This post stems from a recent Twitter reply — or, was it in response to a kzillion different things I’ve read and heard in hockey circles? Ya, “hockey edge work, smedge work”. Ugh
— Dennis Chighisola
Hockey Edge Work, Smedge Work
Okay, the Twitter comment that just came in moments ago, this in response to my article on getting our kids to learn from televised hockey games…
@CoachChic To me, you get to see the pro players’ pivots and how important their edge work is. Not necessarily fun 2 practice but impactful”
Okay, so do I believe hockey edge work is necessary? Of course I do. However, do I believe that’s the primary skill in hockey? Hmmmmmm… It’s certainly one of the skills necessary to playing our game well. The primary one, though? I don’t think so!
Actually, I also got to shaking my head the other day, when I saw a post on Facebook featuring a lady figure skater working with a group of NHLers — I think they were Colorado players. And I had to ask myself, “What the heck is she doing for them?”
Now listen, I could buy their working together — IF she was spending countless hours beforehand studying video of each guy, and then going to the ice to solve the mechanics of each player — as an individual. I’d also buy her working with them — IF she was doing it according to a true hockey skating expert, maybe like a Dr Michael Bracko.
I can just imagine what that gathering was really like, though… For, I’m thinking that she wasn’t going to help them with their puckhandling, passing, receiving, shooting or checking. In fact, I doubt very much she could help the defensemen in the group to better skate their defense of the 1 on 1, etc. Nor do I think she could help the forwards among them to change their pace on the attack, to confuse and burn an enemy D. No, my guess is that she was there to beat a dead horse, and teach hockey edge work, smedge work to a group of guys who already have pretty high level edge control. Moreover, there’s the likelihood she’s also teaching the same improper shoulder and arm movements as most other former figure skaters do.
Let me share something else here, too… Commenting under that photo, I suggested something to the effect that, “Only about half of the players there could even possibly need the typical figure skating approach, while the remaining guys were basically wasting their time — or maybe even doing themselves some harm.
You see, there are generally two types of skaters within any group — and picture a group of players you might know fairly well… One player is not as smooth or energy-efficient as we’d like, but he has pretty quick movements. In contrast to that guy, there’s most likely another who has a fairly pretty, efficient stride, but he has difficulty with quickness or in shifting gears.
My personal suspicion is that this might at least partly have to do with a player’s muscle fiber make up, as in the ratio of his fast- versus slow-twitch fibers.
With that, what I said earlier should make sense, in that perhaps about half the guys in that photo could use a little more smoothness work, while the rest would be wasting their time or even going backwards.
Back to the thing about where edges fit in our game… I wonder if anyone reading this would like it if his or her son or daughter was working on addition and subtraction in a senior math class. No, my guess is that you’d hope your child had been working on progressions over about 11-years of schooling, and he or she had made it through multiplication, division, algebra, geometry, and maybe a little trig or calculus.
And that’s a big part of my problem with parents and some youth coaches still beating on hockey edge work, smedge work as players progress up the hockey ladder. Oh, edge work can — and should — be part of even the advanced player’s practice, but it should really be done within more advanced, complex movements. I mean, the edges can at that point be worked in weaving type drills, doing the same while carrying a puck, passing and receiving the puck, shooting, and so on.
Going back to the school analogy for a sec, I need to emphasize that concentrated edge work should be part of a hockey player’s earliest training, a lot like addition and subtraction forms the basis for more challenging work later on in mathematics.
CoachChic.com members are fortunate to have access to three different levels of “must-do” hockey skating drill videos. Non-members should know, though, that there is a point in my intermediate level video where I suggest discontinuing slow work on edges, with a move towards faster applications, with increased emphasis on quick feet.
As an example of what I’m talking about, envision a defenseman working on backward cross-overs in typical slow-mo fashion… These are usually done on one skate at a time — the free skate held up in the air so as to emphasize edge control with the blade on the ice.
The problem is, this goes totally against the way an advanced defender should skate when playing a rush. I mean, just picture an attacker faking left and cutting right, with the defender stuck with one skate in the air from following the initial deke. Talk about getting toasted. Ya, at some point, I’d say “hockey edge work, smedge work”.
In closing, I want it understood that I view this topic as I do many others, in that edge work isn’t a matter of all or nothing, but more a matter of when it should be done, who needs it most, and for how long that type of drilling is most likely necessary.
Oh, and because this is probably as touchy a subject as the many others I treat here, I don’t mind anyone taking issue down below with my hockey edge work, smedge work kind of thinking.