Skating = Balance + Control + Power

Young child skating and playing ice hockeyWalking and running are natural movements of the body, but if you try to use the same motions on the ice, you will have limited acceleration and speed. That’s why learning how to skate can be frustrating. Skating is not a natural movement for the human body, and many of your intuitions regarding how you should move on the ice will hinder your learning rather than help it. Here, I share some of the basic movements and skills that will help you when learning to skate.

Balance Is Crucial

In my opinion, good balance is the most important skill that any new hockey player can work on. If a player does not have good balance, he or she will not be able to perform any of the techniques required to excel at skating—and will also suffer in stickhandling and shooting. If you are a new player, I recommend working on your balance and edges. In our learn to skate series, we have videos and articles explaining more about balance and edges and drills you can use to improve.

Proper Stance Is Key

When teaching players, the biggest issue I see is not enough knee bend and a poor hockey stance. A good hockey stance includes:

  • Head and chest up

  • Hands and stick in front of the body

  • Knees bent (almost 90 degrees)

  • Weight balanced and over the feet (leaning forward when accelerating)

  • Slight ankle and hip bend (do not bend too much at the hip)

Having your knees bent will lead to better balance, better power and much better agility. Unfortunately, this stance does not feel natural, so most new players end up with their legs too straight. Even experienced players sometimes need to be reminded to stay low and will work with skating coaches to help them get lower in their stance. A good hockey stance is very important as it sets the standard for many other moves. Remind yourself to get into the good hockey stance whenever you are doing your drills. A good hockey player will have power, agility and great balance plus the ability to perform many skating techniques—in all situations on the ice. Remember this: When you are just starting hockey and learning to skate, you should not get ahead of yourself. Work on the most basic principles first while spending a little time practicing more difficult moves. If you fall, don’t worry! Everyone falls. It’s part of the learning process. Get up and keep on trying!

Looking for More Tips?

I run two hockey training websites where I post articles and videos on how to improve your skills. My newest website is called New To Hockey, where I share guides and articles that will help new hockey players and the parents that are new to hockey. Check out my 5 Balance Drills for Hockey Players: Learn to Skate Episode 4 here.

Editor’s Note: Thank you to Jeremy Rupke of for this story.

6 Ideas for End-of-Season Player Gifts

Landy_300Consider skipping the typical trophy this year in favor of a more usable item. Grab a silver Sharpie and personalize these items with each player’s nickname. Whether your players are 4 or 14, boys or girls, you’ll find something for them here.

1. Colorado Avalanche Mini Figures

This cute little figure of Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog is Lego compatible. At $12.99, it’s not a bad trophy price. Find other NHL team items—including pucks, mini sticks, mouthguards and hockey socks—here.

2. Mini Hockey Sticks

Hockey players of all ages indulge in knee hockey—at least until their knees go bad. And nobody ever has enough mini sticks. Check out the Total Hockey Mini Stick for $5.99 or spend a little more on a sturdier composite version.

3. Mini Hockey Pucks

Those mini hockey sticks don’t get you very far without some nice, soft mini hockey pucks. A pack of 2 Foam Balls & 2 Foam Pucks is only $4.99 or check out the USA Hockey Mini Foam Puck for $2.99. If you need to play in the dark, try the Franklin Glow In The Dark Mini Balls Set for $6.99.

4. Stickhandling Ball

A stickhandling ball, such as the Pro Guard Total Hockey Wood Stick Handling Ball for $2.99, is not only a great memento of a season but it helps players keep their skills sharp for next year.

5. Skate Lace Bracelet or Necklace

Let the world know that your kids play the greatest sport on earth with a Bauer Skate Lace Bracelet ($5.99) or an A&R Hockey Lace Necklace ($8.99).

6. Water Bottle

Stuff a $2.99 Total Hockey water bottle with an energy bar and stickhandling ball for a practical treat.

Develop Eye-Mind-Body Coordination

Arrows_300Vision is the signal that starts the muscles of the body to respond. All sports involving a puck, ball or quick body movements require excellent eye-mind-body coordination. When you miss a pass or whiff on a shot, what could be happening? It’s not necessarily “bad hands” but inaccurate visual input to your body. To help develop eye-mind-body coordination, try this Arrow Jump activity.

  1. Draw a series of arrows as shown.

  2. Standing, move your arms in the direction of the first arrow and call out that direction.

  3. Then move your fixation to the next arrow on the right. Again, move your hands in the direction of the arrow and call out that direction.

  4. Continue through the entire sheet.

To add difficulty, repeat the activity above, but also jump in the direction of the arrow instead of moving your arms. For arrows pointing up, jump forward. For arrows pointing down, jump backwards. To add more challenge:

  • Use a metronome (a musical tool that helps keep the beat and rhythm) and move your arms or jump to the beat. You can get a metronome at a music store or look online for free downloads of metronomes.

  • Change the direction you read the arrows. Instead of left to right, read top to bottom.

  • Act in the opposite direction of the arrow. For example, say/move/jump right for a left arrow while saying “left.”

  • Do the activity on a mini-trampoline.

Editor’s Note: Thank you to optometrist Dr. Lynn Hellerstein, O.D., FCOVD, FAAO, for this excerpt from her latest book: See It. Say It. Do It! 50 Tips to Improve Your Sports Performance. Dr. Hellerstein has been a pioneer in vision therapy for more than 30 years.


Are You a Team Player?

TeamPlay_3002At the Mite age level, the outcome of any scrimmages or jamboree games is often determined by the skills of one player who is a little taller, quicker or stronger than the others. However, as players progress and start playing as a team, it becomes much harder for one player to make a difference by himself. Players who learn early to work with their teammates have much greater success than those who focus more on their own efforts. Playing as a team involves several things. These include:

  • Sharing credit for things that go right

  • Not blaming others for things that go wrong

  • Winning and losing together

  • Making sure everyone is involved in the game

  • Helping others improve their play

  • Passing to a player in a better position

  • Getting open to receive a pass from a player

  • Playing a position well

  • Trusting teammates to play their positions well

Sometimes players have the opportunity to play with more talented players and sometimes with less talented players. Good team play is the same no matter who is playing. Playing position and passing are important elements of hockey. Players with lesser skill need the support and encouragement of those players with better skill in order to improve their game. Better players should share the puck to improve the level of team play and demonstrate their leadership abilities. Teamwork is about sharing and helping the team play well and score goals.

Key Points

  • One of the hardest things to learn as a child is that passing the puck rather than taking the shot is what it takes to demonstrate skill and win games.

  • Always emphasize team play over individual goal scoring.

  • Every player must contribute and work together for a team to be successful.

  • Lead by example to make the team better.

  • Playing as a team is the quickest way to win games.

  • TEAM is another way to say: Together Everyone Achieves More.


1. List two things you did in your last game that made you a good team player.



2. List two things you can do in your next game to become a better team player.



3. Check all the statements that show examples of good team play:

__Passing around an opponent instead of trying to stickhandle through them

__ Looking for an open teammate before stickhandling the puck

__ Backing up your teammates

__ Staying in your position

__ Helping a lesser skilled player

__ Congratulating players on a good job

__ Paying attention to the game while on the bench

__ Playing your hardest

__ Paying attention to the coach

__ Communicating with your teammates

__ Not blaming others for mistakes

__ Learning the names of your other teammates

__ Passing to a lesser skilled player

Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt from the Hockey Workbook for Mini-Mites, Mites and Squirts at


Fixation Accuracy: Perfecting the Quick Look

Whether you’re trying to save the puck, shoot the puck or keep it in the zone, you need to know where it is. Developing your quick look can help. To practice how to quickly look, focus, stay focused and switch targets, try the following:

  1. Hold two pens of different colors about 10 inches apart, about 14-16 inches from your face.

  2. Call out the color of one of the pens.

  3. Look at the one you called and continue looking until you call out the second color.

  4. Then look at the second pen.

  5. Repeat the exercise but periodically change the location of one of the pens.

  6. Practice this for your entire visual field.

  7. Keep your fixation on the pen without being distracted.

  8. Notice if you anticipate your next target or take several jumps to locate the pen you want to focus on.

Editor’s Note: Thank you to optometrist Dr. Lynn Hellerstein, O.D., FCOVD, FAAO, for this excerpt from her latest book: See It. Say It. Do It! 50 Tips to Improve Your Sports Performance. Dr. Hellerstein has been a pioneer in vision therapy for more than 30 years.


7 Stellar Stocking Stuffers

RWB_300.jpgWhile no hockey player will be disappointed by a new stick, it’s kind of hard to cram one in a stocking. Aside from the typical tape and stick wax, what can you surprise your favorite player with? Read on.

  1. Franklin Glow-in-the-Dark Mini Ball Set. For mini hockey during sleepovers, these are ideal.

  2. Colorado Avalanche Sher-Wood Ultimate Mini Composite Stick. Can’t play mini hockey without a stick, so check out these composite sticks, which break a lot less.

  3. Colorado Avalanche Battle Sports Science NHL Logo Mouthguard. Show your team spirit in all the key places.

  4. A&R Total Hockey Velour Helmet Bag. Keep your new helmet nice and neat without sacrificing mom’s matching pillowcase set.

  5. Green Biscuit USA Olympic Training Puck. The renowned training puck the Green Biscuit goes red, white and blue here.

  6. Hands of Steel. Scrub your hands with this stainless steel bar to knock out the odor that repels everyone else in the car.

  7. A&R Hockey Equipment Deodorizers. It’s not just the hands that smell—keep your bag smelling fresh, too.

Editor’s Note: Thank you to Kelly Anton, Executive Editor of Grow the Game, for these gift ideas.


Keep Calm and Cover Your Ears

Headphone_300The other hockey parents, particularly moms, always ask me how I remain so calm during games. The reality for me is that whether my son makes the game-winning goal or ends up on the bench in the third period, I still have laundry and work to finish when I get home. I know that his team’s performance in a single game will make little difference to his life—much less mine.

Part of this perspective comes from the fact that he’s not just the second child in the family, but the second hockey player in the family. We’ve already experienced the futility of worrying about your player’s every move on the ice.

I will admit, however, to occasional irritation with the fans around me. “You can’t do that!” “Get that line off!” “You have to pass!” And these are just the cleaner comments from the fans on my kid’s team. A couple weeks ago another mother shared a brilliant tip with me for blocking out these negative know-it-alls: She wears headphones during the game to block out the fan noise. Granted, it’s a little anti-social, but it sure prevents you from wasting energy on holding a grudge against that dad who shouted, “Not again!” when your kid missed that breakaway shot…

Editor’s Note: Thank you to a local hockey mother for sharing this tip.

34 Defensive Tips

Mule_300Defenseman in the NHL calls themselves mules and have the credo, “We may not get all the glory but we can grunt out the victories.” These defensive players are making millions of dollars, so there must be more to hockey than just scoring goals. Here, retired NHL defenseman Jeff Serowik shares what he expects from the players he coaches in the defensive, offensive and neutral zones.

Defensive Zone
1. Have a good, active stick.
2. Keep your stick on the puck.
3. Stay strong in the corners, front of net and 1-on-1 battles.
4. Win the battles and come out with the puck.
5. Make good decisions with the puck.
6. Move the puck quickly and efficiently—find the tape.
7. Make safe plays if you don’t have tape to tape.
8. Put pucks into areas where forwards can retrieve it.
9. Communicate.
10. Make simple plays.
11. Play inside the dots—take away the middle and scoring areas.
12. Have your head on a swivel and a good active stick in front of the net.
13. Clear bodies and limit second chances/rebounds in front of the net.
14. Block shots.
15. Maintain good gap control.
16. Watch asses and faces: If an opponent’s ass is facing you—attack. If an opponent’s face is towards you—contain.
17. Keep your feet moving—don’t let a forward beat you out of the corner back to the net for a rebound or deflection.
18. Be steady and reliable—make the right play!
19. Do your job!

Offensive Zone
20. Jump up on the play and join in on the offense. Move the puck to the forwards and join the rush—but don’t lead the rush!
21. Get pucks to the net—even if it is just a wrister, that good lateral movement gets pucks through.
22. Take fake shots. Keep your head up with the puck moving side to side; try to find open lanes to the net with the puck.
23. Jump in with the forward on high cycle.
24. Make smart pinches only on full wraps—or if your forward is back to support you. If you’re 80 percent sure you can get the puck, you pinch.
25. Make smart dump-ins so the goalie can’t retain the puck.
26. Ensure good D-to-D puck movement.
27. Stay close on turnovers—make it very difficult to carry the puck into your zone. Force them to dump it in.
28. Go right back to your blue line after jumping in for a shot. In and out, all the time!
29. Be strong at the blue lines and keep that puck in!

Neutral Zone
30. Good reads.
31. Hinge: D to D, back to D.
32. Move your feet!
33. Maintain gap control.
34. Make area passes.

Editor’s Note: Jeff Serowik is an NHL defensemen who retired from the Pittsburgh Penguins and went on to found Pro Ambitions Hockey, which includes Battle Camp and Defense w/ Jeff.

Talking to Your Athlete About SafeSport

As you all know, USA Hockey is introducing its Abuse Prevention Program SafeSport this year and Colorado Amateur Hockey Association (CAHA) is taking huge steps to make sure all Colorado hockey clubs are on board. To make sure this program is successful, we need parents to be fully engaged and participating in the entire program.

I know acknowledging that abuse (physical, sexual or emotional) can take place where our kids play sports is hard, but we must educate ourselves if we want to protect our athletes. As parents we must accept our responsibility in making sure that those who are around our youth—coaches, parents and other athletes—are behaving appropriately. SafeSport is where that education and awareness can begin.
Following are some quick tips on how to implement SafeSport with your athlete.

  • Have both parents read the organization’s SafeSport handbook. If you believe your athlete is old enough (12 and up), have your player read it on his or her own.

  • Then, read the handbook together with your athlete, no matter what age.

  • Discuss each section, and ask your athlete if he or she has ever seen or experienced any of these issues.

  • Give your athlete examples of situations and ask what he or she would do. Offer ideas on how to handle these situations.

  • Have regular discussion with your athlete (during all those drives to the rink) about SafeSport and find out if there is anything your player needs to discuss.

  • When you read articles in the paper about bullying, sexual abuse or physical abuse among athletes, engage your athlete in a discussion.

  • Use high-profile athletes’ stories about overcoming abuse as examples.

  • Talk with your athlete about what the coach or other teammates do that is bothering him or her, and provide support on handling those issues.

  • Talk about the locker room. Make sure you give your athlete an opportunity to tell you if something is going on. Be engaged and send a message that you are interested, you know that things can happen in there and you are not afraid to hear about it. You want to know.

  • Remind your player of the rules and SafeSport policies prior to travel or tournaments. Discuss this at the dinner table and make it a part of your regular conversation with your athlete—even if he or she complains. Your player will get used to it and will know that he or she can come to you if necessary.

  • • Encourage your child to report and be a hero.

Good luck!

Editor’s Note: Thank you to Michelle Peterson M.Ed., of Michelle Peterson Consulting for this story. Michelle is a national expert on child abuse and currently works with youth sport organizations on creating child abuse prevention policy and procedures.

Positive Post-Game Conversations

Kids will lose games and they will win games. They will have good games, bad games, good shifts and bad shifts. For parents, immediately after a game is a time to be positive—not to tell them things that were done wrong. Emphasize encouragement and approval. Kids who have just played hard and are tired like to hear “good job” whether their team won or lost.

Parents should always reemphasize the basics, such as sportsmanship, hard work and team play. After the game, bring closure. Don’t keep discussing the game throughout the week. Parents should be constructive after the game and give their child tests they can use to measure their own progress in non-subjective ways:

Negative Observations

Parents should avoid generalizations that are often debatable, such as:

• You didn’t hustle.

• You didn’t help score.

• You didn’t have a good attitude.

• You didn’t share the puck.

Helpful Observations

• Did you have fun?

• Did you win your battles for the puck?

• Did you pass often?

• Were you able to keep from falling down?

• Did you remember to play your position?

• Are you tired?

• Do you think you got a good workout?

• Do you think your learned anything today?

Kids don’t always know how to correct mistakes that are pointed out to them. For example, saying “you didn’t hustle today” doesn’t provide anything positive for a child to work on. Instead, saying something like “skate faster so that you can be in position for a rebound” gives them something they can work toward.

Editor’s Note: This article is an excerpt from the Sports Esteem Hockey Workbook.

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