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March 21, 2018

How To Flex Your Stick (And How To Shoot Harder)

It’s a little-known secret that the puck flexes the stick.

Yes, the ice also flexes your stick. But with today’s sticks, almost every shot, pass, and stickhandle results in stick flex.

When you understand this key distinction – you can actually leverage your stick to its full potential. And then you can stop wasting your effort on power bleeding mechanics (like leaning on your stick).

It helps to know the situations where the puck flexes the stick. And distinguish when the ice also flexes the stick.

The saucer pass and shot share similar mechanics. In particular, the puck follows the same blade rhythm: It moves heel to toe.

To dial-up power, today’s shooter can do three things:

  • Move the pivot point forward
  • Generate more rotation
  • Use ice to create stick flex

Moving the pivot point forward means that the stick’s force producing part of the lever has a large range of motion. Thus can generate more power (since power = force x velocity and velocity = speed/distance). You can see how the pivot point is closer to the body with a saucer pass, but with a shot, the pivot point gets moved further ahead of the body along for the pulling hand to pull for a longer distance.

I mention that a shot is not a translation. Like a two foot broad jump. People who focus on weight transfer as THE variable get this part wrong. Instead, the shot is a rotation skill. Like tennis, baseball, and javelin. Adding rotation by arranging your feet so that your hips turn adds more power. With a rotation, think of it as increasing the length of your lever. It also increases the force end of this equation because force production that starts near your centre (core) compounds as it travels down the kinetic chain.

Here we see MacKinnon using almost no rotation. Just a push – pull lever motion. In comparison, notice how much rotation Laine gets.

The ice does generate stick flex. It’s sort of like pushing a bendy 4.5 ft bamboo rod through a 4 ft window. You push the rod forward. (Credit to Jeremy Rupke for this analogy). Player mess this up when they think they need to push down into the ice. The real way that you increase the flex of the stick is to make the window smaller by tipping your hips and tilting your shoulders. I understand why people call this “leaning on your stick” because that’s what it looks like. This is an illusion similar to the “Toe Off illusion.”

Understand that the there is a Power – Quickness Tradeoff. Going back to the MacKinnon vs Laine comparisons, you see that MacKinnon releases the puck quicker but with less power. Vice versa for Laine. But you do see that MacKinnon still gets stick flex! That’s just the nature of sticks today.

It helps to understand this distinction so that you avoid doing something that bleeds your power, balance, and quick release.

Some say that every skill you add to your talent stack roughly doubles your odds of success. Hockey is about being adaptable to situations. And the more tools you have, the more situations you dominate.

Learn how to dial your power up and down while maintaining the mechanics of shooting Wizards. You do this by understanding the mechanical principles that lead to more shot power.

If you’d like to learn this step-by-step, I’ll tell you how I structure this in the Shooting Mastery Course and with my coaching clients:

  1. We start by feeling the movement principles of the Hip Engine, the Inner Spring, and Tipped hips, and the Kinetic Chain. This is without a puck and stick. It’s just about feeeeeeeeel.
  2. Then we add the stick back in and start to play with the idea of leverage. How to position your body, your feet, your hands for maximum stick leverage.
  3. Then we add the puck back in – and cover basic drills that incorporate the movement principles. We keep the demands low so that the player focuses on the feeling.
  4. As the player hones in on the right feeling of the movement principles, we add more game specific footwork and movement patterns.
  5. Then we create the NeuroLinks so that players identify when to use their new mechanics to exploit opportunities and get results.

That’s how I approach it. I’d love to hear how this goes for you. And if you’d like some help implementing this plan, or you’d like to take advantage of the refinements I’ve made over my years of coaching, playing, and research, you can register for the Shooting Mastery Course here. Either way, please reach out to me and tell me what you think of this article: [email protected]

-Jason

 

December 5, 2016

How To Be Intense In Hockey – The NHL Intensity Formula

 

How To Be Intense In Hockey – The NHL Intensity Formula

If you’re a player who wants to be “more intense”, learn to “compete” and improve your “battle” then this video is for you. For years, you’ve probably heard coaches say these words to you “intensity”, “compete”, and “battle”. It might sound silly, but one problem players face is that they don’t have a clear idea of what those words mean. They understand the CONCEPT, but they don’t understand HOW TO DO IT. And it’s a challenge for ice hockey coaches too. Because it is not an easy thing to explain.

This video will visually show you the difference between an elite midget player and an NHL player. You’ll see that NHLers are intense all the time – or they’re out of a job. It’s just a habit for them. This habit is developed naturally in some players. Others must learn the habit. And yes, you CAN learn this habit. Like any skill it takes practice, feedback, and expert instruction – just like Train 2.0’s Accelerated Learning Framework.

Comment Guidelines: I appreciate and reward those who have honest, respectful, and genuine questions/comments. If you’ve done your research and disagree with what I have to say, I’d love to hear from you. If you make a comment without doing your research or do so disrespectfully, prepare to have your comment deleted, or to be called out for not doing your research. This is a place to help hockey players get better. So please do your part by respecting the guidelines.

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– Jason

PS. If you want to do a live training with Train 2.0. you can click this link here to get FREE access

December 15, 2015

How to Skate Like Jack Eichel – The Uncommon Instructions

 

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)

Weight shifts.

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?

Screen Shot 2015-12-15 at 9.22.33 AM

Or here?

 

Screen Shot 2015-12-15 at 9.23.52 AM

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.

Screen Shot 2015-12-15 at 9.32.54 AM

Circular right foot: push out and back

Screen Shot 2015-12-15 at 9.32.05 AM

Circular right foot: pushes out and more back

Screen Shot 2015-12-15 at 9.32.14 AM

Circular right foot: gets to full extension

Screen Shot 2015-12-15 at 9.32.23 AM

Circular right foot: Continues circle, now coming in and forward

Screen Shot 2015-12-15 at 9.32.36 AM

Circular right foot: Continues circle, in and moving forward

Screen Shot 2015-12-15 at 9.32.44 AM

Circular right foot: planting on inside edge

You can see this live here:

https://youtu.be/SSmwi9IAtEA?t=1m19s

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.

 

Diagonal Stepping:

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.

Screen Shot 2015-12-15 at 9.51.29 AM

Momentum from his right leg push is propelling him laterally to his left.

Screen Shot 2015-12-15 at 9.51.39 AM

The skater is about to plant on the outside edge. Yes, I said outside edge.

Screen Shot 2015-12-15 at 9.51.48 AM

Screen Shot 2015-12-15 at 9.52.08 AM

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.

Screen Shot 2015-12-15 at 9.52.16 AM

He continues using his momentum, “falling” with the energy of the stride”

Screen Shot 2015-12-15 at 9.53.05 AM

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.

 

Freaky eh?

 

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?

Doubt it.

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, hereherehere, 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.

-Jason

If you think this video was over the top, you should see this one.

 

July 13, 2015

Quick Wins or Big Wins – A New Way of Looking at Your Development

Are you looking for big wins or quick wins? By wins, I mean improvements, or results due to a course of action. What do I mean by big or quick? I always talk about getting better at a faster rate than the next guy. So you might think I’m a proponent of “quick” wins. But I’m not. I think that massive improvement comes from string upon string of Big Wins, not short-lived quick wins.
I was introduced to this concept by Ramit Sethi of “I Will Teach You to Be Rich”. On his blog about personal finance, he encourages people to focus on Big Wins like:
  • Getting started saving, even if it’s a very small amount
  • Improve your credit score
  • Automating your finances
  • Choosing boring, time tested, low cost index funds
On the other hand, many other personal finance “gurus” recommend things like reducing your spending on lattes and making restrictive budgets. Ramit contends that these actions might be quick wins, but don’t actually contribute to much – and they’re hard to do. Improving your credit score (big win) can save you thousands over your lifetime and is easy to do – meanwhile tracking every penny you spend in a restrictive budget is mentally demanding and won’t last long.
This is similar to taking an 80/20 approach to getting results: find the most important things to do that give you the biggest results – focus your effort and attention there.
Coaches, parents, and players, with the best intentions of improving as fast as they can, make short sighted decisions –  quick wins. Examples of quick wins include:
  • Playing a short bench early in the season as a coach
  • Starting plyometric and olympic lifting before an athlete has basic movement skills mastered
  • Getting the best latest piece of equipment or gimmick rather than working on the foundations of skill
  • Early specialization in sports
It seems that the tendency to choose quick wins occurs because they seem sexier (no one thinks the basics are sexy) and because they often give the appearance of immediate results (and people just aren’t patient enough to wait for results to materialize in their own time).
On the other hand, big wins:
  • Do not always provide immediate improvements, but always lead to massive improvement on a slightly longer timeline. Overall, they lead to a faster improvement if you choose to look at a larger time scale.
  • Focus on the most important variables that contribute to disproportionate results. In the end, focusing on more attention on less variables leads to a larger and faster improvement.

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December 30, 2014

Play 1on1’s like an NHL Defenseman – Gap Control

I want to write this article for players at about the Bantam and Midget level who want to improve their defensive 1on1 play off of rushes. I have noticed that players at this level struggle with setting and reducing their gap against forwards effectively. Not being far removed from Bantam and Midget myself, I remember well the learning steps I have gone through recently, specifically watching and learning from NHL defensemen that I’ve had the opportunity to skate with.

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