During a recent hockey lesson, a classmate of mine -- perhaps feeling a bit defeated because he wiped out after trying to stop -- skated up and asked me for some advice.
"Sal, how do you practice to get better at skating?"
"Go to lots of public skating sessions," I replied. "That's when I fixate on all the things I can't do."
Think about it. When you play hockey, you aren't trying to practice what you can't do well; you stay within your comfort zone, especially when it comes to moving around the ice. So when I go to public skate sessions, I obsess over what I need to work on. No skating around mindlessly in circles for me. Instead, I am working on developing techniques that are lacking.
For example, I will practice stopping on my left side, which I don't do very well, at every blue line and goal line.
If the rink isn't too crowded, I'll hog a face-off circle and work on crossovers until I'm practically dizzy. Sometimes, I'll work on the same crossover for ten minutes.
Since I like to play defense, I also try to work on my backwards skating as much as I can.
It's best to go to public skate sessions held on weekdays during the school year (September through May) because there will be no kids around. One time, a friend and I went to a public skate at The Skatium in Skokie on a Tuesday afternoon, and practically had the ice to ourselves.
Another good idea is to wear some of your hockey gear during public skate. If you fall forward, your knees, elbows and hands may come into contact with the ice, so you might want to wear your shin guards, elbow pads and gloves. Hockey pants will cushion you if you fall backwards. Remember -- you're not there to look cool; you are there to improve your skating.
Public skates are a great, inexpensive way to improve your skating. The cost is usually $5 for a 90 minute session. That's about as cheap as it gets when it comes to ice time.
Type your email address in the box and click the "create subscription" button.
My list is completely spam free, and you can opt out at any time.