even better question: can it be taught? Can everyday players learn to skate like Jack Eichel?
We can probably agree that many coaches are dogmatic. By this, I mean that they cling to one particular set of ideas pertaining to what is right and wrong. When presented with evidence that disconfirms their particular ideology, they enter into an interesting psychological state known as cognitive dissonance.
Isn’t it also true that most players, parents and fans are also this way? That is why I have started adding disclaimers in my articles forewarning readers of the dissonance they are about to experience through reading my uncommon (yet usually effective) perspective.
I’ll pause here for the people who are growing bored with my psychology babble to tell you that the magic trick you’re looking for is “weight shifts”. Ok get lost. Thanks for reading up until now. If you haven’t liked the article up until this point, you definitely won’t like the rest.
Ok, now back to the full explanation on how to skate like Jack Eichel:
Jack Eichel skates a bit weird, right? He seems to shuffle from side to side while gaining speed effortlessly. So wouldn’t it make sense that the advice to needed to skate like Jack Eichel is also a bit weird. You bet!
Here it is… (again)
What was our first question? Can Jack Eichel’s skating principles/style be taught?
Let’s first see if you can identify what I mean by weight shifts. See if you can catch them here.
When Jack Eichel skates, he has figured out how to use gravity and momentum to his advantage. He leverages these laws with his body mechanics of shifting his weight.
Hmm, who else preaches weight shifts/transfers?
Mr. Darryl Belfry.
,Can you catch where Darryl coaches weight shifts?
No? How about here?
Hmm, it sounds like weight shifts/transfers can be taught, doesn’t it? Now, let’s talk about how and what to teach.
Example from Speed Skating
So let’s again look to speed skaters to see a clear example of the principles of gravity and momentum at play in a skating stride. Notice two things, 1) the circular motion of this skater’s right foot and 2) the diagonal pushing pattern.
Circular right foot: push out and back
Circular right foot: pushes out and more back
Circular right foot: gets to full extension
Circular right foot: Continues circle, now coming in and forward
Circular right foot: Continues circle, in and moving forward
Circular right foot: planting on inside edge
You can see this live here:
Circular leg motion:
Rather than a diagonal and linear movement straight out and straight back in, the leg travels in a circular motion out, then out and back, then up and in, then forward and in, then back out, then out and back. This uses momentum and smooth biomechanics of the leg so there’s never an acceleration or deceleration of the leg, it’s always moving, like in a running stride.
The only way you can maintain this circular stepping is with diagonal pushes. Rather than skating in a straight line, you’ll notice that the speed skater here pushes their body in a slightly lateral direction on each push. This again keeps momentum up, and mimics the falling mechanics of a good runner.
You’ll see here that the skater pushes diagonally and shifts laterally to make his next step.
Momentum from his right leg push is propelling him laterally to his left.
The skater is about to plant on the outside edge. Yes, I said outside edge.
Oh, and there he goes. Planting on the outside edge. You can see that he has shifted laterally, and is planted on the outside edge.
He continues using his momentum, “falling” with the energy of the stride”
Now to correct the fall, he transfers to his inside edge and begins pushing WITH the momentum.
Back to Hockey
MMMM’kay. So that was a speed skating example. Of course, in hockey you rarely take more than 4-5 linear strides at a time in a game setting. Most of the time it is between 1-2 linear strides. So just how important is this? I dunno…? Fairly important. Watch Jack Eichel start behind an opposing player in a race for the puck…like WAYYY back, and pass him in ONE STRIDE! I’ve started the video at 1:30, and the ONE SINGLE STRIDE where he absolutely gasses his opponent, EFFORTLESSLY happens at 1:31. You may want to rewind and stop and go a bit to catch the diagonal movement, circular leg motion, and the stepping on the outside edge. It is that step that generates all the acceleration to beat his opponent.
Same clip, but here he is again:
Now there are also situations in which you simply can’t take full strides as a hockey player. What does Eichel do?
He still uses both principles. He’ll use a circular leg motion and a diagonal push. His push is almost imperceptible, but because he leverages the power of momentum and gravity, he’s able to INCREASE his speed.
Same clip again, but abbreviated strides. You’ll see the similarities between the above full strides and the abbreviated strides after watching a couple of times.
Here again, at 3:56 he’ll use extremely abbreviated steps. But the weight shift and diagonal circular steps are still detectable.
Hmmmmmmmmmm. What does that look like to you? Who has taught us that before? Oh, how about Belfry????
Check out Belfry teaching this subtle, yet dangerous manoeuvre to Tavares at 0:54.
What to do now?
Ok, so now you should probably go to you local power skating coach and ask them to teach you this stuff right?
Show them this article, and watch their face drop. Then they might tell you something like Jack Eichel’s stick is too long or something. They might even tell you they can improve Mr. Eichel’s skating because he’s skating all wrong, and I’m all wrong. Maybe I am? Who knows. But this is a tell for cognitive dissonance, which you should at least be aware of.
[Note I love Coach Prusso’s stuff, I just don’t agree with him about the stick thing, which is something I saw he wrote an article on while researching this article]
What to actually do now…
At this point, I wish I could point you to a resource that explains how to skate like Eichel from start to finish. It doesn’t seem to be out there. Maybe I will create it one day. But until now, I’d suggest studying these videos, getting video of yourself skating, and comparing the two. I honestly doubt that any power skating coaches teach this stuff other than Belfry. If they do, it’s a mystery to me, and I’m fairly well researched when it comes to this stuff. (Please tell me if there is someone who does teach this stuff).
In writing this article, I was heavily consulted by a former professional figure skater who mentioned that this type of thinking is rare even in figure skating. Like in hockey, the understanding of how to skate is linear and simple. Simple rules like: don’t swing your arms side to side, have full extension, bend your knees.
The fact that simple and moderately useless rules exist to teach players nowadays is only of benefit to players like Eichel who somehow inherited his glorious stride…and YOU, who is willing to research how and what to do to develop yours.
I know I have presented more than enough contrarian evidence to invoke significant anger in many of you, and you won’t even know why. I am fine with that. If you’d like some more evidence (I know you don’t actually) of the circular motion and diagonal stepping, you can see it here, here, here, here, and here. But for those who are interested in an uncommon (and more effective) approach to skating, please let me know how this goes for you.
If you think this video was over the top, you should see this one.
December 10, 2015
One thing elite players do to be deceptive
I’ve spoken poorly about goalies, tried to give advice to them, and shared some embarrassing stories. That said, I have a large amount of respect for them and what they do. Unbeknownst to most of my audience (slightly on purpose), I do actually know a fair amount about goalie mechanics, purely out of some weirdo interest I have. I somehow always end up beside them in the dressing room (maybe because I’m about as weird as them)…and I love it because I usually pick their brain on goalie-ing techniques, learning techniques and strategies. What strikes me is that they usually have a much stronger grasp of skill development and learning philosophy than the average player.
For this reason, in my first year with the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds, I asked my goalie for some feedback. I think I just said to him, “give me some feedback” to see what he would come up with.
He told me, “You are very predictable.”
So I asked, “What does that mean? How can I change that?”
He replied, “I don’t really know, but you’re really predictable with the puck.”
Not really the super detailed and technical feedback I was hoping for. But helpful nonetheless – at least it gave me a place to start.
So I started noticing which players were more deceptive and harder for me to check. Then I observed what they did differently. You might imagine that there is probably traits that they exhibit that predictable players don’t, and you’d be right? After a while, I noticed one subtle thing that they did: they moved the puck first.
I will pause here to tell you that if you are already very deceptive and skilled, you will probably only be mildly intrigued by this article, primarily through a sense of validation. Otherwise, it won’t be useful to you. But if you are moderately skilled and you find yourself having a hard time creating time and space for yourself, this article might have some good information for you to apply immediately.
So let’s say you’re playing as predictable you…you start at the goal line and skate down the ice towards the right boards and the far blueline. Then you want to change direction to where the far blueline and left boards connect.
As predictable you, you would turn and shift your whole body to change direction.
As deceptive you, you move the puck with a roll of your wrist, and then your stick, arm, shoulder, chest, hips, legs, and feet would follow the puck in that order.
As predictable you, the defenseman (who is an expert body language reader) easily picks up on your intended movement because your entire body is SCREAMING “I’M GONNA GO THAT WAY!!”
As deceptive you, the defenseman (who is told not to look at the puck) starts to read your movement a split second later because the only body signal you give that you’re planning on changing direction is a quick and subtle flick of the wrist. This split second of difference makes players who routinely change direction by moving puck first more deceptive.
Of course, the deceptive version of you will need to improve their stickhandling precision to be able to carry out this change. But that’s why you’re here isn’t it? To get better? I thought so.
Here is a video showing some changes a player made over the course of about 5 minutes by starting to change the habit of moving puck first to change direction. You’ll first notice that the puck is flicked into open space with a roll of a wrist, and then his body catches up. You’ll also notice that at first he seems to be working very hard to change direction. You’ll then notice that in the second clip his change of direction becomes more effortless as he becomes more comfortable with the skill. Effortless grace is another trait of deceptive players.
Before you watch and try this drill, let me tell you that we preceded it with about 50 minutes of changing this player’s habit from being an arm-based stickhandler to using his top wrist to stickhandle. But more on that coming later….
Watch for this trait of moving the puck first in the skilled and deceptive players on your team. Then go ahead and practice this in practice. Soon it will become automatic.
P.S. If you liked this article because it was different than most Drone Coach advice, and you’d like to get to work on becoming a Hockey Wizard, then click here to check out the benefits of becoming a Train 2.0 Member.
December 8, 2015
You’re probably thinking to yourself, “well I guess I’d better battle and compete harder”.
But if you were to ask yourself, what exactly do I need to do, could you give yourself a good answer? Wouldn’t it be kind of vague and useless?
You might be a little distraught that I’m reading your mind right now. But I know that if you had a strong, clear, and specific way to battle and compete harder, you would just go and do it right? The problem is that you don’t have a good answer.
Unless you have someone trusted who can tell you exactly what you need to do to “battle” and “compete”, wouldn’t it be a good idea to ask your coach for advice. You might be thinking that I’ve lost my marbles since it was your coach who gave you the vague and unhelpful information in the first place. But here are the questions you need to ask to bring forth the specific feedback you need to make changes to your game so that you can get the ice time you want:
- You: hey, so you mentioned that I need to battle and compete harder. I really want to improve on this so that I can [get more ice time/achieve my goal]. Can you tell me about 2-3 plays last game where I wasn’t battling hard enough?
- Coach: 1st play, 2nd play, 3rd play.
- You: Ok, I understand how those plays show that I wasn’t battling enough. Can you tell me exactly what you would have liked to see in each of those situations?
- Coach: Well in the first play you needed to do this…blah blah blah
- You: Ok, so just to be clear, if I make change A, change B, and change C, you’ll consider that my “battle” and “compete” level have gone up? Or is there anything else you’d like to see from me?
- Coach: Blah blah blah.
- You: Ok great! Thanks for your time. I’m going to go and work on those changes. Can you tell me if you have any more feedback for me?
- Coach: Yea, sure.
- You: Thanks again for your time.
Isn’t it great to turn your useless coach into a helpful coach with just a few well placed questions? I know it might feel uncomfortable, but wouldn’t it feel great to have some helpful answers to questions that you have about your game?
Go and do that now or schedule a time to do it with your coach.
—If you think this article is dumb, you should see my free tools.
December 3, 2015
The butterfly is hard isn’t it?
What if there was a way to make mastering it easier without having to get on the ice? I know the idea of “sport specific” conditioning isn’t new, but there is a lot of controversy about the “right” and “wrong” way to do. I don’t necessarily know the “right way” to do it, but I will offer a perspective for you to think about and try out.
I’m not a goalie, but when the opportunity comes to strap on the pads, I try to do the things you crazy goalies do and it’s really friggin hard. Like trying to coordinate all your little sliding movements while tracking the puck, while watching all the players, while NOT falling over…tough!
Anyway, one thing that many goalie coaches and trainers overlook is CONTROL over movement. Isn’t it true that most coaches preach and cue “control”, but don’t always actually teach it?
Why is control important? Because control at low speeds means precision at high speeds. Control over your movement means you are less likely to be injured. Control also means efficiency and balance in your movements – thus, less fatigue.
Now, it’s never a good idea to take goalie advice from a player, but I’ll offer this video to you anyways. If you are a goalie learning the butterfly and think that you could improve it faster, here is three drills to try which may improve your CONTROL so that you can be more precise and balanced in your movements on the ice.
Note: I do not recommend this drill for experienced goalies who have already mastered the butterfly for reasons discussed below.
The first exercise is a slow motion butterfly off the ice. The idea is to go as slowly as possible through the entire movement, with the idea of building up your strength and control in all ranges of motion. (While this drill is specific in joint angle to an on-ice butterfly, it is non-specific in velocity and type of contraction.)
The second exercise is a slow motion tip toe kneel. The idea is again to go as slowly as possible through the entire movement with the idea of building postural control and balance during the descent. This drill is non-specific in joint angle and velocity, but has a similar balance requirement.
The third exercise is the same as the first, except now a coach (or partner) says stop and go. The idea is to hold absolutely still when the coach says stop developing control (isometric strength) in that specific range of motion. This drill is again specific in joint angle but non-specific in velocity and type of contraction.
I don’t know the specifics of butterfly movement so this athlete’s biomechanics could be totally out of whack. The feedback from his goalie coach was that he struggled getting into the butterfly, and while I knew that he had the flexibility to get in that position, it was apparent to me that he didn’t have the strength in that range of motion to get there consistently. In this way, these three drills use principles of the neuromechanics of movement to train control in the butterfly.
Integrating this into your Off-Ice Development
Note that prior to these three exercises, this athlete went through an entire workout focused on improving his hip mobility and core control. These three exercises comprised approximately 5% of our 60 minute training session. I would recommend a similar ratio for young goalies. For goalies who already perform the butterfly with ease, I do not recommend this drill at all. Your butterfly pattern is already well trained and well used, and doesn’t need extra stress. But for young goalies, these drills could accelerate your development, and although I could be wrong, I think they are a non-common suggestion for you. You may find that they make it much easier for you to get into your butterfly with precision and control.
You might not want to, but now, it’s time for you to pipe in:
- Goalies: Tell me how much faster this helps your butterfly development…or doesn’t.
- Goalie coaches: Tell me what I’m overlooking.
- Strength & Conditioning Coaches: Before crucifying me for a failure (or my daring) to properly incorporate “sport specific” training, take a look at the context and all the precautions and considerations made before commenting. Then let me have it!
If you thought this article was different, you should see my free tools.
December 2, 2015
Isn’t it surprising that what is so obvious eludes so many? I said it once here how often coaches and players focus on techniques, tactics, & plays. Hear from the world’s movement expert Ido Portal on the idea of principles before “techniques” or as I called it, principles before plays. Wouldn’t you agree that the path to accelerated learning, getting better…faster, and success comes from this first principles based approach? Watch this fantastic clip of Ido right now.