If you play any kind of hockey, from boys’ leagues to professional, you’ll have to agree that the ability to move through a transition on ice could potentially be one of the most important skills that a player can have in their bag of tricks. Watch a player like Stephane Richer spinning on his blades from forward play to backward play and you’ll see true poetry in motion. Power skating and the ability to flow without conscious effort adds an element to your level of play that can’t be discounted.
One strategic play that incorporates the need for smooth transition is the trap play where players will force the other team into multiple turnovers mid-ice and this can only be accomplished with smooth, quick and effective transitions. The following tips will give you a basis through which to practice this essential move and position you as a player that can easily move from forward to defense in the flash of a blade.
When moving from a forward to backward direction, keep your knees bent so that they are directly over your toes. With a straight back and head up, looking forward, turn your hips halfway away from the direction in which you were first moving, both feet turning at the same time. With your upper body remaining centred, the outside skate pushes forward in the new direction on the inside edge, cutting deeply into the ice with the inside skate trailing on the outside edge. To accelerate, pull the leg crossed under straight in the direction of travel. The body is thus doing the majority of the turning and the skates can more quickly stay in control of balance and speed.
When you are turning from backward to forward skating, again bend your knees deeply in the same manner as the forward to backward turn, remain straight with head and eyes pointed forward. Plant the turning foot on the inside edge and centre your weight above it. Return the other foot to land on the ice at a 45 degree angle from the pivoting skate and once it lands, use your pivoting skate to push off and balance. Lean forward onto the toes of your skates for a second to start forward quickly.
Take the opportunity to practice both of these transitions until you can find your sweet spot. Everyone has a different centre of gravity and you’ll find a slight correction in the amount that you will turn your hips in either direction to maintain the perfect level of balance that allows you to move intuitively and with the highest degree of speed and control. Once you have mastered these transitions on your own, incorporate them into your game and you will find that you will now be able to better intercept and move the puck while quickly darting away from other players that may be attempting to attack or block any kind of play action that you are planning.
The art of the transition should never be regarded as something reserved for those who are just learning to skate. Take a page from the figure skating legends that never fail to iterate this ability to a higher level as they progress through their careers.