For novice and even experienced hockey players, the ability to maintain speed through turns, and changing directions without slowing down is a challenging skill to master. Many players feel challenged by executing the turn or direction change they feel like they are going to fall in towards the direction they are turning.
"Well, why do they feel like they are going to fall?" says the hockey player, currently reading an interesting blog about hockey skills on their computer. The answer to that is when you are skating hard and turning, you often lean in towards the direction you are turning, to execute a fast turn in close quarters. If you catch a rut in the ice, or take a hit from the side, you might end up lying down on the ice.
If you picture a fast skater, say Scott Niedermeyer, you will see him lean in on his skates, so the outside edge of their inside blade is pointing the direction he is turning. Scott likely really has great balance too, however not all of us are gifted in this way. He would able to lean in with his inside shoulder, or compensate like we’ll discuss below.
A few examples of this kind of fast, tight turn or direction change are:
- Rushing in to an opponent’s end and they shoot the puck out – you don’t want to be called offside
- Your team steals the puck, and you want to be there for your team mates – maybe to score a goal
- The game just ended, you won, and you heard they are giving away hamburgers at the snack bar. A game of hockey builds up mad hunger!
To prevent falling, the best skill to practice might make you feel a bit like a boomerang. Try to maintain speed by:
- Shifting your upper body weight away from the turn with an incline in your spine away from where you are turning in to.
- Keep your lower body pointing into the turn, with a good carve into the ice surface to bring you around. This will increase your base of support through the turn, as your weight will be centered over your skates.
- Try and maintain as much of your balance as possible by keeping your shoulders as level as possible. You can use your stick to hold yourself steady, and you’ll make some cool moves.
So there you have it. Tight turns and quick directional changes at high speeds need level shoulders, upper body tilted away from the turn, lower body tilted into the turn, weight distributed easily over your skates, and a great deal of figure eight practice around some pylons. Check out the video by Matt from WinnPro Hockey a few times to get some great visuals on fast, tight turns and direction changes like the pros do it.