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.

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.


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.

Colorado Thunderbirds Spring, Summer & Fall Programs

Check out the Colorado Thunderbirds AAA program - one of the top-ranked AAA programs in the United States! The organization provides AAA-caliber players with the ice time, coaching and training needed to establish and maintain an elite development track. The Thunderbirds program is based on the core values of accountability, attitude and effort. Follow the links below to download information packets and register:

Spring: Denver Teams & NEW Mountain Teams

  • 1999-2005 birth years

  • Tryouts March 17-23 in Denver, March 23-24 in Vail

  • Season runs from early April to end of May

  • Travel players attend Challenge Cup in Vancouver, May 17-20

Spring & Summer: Developmental Skates

  • 1995-1999 birth years: May 14-July 23, 25 hours on-ice development

  • 2000-2002 birth years: June 11-July 25, 18 hours of on-ice development

Fall 2013-2014 Tryouts

Tentative dates (pending CAHA approval):

  • U14, U13, U12 and U11: May 24-May 26

  • U18: July 25-26

  • U16, U15: July 26-28

Challenge Yourself to the Red Rocks Stair Climb

When you live in Colorado, there’s no need to keep your training inside the gym or rink at all times. The weather is generally great and the views are gorgeous. So why not head up to Morrison for a workout at Red Rocks? (Note that this workout is suited to adult and teen hockey players—not to mention the parents of players, who may be tired of waiting around rinks. Younger athletes need to moderate based on their ability.)

Red Rocks is known nationally for its famous music venue. For athletes, it is a haven for pushing the limits in the altitude. (Click here for details on exercising there.) Sitting at 6,000 feet high, Red Rocks has two staircases on either side of the amphitheater that rise from the lower parking lot to the upper concession level, each with about 380 steps. There are two interior stairways on either side of the bleachers each with 138 steps from the stage to the top. Red Rocks features 69 rows of seats in the venue, which equates to running approximately three miles on an ascent or descent of the bleachers. Add in 21 planter boxes for plyo jumps, side stairways that climb from the stage to the upper parking lot with 83 steps, which then connect by way of an ascending quarter-mile ramp to 62 steps straight up to the upper concession area; you have a challenging workout amidst some of the best scenery in the Rocky Mountains.

All climbers agree that the climb up is exhilarating, but the descent can wreak havoc on your joints. Stresses Lisa Zeigel of Health Fitness Corporation, “Going down the hill takes a bit of time and I prefer to take trails down rather than the stairs as the eccentric resistance can cause excessive muscle soreness and wear on the joints.” When climbing stairs, keep the following injury-prevention training tips in mind:

  • Warm up and cool down for five minutes.

  • When stair climbing in a building, always take the elevator down to avoid injuring knees, ankles and calf muscles.

  • Incorporate three days of H.I.I.T (High Intensity Interval Training).

  • Stretch after every workout; use the foam roller on your IT band and glutes.

  • Rest for one day.

Editor’s Note: Thank you to Kathy Smith for this story. Kathy is a freelance writer, who has been published in many local Denver magazines and was nationally published in Her Sport. She has a keen interest in writing about athletics. She is a chef, mother of four and a fitness enthusiast. Kath recently picked up stair climb races as her new favorite sport, and while she isn't the fastest, she is passionate about competing in more races and getting better times.


Why Didn’t My Kid Make the Team?

A player may not make a specific team he or she is trying out for due to many things. Experienced hockey director and coach Angelo Ricci shares many of the reasons he has encountered over the years.

  • Skill set: Your player is quite simply not ready for the specific level he or she is trying out for. Can your player skate at this level? Can your player pass, handle and shoot the puck at this level?

  • Maturity: The maturity of players can sometimes factor into the selection process. Is this player a first or second year?

  • Fit: Some coaches look for a specific type of player, role or skill set when determining their roster. How will that player fit with the chemistry of the team?

  • Hockey sense: A big concern for many coaches is “hockey sense” or “hockey smarts.” Does your player understand, think and read the game? This aspect of his or her game can be a major factor in determining if player child makes the team.

  • Development: A coach can sometimes weigh the option if a player might be better off playing on the team at the lower level then what they are trying out for. This will sometimes allow the player to be a top-line player instead of the ninth forward or sixth defenseman for the higher-level team. This will allow that player to develop and see more ice time in critical situations of the game.

  • Parents: This does not happen too often, but I have seen it with a few coaches and parents over the years. What are the player’s parents like? Will they be an issue all season? Are they high maintenance? Do they get in the ear of other parents and try to get on their side if they don’t like the way their child is being coached or handled? I can tell you a bad parent or parent group can ruin the season for the players and staff. No matter if your team is in first place or last place, the season will be a success if your player develops, has fun and the parents get along—rather than form cliques and small groups of “negativity.” It’s a game…enjoy it!

These are some of the reasons on why your player did not make the team. I do believe it is imperative that a coach has great communication skills; it is the key ingredient for a coach when tough decisions are made. I believe each coach should have an exit interview or at least provide some feedback on why your player did not make the team.

To be totally honest, yes, coaches make mistakes. There is no exact science. It is not because the evaluators (coaches) did not give each player a good, honest look. Players do develop differently and at different points during the season.

This is a great, fun game. So please allow situations like this to be a life lesson for your player. We all get cut, we all get fired. We are all told at some point in our lives that our services are no longer needed. Sports are a microcosm of life—life will go on if your player did not make the team. Let your player enjoy the game and play at a level that will allow him or her to flourish and want to play again next season.

Editor’s Note: Thank you to Angelo Ricci for sharing his 15 years of expertise as a hockey director in this article. Ricci is founder, head instructor and consultant for Ricci Hockey Consulting. With 20+ years experience as a skills and stickhandling coach, he conducts/oversees more than 40 programs year-round that develop over 1,000 players each year.

Ladder Drills = Quicker Feet

Hockey is a unique sport that requires quick hands, quick feet and excellent hand-eye coordination—all at the same time. Dryland training for hockey needs to incorporate all these elements to be effective. An agility ladder is an excellent tool to help accomplish this task. Using an agility ladder is especially effective in developing footwork quickness, transitional movement and change of direction. These are all critical components to becoming a better hockey player.

Activities and drills for the agility ladder are limited by only your creativity. Most athletes, and certainly most trainers, are familiar with basic agility ladder use. This versatile tool should not be limited to basic use, however. Incorporating advanced hand-eye activity and upper body exercises helps make the ladder even more effective. Passing exercises, doing upper body movement while in the ladder and using the ladder as part of an obstacle course are examples of ways to make it a more effective—and fun—exercise.

I highly recommend getting an agility ladder and using it diligently. You will be amazed at how versatile it can be as an exercise, too. You will also be amazed at the results as your feet get quicker and you become a better hockey player!

Editor's Note: Along with working with, Mike Beckman is a physical therapist and founder of Valley Rehabilitation Services. He has been in practice since 1986. He has worked with athletes at all levels and sports in both rehab and performance training.

Keep Up the Training!

Strength and conditioning is critical to the success of hockey players at all levels. Athletes will spend time in the off-season increasing speed, power, strength, endurance and agility as well as rehabbing injuries. Considerable amounts of time and resources are spent in these endeavors.

Unfortunately, many players end up wasting these efforts during the season. After all the hard off-season work to get into peak shape, all they end up doing during the season is going to practice, doing some sprints and agility training, mixing in some plyometric exercises and playing games. With this routine, research shows that performance will begin to deteriorate after about four weeks. What good is all of the off-season work if you are going to let any gains decline by mid-season? It is important to make time for in-season strength and conditioning to at least maintain any gains from the off-season. Not only does this improve game performance, it also helps decrease the risk of injury.

Naturally, time is a factor when considering an in-season program. Research does suggest that a two-day per week off-ice training regimen can maintain performance. HockeyOT training—a comprehensive, personalized dryland training program on the web—is an ideal way to develop in-season programs because it creates time-efficient workouts that target specific player needs. Regardless of what system the player or team uses, strength and conditioning should be a priority in-season.

Some key points for in-season training:

  • Strength train at least two days per week for no longer than an hour per session

  • Decrease volume of exercises in sets and reps vs. intensity

  • Continue to target your weaknesses

In summary, in-season training is still a critical part of overall success in hockey. It can help decrease risk of injury, prevent performance deterioration and maintain strength and power gained in the off-season.

Editor’s Note: Thank you to Mike Beckman for this story. Along with working with, Mike Beckman is a physical therapist and founder of Valley Rehabilitation Services. He has been in practice since 1986. He has worked with athletes at all levels and sports in both rehab and performance training.


Next Page »

The Colorado Avalanche and are trademarks of the Colorado Avalanche Hockey Team, Inc. NHL and the word mark and image of the Stanley Cup are registered trademarks and the NHL Shield and NHL Conference logos are trademarks of the National Hockey League. All NHL logos and marks and NHL team logos and marks as well as all other proprietary materials depicted herein are the property of the NHL and the respective NHL teams and may not be reproduced without the prior written consent of NHL Enterprises, L.P. Copyright © 2008 Colorado Avalanche and the National Hockey League. All Rights Reserved.