News & Updates
March 12, 2018
I once said that “If a player connects their hands and feet in all movements, they are a pro hockey player.”
I still agree with that. In this post, I show my work.
Continuing using new WORDS (since mine are the best), I introduce some new stickhandling concepts to you.
We talk about:
- How the hands and feet are connected
- The difference in connection between Quick Handles and Vectoring
- “Don’t Overhandle It”
How the hands and feet are connected…
It seems that many coaches view stickhandling as an isolation of the arms, hands, stick and puck. They ignore that the heels drive the hips, which drive the core, which drive the ribcage, which drive the shoulders, which drive the arms, which drive the hands, which drives the stick, which drives the puck AND THAT’S STICKHANDLING….PHEW!!
We call this “driving” the Kinetic Chain.
The elastic components of the lower parts of the chain attach to the upper parts and influence their movement. When each part is connected with fluidity, the movement is effortless and efficient. I say “efficient” because the muscle does not need to actively contract to move.
Technical Note: Passive vs Active Muscle Contraction
I’ve alluded to this many times without addressing it directly. This part is technical and skippable. I do my best to simplify the concepts.
Active muscle contractions require an impulse from your motor cortex. The impulse from the motor cortex generates an impulse along your alpha motor neuron. Your alpha motor neuron connects to your muscle at the neuromuscular junction where the nerve releases the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Acetylcholine triggers cellular mechanisms that cause muscle contraction. It’s important to note that these cellular mechanisms consume “energy” in the form of Calcium, ATP, and Acetylcholine. I call it “energy” to simplify the explanation.
Passive muscle contractions aren’t contractions at all. When you stretch a muscle, it has elastic components within the muscle and tendons (which attach muscles to bones). If you pull your finger back, notice how it springs back into place? This is due to the elastic components of your finger muscles and hand.
Players who generate more of their movement with “passive muscle contractions” leverage the elasticity of their musculature. This reduces the demand for neurological and cellular resources. When one body part (say the heels) drives the next body part in the chain (the hips) – the hips don’t need to generate as much of an active contraction. Pass this “connection” up the chain, and the energy and efficiency compounds.
Note that beginners learn to move with active contractions first. As they gain expertise, they learn to leverage their passive systems. The ratio tips towards more “passive” movement. Hockey Wizards maximize their passive systems.
[End of Technical and Skippable Content]
If you plant both feet shoulder width and lock them in place, then stickhandle, you ignore the lower part of the kinetic chain. So you turn off power. You turn off efficiency. And then you turn off your ability to stickhandle at speed.
You can build your stickhandling skill with your feet locked in place and get pretty good. But as soon as you get in a dynamic scenario (changing direction, off balance, skating at speed) your body’s model of stickhandling falls apart.
But if you connect your feet movements to your stickhandling through the kinetic chain, you maintain the same stickhandling capability while stationary as you do at speed. So it makes sense to build your stickhandling from the bottom up instead of top down.
What is the difference between Quick Handles and Vectoring?
I borrow the term “Quick Handles” from Pavel Barber. It refers to a quick brushing of the puck with the blade on an angle. Quickhandles don’t move the puck. In fact, one of their main uses is to settle the puck in place.
With Quickhandles, your hands and stick move fast, but the puck remains in about the same place. Or at least on the same path.
Vectoring is new term. A vector is a mathematics and physics term for a course or direction. We use this term to describe when the puck moves from one spot to another. You might see how Kane’s feet re-arrange every time he changes the vector of the puck.
Quickhandles are a lot of fast stickhandling with the puck in place. Vectoring is when the puck moves from one place to another.
How do the hands and feet connect with Quick Handles and Vectoring?
Quickhandles don’t require the influence of the feet since you aren’t changing the vector of the puck. All you need for Quickhandles is a balanced base. We use the Hip Engine, Hip Scissors, Corkscrews, Soft Hips, and Shuffles to ensure we provide a balanced base for Quickhandles.
Vectoring does require the influence of heels because you change the direction of the puck. Let’s say you’re a lefty. If you want to move the puck from left the right, the first impulse should be through your left heel as you move the puck on your forehand. Then as you catch the puck on your backhand, your impulse is through your right heel. Foreward to backward vectoring requires rearranging your feet to maintain the pattern.
We could go on ad nauseam to describe how the hands and feet connect for vectoring. Ultimately, you need to Feel Your Body Learning. If you’d like to accelerate that, we have the Kane Stickhandling System that helps you get the feeling faster.
Quickhandles can be done while you Vector the puck. As the puck goes from A-B, your Quickhandle doesn’t require a change of Vector, so it also doesn’t require an impulse from your heels.
The Quickhandle sometimes evolves into a “No Stickhandle Stickhandle” as you Vector. This is where your stick doesn’t even touch the puck as it follows the Quickhandle Pattern. This gives the illusion of faster hands. And if you think it isn’t a game skill, think again…
You’ve probably noticed that some Drone Coaches tell their players not to stickhandle the puck. Allow me to translate this DroneSpeak for you.
They mean “Vector efficiently”. Players at lower levels sometimes require several foot and stick movements to vector the puck into a passing or shooting position. Or they Quickhandle without moving in space.
Pros vector the puck into passing and shooting positions quickly and efficiently. They do it at speed. And they do that while Quickhandling. THAT is the difference.
No one tells Kane to stop stickhandling. Because he Vectors quickly and efficiently. And he layers Quickhandles on top of his Vectors.
No one tells McDavid to stickhandle less. Because he uses the Corkscrew as he Quickhandles (Sometimes the No Stickhandle Stickhandle) – and skates faster than anyone.
What to do…
The concept of Vectoring may make it easier for you to understand how the hands and feet connect. Understanding how Quickhandles layer on top of Vectoring may also help your stickhandling progress. I’ll share with you how we treat this progression in the Kane Stickhandling System:
- Quickhandle Mechanics
- Still Point Posture
- NHL Grip Code & Pivot Principle
- Quickhandle Isolation
- Basic Patterns
- Advanced Patterns
- Layering Quickhandle on Vectoring
- Basic Patterns
- Advanced Patterns
- Timed and measurable patterns
You can follow this basic outline yourself to improve your stickhandling mechanics. I spent over 10 years and thousands of hours researching the fastest way to learn this progression. And we compiled it in the Kane Stickhandling System which you may want to use to accelerate your acquisition of these Mechanics and Patterns.
Either way, I hope this article was helpful to you. Please email me if you have any questions, suggestions, or comments: [email protected] Love to hear from you!
March 10, 2018
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 Hip Scissor
- The Soft Hip
- The Crossover/Shuffle
- The Anchor/Gaudreau Stride
- 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]
February 9, 2018
If you read my previous post on How to Skate Like McDavid, I talked about one specific mechanic: The Tipped Hip.
In this breakdown, I talk about why the tipped hip is an important mechanic in the greater context of the Downhill Skating System. Specifically how the tipped hip generates “lean” so McDavid can skate downhill. And how McDavid could generate even more lean to skate even faster.
Let’s take a look at a quick comparison:
You might notice in both pictures, the athlete is going downhill. (But only one works with Darryl Belfry.)
But let’s break down the mechanics involved.
In the Downhill Skating System as with the Downhill Skiing System that I recently pioneered, you’ll notice the following similarities:
- No pushing
- Gliding on edges
- Leaning with body to generate changes in velocity
- Tipped Hips
Notice how McDavid is able to hold his gliding edge with his body lean in these pictures.
Let’s compare McDavid’s lean to Duchene’s lean. I looked carefully for the same drill and movement so that we’d get an accurate control.
You might notice that McDavid has more lean than Duchene. If you watch the clips of McDavid going through the Power Edge Pro, you might see that he is noticeably quicker than Duchene. Every time Duchene orients his center of mass over his skates and pushes with his legs, you might notice that he slows down.
In the above photos, notice how McDavid starts with a more aggressive lean. Then maintains his lean. You can see where his center of mass is situated compared to his legs – and compare it to Duchene. McDavid maintains his lean, while Duchene straightens up.
Then, just for interest, I put a time stamp of the gap between when McDavid released his shot, and 0.83s later when Duchene released his.
In this particular frame, you can see Duchene’s center of mass orient over his legs as he pushes with his left leg. Meanwhile, McDavid shifts his weight from foot to foot keeping his center of mass to the inside of his turn.
This is where the tipped hip is helpful.
While on one leg, McDavid can more easily orient his center of mass in the direction he wants to lean – and thus generate velocity in that direction.
So now, let’s talk about lean, fall, and center of mass.
The best way to understand this is to compare it with turning a bicycle.
You lean your body in the direction you want to go. As you can see, your center of mass orients towards the direction of the fall. You generate velocity in that direction. Same as skiing.
Back to McDavid:
What limits most players is how hard they can push into the ice. Their speed relies on their ability to generate force in the direction they want to go. But McDavid doesn’t even try to push where he wants to go. Instead, he leans where he wants to go. Like he’s riding a bike. And that’s how he’s skating downhill.
So how would we make McDavid faster?
Let’s agree for a moment that McDavid has mastered the footwork and center of mass orientation necessary for maximum speed. What then, would hold him back?
The answer is eccentric and isometric loading. To add more speed to McDavid, you would improve his ability to handle heavy loads under eccentric and isometric loads. That’s so his body can get in even more aggressive leans in more situations.
But let’s say that you are not McDavid – and you want to skate faster in all situations on the ice. What would you do?
Developing the ability to load eccentrically and isometrically will help. But not to the same degree as learning the mechanics of leaning downhill to generate velocity. You’ll know you’ve got it when you don’t have to “push” with your legs – and your velocity comes from twisting, tipping, and leaning. Then you’ve got it.
By this point, you might be wondering if I recommend the Power Edge Pro as a training system. Sure. It’s a good system. Let’s also examine another system that focuses on lean, footwork – and not pushing:
Here I point out that the system is irrelevant. But the mechanics are very relevant. In Boris’ system (Boris taught Auston Matthews since age 6 or something), his focus on edgework allows players to be comfortable leaning in more directions more aggressively. The footwork makes it easy for players to orient their feet at points of traction to provide lean.
It seems like both the Power Edge Pro and Boris are able to teach the mechanics of Downhill Skating. And the mechanics always win.
The main mechanical principle that you want to understand from this post is lean.
- The more you lean, the faster you’ll go
- The more you lean, the more you can glide on your edges instead of stopping your momentum
- You want to use foot positioning, comfort on your edges, body orientation and tipped hips to generate your lean
- If you don’t lean, you need to push to generate force. If you need to push, you’re toast.
Study NHLers center of mass relative to their feet – ask yourself what mechanics can help you achieve that. And if you’d like help answer that, you can check out the Downhill Skating System where we explain exactly how to master those mechanics.
February 2, 2018
McDavid’s mechanics are fascinating. Mostly because they go against common Power Skating Principles. When players ask how to skate like McDavid – they don’t realize that their Power Skating is actually holding them back from achieving it. I talk about these contradictions in this presentation.
Many of you know that I am a professional hockey player – but also a kinesiologist.
Like you, I saw McDavid’s Fastest Skater Competition in the 2018 All-Stars Competition – and marveled at his crossovers. You are probably aware of the research done indicating that McDavid crosses over more than most players in the NHL. The study suggests that this is linked to his success off the rush.
I’m often asked if, “All I need to do is crossover more?”
The answer is “Yes.” Sorta.
What if McDavid had mechanics that made crossovers easier?
Remember when you had to find a landline to make a phone call? Well, now it’s much easier to make calls because you’ve got your iPhone. So you probably find yourself talking on the phone more than you used to – because it’s easier to.
Imagine if McDavid’s mechanics made it easier to crossover. Then he might crossover more. And that’s what we see.
I suggest one simple mechanic McDavid uses that makes it easier to crossover. I call it the “Tipped Hip”.
The tipped hip is when the hips (pelvis) are tipped at an angle.
The tipped hip mechanic combines two important forces: First, the body produces force best in the “saggital” plane. Or straight down and back.
The muscle responsible for this is the gluteus maximus. It is the most powerful muscle in the body. And it combines two important skating movements: hip extension and external rotation.
The second force at play is “horizontal force vectors.” To visualize this, imagine that as you skate, you push the ice into the boards.
When you combine the fact that the body produces force down and back and you need to generate horizontal force vectors you have a puzzle. Let’s call it the Power Skating Problem.
Track coaches know that the more vertical forces (up and down) put into the ground, that faster a runner will go. You can actually predict running speed by measuring vertical displacement. This is because you bounce off the ground to generate speed. (We call this “bounce” the stretch-shortening cycle)
In hockey, you do not bounce off the ground. So vertical forces and vertical forces (pushing down into the ice) are not an efficient way of getting around
The Power Skating Problem is that you keep the hips level – but need to generate horizontal force (pushing the ice into the boards). To do that, you need to abduct the leg. As shown in the diagram above. When you use abduction you use smaller muscles. So you can’t generate as much power.
With the tipped hips, you see how the line of force changes. Now when the hips are tipped, you can generate horizontal force (pushing the ice into the boards).
You see that here:
And even here:
McDavid’s mechanics solve the Power Skating Problem by aligning the hips (pelvis) with the correct line of force production (horizontal – pushing ice into the boards).
They also make it easier for him to crossover.
Can you see how McDavid is able to get more range from his foot that is crossing under? That’s not due to magic. It’s due to mechanics. And likely the tilt of the hips. (I say “likely” because I don’t have x-ray vision)
You may notice a similar tilt here on a straight stride.
So if we want to increase the number of crossovers players do, we may want to use mechanics that make it easier. McDavid uses a tipped hip mechanic to make it easier and to get more range. Players who use this mechanic find immediate increases in speed and power. Not because of magic. But because of mechanics.
[End Of Mechanics Discussion]
Now I’d like to talk about something called “sequencing”.
I call this “automatic learning”. Where you create drills that force the correct mechanics to occur. You start with a basic skill – and then add one new skill layer at a time. Before long, a player is performing with completely different mechanics. If I’ve done my job as a coach right, the player doesn’t even know that they learned anything. It all occurred so smoothly and easily for them. And the learning is unconscious. That’s the best kind.
Many of you will find enjoy the biomechanical perspective of this post and then aim to implement what you learned. This is smart. I urge you to use sequencing to deploy this new learning. Otherwise, it will end up being a hot mess on the ice. Yuck.
If you know exactly how to sequence this new learning, then do not read on. You’re good.
If you’d like to learn the expert sequence for learning this mechanic, you might want to check out the Downhill Skating System – How to Skate Like McDavid course.It could save you hours and hours of time. And it provides you with proven method for making this change.
Let me know what you think about Tipped Hip. Do you think it’s legit? Or have I been hit in the head too many times? Send me an email and let me know.
January 28, 2017
How To Skate Like Connor McDavid Part 2 – Does He Hypnotize NHLers?
What exactly does McDavid DO to dominate the NHL so quickly?
It might not be a mystery. But the reason is mysterious.
The reason…magic mechanics.
His movements. Not his moves. His movements hypnotize NHLers.
They are effortless. They create immediate speed. And they are not taught to you by Drone Coaches.
Come learn this secret at Train 2.0. What you learn will astound you.
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