Is Speed Skating Bad for Hockey?

I recently had a prospective client come to me with questions about my training methods.  Being a hockey player, he had been looking at speed skating training for hockey when he came upon some information from a power skating coach whom recommended against speed skating training, and even suggested it was detrimental and could actually slow a hockey player down.  The suggestion from former mid-level hockey player and physiologist is certainly compelling (despite that he cited research from the 1970s) , but as a trained elite speed skater and competitive hockey player, as well as having trained professional hockey players with these methods, I can tell you nothing is further from the truth.  Let’s look at some of the concerns and dispel some of this old research.

Question 1: You need fast steps in hockey to accelerate, and in speed skating your steps are deliberately slow.  Doesn’t that mean that if you train like a speed skater you’ll have slow steps?

Answer: What our physiology friend forget was the actual physics involved in both speed skating and hockey.  Hockey blades are short, meaning no matter what your training, you won’t be able to take long strides like a speed skater.  It’s simple physics.  Your stride stops when you run out of blade, which happens a heck of a lot earlier when you’re on hockey skates.

Another fallacy in the reasoning above is that shorter steps are always faster.  They’re not. If you’re not getting power out of the quick steps you’re not going to go anywhere.  Ever see a guy hopping on his crossovers but not really making much progress?  There’s much more to skating than fast feet.

Question 2: I heard that you’re not supposed to bring your skates completely together like speed skaters do. In fact, the physiologist states that “observation of high-performance hockey skaters … clearly shows that they do not bring their skates to the other skate like speed skaters do.”

Answer: Well, besides the obvious fact that your equipment prevents you from bringing your skates close together, that actually isn’t a something that is focused on in speed skating.  Rather is the weight of your body over your blade that is important.  In speed skating, the natural flow of your long stride dictates that this is close to your body but in hockey, where you have a shorter stride and rarely are skating in a completely straight line, how you put your weight over your landing foot is still what is important, not where that skate is in relation to the other.

Question 3: Speed skaters land on their outside edges when they take strides, whereas hockey players land on their inside edge. Wouldn’t training to skate like a speed skater put you on your outsides edge, which isn’t what hockey players do?

Answer: This is perhaps the most unclear statement I’ve heard about biomechanics.  First, not all speed skaters land on their outside edges – as a short track speed skater I can tell you that you are rarely, if ever on your outside edges skating forward.  Most of the skating is cornering, which consists of the exact same biomechanics as hockey.  However, when a very powerful hockey player (think NHL or WHL) is doing a rare forward stride down the ice (e.g. if they are back checking or have a breakaway) they actually will land on their outside edges as their stride lengthens and they reach top speed.

Also, don’t forget that the new “v” sharping technique is meant to mimic speed skating blades for a reason.  And yes, I do find them much faster with much less friction.

So, is speed skating bad for hockey? My clients and I certainly don’t think so. 🙂