March 10, 2018

How to Skate Faster (In A Game)

Many ask how to skate faster. This is a good question since speed kills.

Many players, parents, and coaches are led astray with this line of questioning. They ask: how can I skate faster. But they are not specific enough. Because the top players know how to skate fast in a game.

Darryl Belfry popularized the two most important principles in this area:

  • Speed behind the puck
  • (Linear) Crossovers (What I call Transition Tricks)

The fastest skaters in a game are those that have more speed…

  • Relative to their opponents
  • At the right time

As a “really fast” player – I can attest to this. At my peak, I could squat 5 plates, clean 295, and outsprint anyone on my team. But if you saw me in my college game, my speed was neutralized. I didn’t have the mechanics to generate and maintain speed in Transition Tricks (like crossovers, shuffles, soft hips, half-corkscrews, etc.) And thus, I was only fast in a straight line. And the ONLY TIME this was helpful was in a race to a loose puck.

As Belfry states, getting loose pucks is not a translatable skill. Why? Because as you move up in levels, the occurrence of loose pucks dries up. Since the opportunities to win loose pucks dries up – so does your ability to exploit those opportunities.

When you watch end to end rushes that result in goals, you notice that there are 0-1 straight ahead strides. Yes, you read that right. Zero to one. But don’t take my word for it…

Detractors might point out rushes like this one:

But that relates to the pattern of speed behind the puck. As Robby Glantz and Lars Hepso indicate with Barzal, he skates low and slow. So he’s gathering his speed with shuffle steps and crossovers while the defender is flat-footed – or has their momentum going the other way. When Barzal gets the puck, he has more speed than the defenders due to his pattern and transition mechanics.

You see a similar pattern with Bure.

And with McDavid. Notice that he reaches his peak speed when he does a crossover. I pause the GIF there for a second to show you.

If you watch other NHLers enter the zone, they usually hit the tripod position, start stickhandling, and look for a pass or shot. Just an example.


If you watch Bure, McDavid, or Barzal, they maintain their speed with their footwork. They use what I call the “MacKinnon Shuffle”, Crossovers, Hip Scissors.

What to do:

I have a hypothesis that mastering the 5 Transition Tricks to generate and maintain speed while changing direction also translates to straight ahead speed. And since 95% of the game is Transition Tricks, it makes sense to focus on mastering the Transition Tricks. It’s a question of where to focus your limited resources of TENERGY (Time + Energy).

At first, I didn’t recommend the Power Edge Pro. But, it obviously helps players learn the Magic Mechanics of the Transition Tricks. It doesn’t FORCE the Transition Tricks – but it helps encourage them. So it’s a good system, but not a foolproof system. My reasoning is that if it was foolproof, we’d see more players with the same Mechanics as McDavid coming from that cohort. Don’t be fooled by late adopters of the system who were already good before testing it out.

After studying the system, I’ve incorporated elements of it into the Downhill Skating System. They key I’ve found is to use the obstacles to force a pattern – but then encourage the Magic Mechanics through verbal and visual feedback.

The Transition Tricks includes 5 Mechanics:

  1. The Hip Scissor
  2. The Soft Hip
  3. The Crossover/Shuffle
  4. The Anchor/Gaudreau Stride
  5. The Half Stride/Corkscrew


If you’d like to learn the exact drills we use to teach players these mechanics step-by-step, you can see that in the Downhill Skating System here.

Hockey is a complex sport. Our goal is to take the complex and make it simple for players. I don’t present this work as a finished product. Please let me know what questions, feedback or suggestions you have. Your feedback helps us to refine our thesis and make the instructions better. Email me at [email protected]


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