During the past ten years I  have been involved in skating performance testing of individual hockey players and  hockey teams from all over the world. This testing was part of  a very comprehensive study that analyzed skating performance  in 14 basic game fundamentals. Representing some of the International  participants were  players from Korea, Japan, Germany, Switzerland, and England. Representing North America were players from Alaska, Michigan, California, British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Ontario. 

Players tested have ranged from Professional (North American and European), to the Canadian Olympic program. As well, all levels have been tested at the amateur levels, from beginner to Junior. 

The  database that was created represented  quite a diversity of players.  Players  tested ranged from 4' 6" to 6'5" as well as from 65 to 240 lbs. All positions including goal-tenders have been tested. This information has been analyzed very extensively. 

I will endeavor to put this  testing analysis into a visual format that will create a clear picture of the relevance as well as the application of the testing process. 

Skating is the foundation of the game. How much so to date has not been clearly understood. 

- Are goal scorers better skaters or is it just their ability to read the play and shoot accurately? 
- What skating skills are predominant to successful teams and players? Is it overall speed or acceleration or the ability to change direction quickly that really matters? 
- How important is the training of backward skating fundamentals so as to create a balance training environment? 
- How important is a player's ability to react? 
- How does reaction time equate into space or open ice? 
- What is the difference between the average and the best skater relative to 
space? 
- Within a team structure, what is the relevance to accumulative skating skills of all  player's within tactic system implementation? 
- If the testing identifies a weakness in my team or a specific player what can I do about it? 

Shown below are some of the tests that were performed.  While testing is diverse and further information regarding these tests can be attained through the parent company Quan-Tech Sports Inc. I have chosen only the ones explained below.  While the tests are very simple and specific, the relevance of these tests and their subsequent impact on the game both from an individual as well as from a team perspective. is dramatic.   I have made the explanations very brief since I feel that too much technical "babble" is not necessary at this point.  However, I have  endeavored to provide enough information to demonstrate each test's relevance to overall  game conditions.

 

They are as follows:

Test No. 1 - Backward Crossover test;  identifies strength / weakness in: 
- balance and technique (body alignment)
- edge control (skating efficiency) 

which translates into the ability to: 
- check effectively (angling skills - closing gap) 
- create better play selections (opening ice while in possession of puck) 

Test No. 2 - Forward Crossover test;   identifies strength / weakness in: 

- lower body strength and  power
- leg strength and explosive power 
- balance and technique (body alignment and foot placement)
- edge control (skating efficiency) 



which translates into the ability to:

 - for effective lateral mobility
- change lanes effectively. 
- support effectively 
- drive to the net 
- check effectively (angling skills - or man on man coverage) 

Test No. 3 - Forward Acceleration test;  identifies strength / weakness in: 
- explosive power 
- leg speed 
- edge control and technique 

which translates into the ability to: 
- react to or execute quick transitional plays 
- react to quick movement of the puck 
- check more effectively (close the gap) 
- support more effectively (offensively and defensively) 


Test No. 4 - Forward 60' foot sprint test identifies;  strength / weakness in: 
- technique (moving from quick accelerating into long striding phase)

- change speeds
- leg speed 

which translates into the ability to: 
- accelerate properly during the transitional striding phase 
- skate effectively in short distances 
- check effectively (close gap - angling) 
- change speeds 
- react quickly to quick transitional plays 
- take advantage of open ice 

Test No. 5 - Forward Full Stride test identifies;  strength and weakness in: 

- technique 
- edge control and skating efficiency 
- groin flexibility 

which translates into the ability to: 
- skate efficiently 
- take advantage of open ice 
- take advantage of offensive opportunities - break-a-way speed 
- forecheck effectively 
- back check effectively 
- support effectively (join in the rush - defense jumping up into the 
play) 

Test No.6 - Backward Acceleration test;  identifies strength / weakness in: 
- edge control and balance 
- foot speed 
- torso flexibility 

which translates into the ability to: 
- maintain the blue-line in the offensive zone 
- react to quick breaks or transitional plays 
- maintain gap 
- support effectively (for defensive during def. - to - def. passing 
options) 
- create better offensive opportunities (coming to middle off the wall in 
offensive zone - point man) 

Test No.7 - Backward Full Stride test;  identifies strength / weakness in: 
- body alignment, edge control and balance 
- technique 
- flexibility (hips) 

which translates into the ability to: 
- maintain backward skating speed 
- maintain gap 
- check more effectively 

Test No. 8 - Tight Turn test;   identifies strength / weakness in: 
- body alignment, edge control and balance 
- leg and ankle strength 

which translates into the ability to: 

- react to quick transition plays (stay involved in the play) 
- react to quick movements of the puck 
- get open under intense checking conditions 
- work effectively down low 
- be more effective on specialty teams 
- check more effectively - maintain and / or close gap 
- create better offensive opportunities (delay options) 

Test No. 9 - Pivot Backward to Forward test;  identifies strength/ weakness in: 
- body alignment, edge control and foot speed 
- flexibility 
- technique 

which translates into the ability to: 

- react to dump in plays 
- check effectively (forwards driving to outside) 
- react to quick movements of the puck 
- face the play 


Test No. 10 - Pivot Forward to Backward (direction change) test;  identifies strength / 
weakness in: 

- body alignment, balance 
- foot speed and edge control 
- technique 

which translates into the ability to: 

- react to quick transitional plays 
- keep up on the play (offensive blue-line) 
- maintain gap (positioning) 
- face the play 

Test No. 11 - Stop and Start test;  identifies strength / weakness in: 
- body alignment and balance 
- edge control 
- leg and ankle strength 
- explosive power 
- technique 

which translates into the ability to: 
- react to quick transition plays 
- react to quick movements of the puck 
- get open under intense checking conditions 
- work effectively down low 
- be more effective on specialty teams 
- check more effectively - maintain and / or close gap 
- create better offensive opportunities (delay options) 

Test No. 12 - Agility test;  identifies strengths / weakness in: 
- body alignment and balance 
- edge control 
- foot speed 
- technique 

which translates into the ability to: 
- attack effectively 
- create superior offensive opportunities 
- react to quick movements of the puck 
- check more effectively


Test No. 13 - Backward / Forward Stop / Start test;  identifies strength / weakness in: 
- body alignment, edge control and balance 
- explosive power 
- foot speed 

which translates into the ability to: 
- react to quick transitional plays 
- react to quick movement of the puck 
- face the play 
- check more effectively (maintain and/or close gap) 

Test No. 14 - Pivot Backward to Forward (direction change) test;  identifies strength / 
weakness in: 
- body alignment and balance 
- edge control and foot speed 
- technique 
- flexibility (groin and hips) 

which translates into the ability to: 
- react to quick transitional plays 
- react to quick movement of the puck 
- face the play 
- check more effectively (maintain and/or close gap) 

 

How each player uses his assets and protects his liabilities dictate his success story - not with-standing heart and desire. 

Ron Johnson

.

I have provided some of the technical considerations that as an instructor I

must evaluate and correct before a

player can perform skill function to its

maximum potential.

Crossover

 

Forward "V" Start Acceleration

 

Forward "V" Start - Top View

 

Forward Striding Front View

Striding - Top View

Backward Striding

 

Backward Striding - Back View

 

Gliding Turn

 

Forward Parallel Stop

 

Forward to Backward Pivot - Direction Change

 

Each fundamental is critical to a player's success during game play. One-on-one confrontations create a very competitive environment where the player with the "edge" has greater success. This "ballet" of inter-action between players creates situations where weaknesses and strengths become evident. When neutralizing an opponent or "getting open" a player will quickly realize how well he utilizes his strengths and how well he protects his weakness. 

In the hockey world where games and careers are won and lost, these player attributes become quite literally, either an asset or a liability. 

 

However, in society today we tend to view  testing as a negative experience. It seems that information is constantly being used against us. When I was testing in Switzerland, several players  coasted through the tests and I had to send them off the ice and delete their times so as not the skew the study.  They felt that the owner ship was going to use the information against them for contract negotiations. On the other hand, most of the players wanted the information so as to focus on their development. They were true competitors.  The information allowed them to identify where they ranked against other players at their own level and  target their off and on ice development to maximize their skill.

 

When I tested the Seibu Bears from Japan, they asked for a complete report on all players; how they ranked relative to each other as well as how their data effected team performance.  

 

It is entirely up to the player as well as the coach, the quantity and quality of information that they wish to see.

 

The following is a player model which I will call player "X". The objective is to give you an example of how the information creates a performance model.

 

In order to give a better assessment of a player's ability I have created a ranking system based on a scale of 0 to 10 (based on actual percentile). 

Since default rankings are against total relative division player pool, the higher the score that a player attains overall, the better the player's ability to contribute to his team through his skating skill. If a player  competes at the Junior A - Tier II level, he is only compared to players at that level unless otherwise specified. 

This allows us to better assess his "assets and liabilities". These assets are broken down into backward skating fundamentals and forward skating fundamentals. For example: 

Backward Skating Assessment for Player "X" 

Test Description                                Time     Percentile      Rank 


1     Backward Crossover                                 10.65              6%               .6 
2     Backward Crossover                                 10.59              9%               .9 
3     Backward Acceleration                             2.10                56%            5.6 
4     Backward Full Stride                                  5.61                28%            2.8 
5     Backward/Forward Pivot-L                       3.41                 64%            6.4 
6     Backward/Forward Pivot-R                       3.53                38%            3.8 
7      Forward/Backward Pivot-L                       4.40                80%           8.0 
8     Forward/Backward Pivot-R                       4.28                98%            9.8 

Average Ranking                                                                      47%            4.7 

Forward Skating Assessment 

A     Forward Crossover - L                              8.52                50%            5.0 
B     Forward Crossover - R                              8.22                77%            7.7 
C     Forward Acceleration                                1.54                 80%           8.0 
D     Forward Transition Stride                           2.59                97%            9.7 
E     Forward Full Stride                                     4.29                 70%           7.0 
F     Tight Turn - L                                               3.69                98%           9.8 
G    Tight Turn - R                                               3.41                99%           9.9 
H     Stop/Start - L                                               3.16                99%           9.9 
I      Stop/Start - R                                               3.40                98%           9.8 
J     Agility without puck                                      4.79               57%           5.7 
K   Agility with puck* Not included in this assessment 

Average Ranking                                                                       82.5%        8.25 

Using Player "X's" scores we can clearly identify his strengths (assets) and weaknesses (liabilities) using game applications.

An understanding of the physics and methodology of skating fundamentals helps to pin-point the cause and effect in relation to his scores. 

 

Skating can be broken down into 2 basic categories and can be demonstrated as follows: 

Technical Attributes                                     Physical Attributes inherent in skating 

1. Balance                                                   1.  Static strength 
2. Body alignment                                        2. Explosive Power 
3. Foot Speed                                              3. Quickness 
4. Edge control                                             4. Flexibility 
5. Technique                                                 5. Muscular endurance 

As well as Aerobic and Anaerobic Capacities. 

Each test is designed to specifically target one or a combination of these components.

When we further analyze Player "X's" times and rankings we can gain a clear picture of not only his skating style but his physical structure as well. 

Player "X's" low ranking in backward crossovers (T1- 6-9%) can be attributed to poor body alignment and balance (upper body bent to far over is one of the most common problems). Poor upper body alignment causes slippage off the front part of the skate, especially the inside foot / outside edge minimizing power. This is also evident in the backward acceleration test (T6 - 56%) where scores are again low. Low scores in the backward full stride (T7-28%) are again the result of poor body position as well as poor technique (improper C-cuts and hip rotation or turn in is one of the most common problems). 

Knowledge of the "cause and effect" of skating deficiencies allows us to cross-examine Player "X's" evaluation report. From the information provided in the report we can see that this player does not work on his backward skating. An important game skill is the ability to face the play. Once identifying Player "X's" problem as being weak backward skating we would then study his game play to see if he turns his back on the play. 

This critique is further substantiated by his forward skating assessment. 

When assessing Player "X's" forward skating ability we see further evidence of his bent over skating style. A bent over skating style during forward crossovers (A/B - 50-77%) again results in loss of power from the inside leg/outside edge. This is also apparent during the agility test (J - 57%) where scores are again average. Poor body position contributes to a problem moving laterally side to side within the 16'6" distance between markers. Any slippage off of the inside foot limits power bringing the body back over center. It is evident that this player does not feel comfortable bringing his skates back and forth across his body or into his center. 

His skating style is that of a winger  - adhering to a "keep in your lane coaching philosophy" or a player that is a habitual straight liner, working his way down the ice in a series of straight line attacks.  Forward acceleration scores (C  - 80%) demonstrate that his forward acceleration is good, the result of short powerful strides which allow him to attain a very good score in the medium distance sprint test (D -97%) distance. The 60 foot test measures a player's skating ability through the transitional phase from accelerating to full open-ice striding. Good full striding technique requires complete extension of the leg and foot as well as proper recovery position under the body on the outside edge. The drop-off of his score in the full stride test (E - 70%) shows that he does not complete his stride to full extension (most common problem with full striding technique) and is a wide tracker (does not bring his recovery leg back under his body - outside edge). 

 

Upon completion of the analysis we can now rate this player on his strengths and weaknesses and answer the following important questions: 

How can he contribute to his team? How effective is he? How does he use his strengths (assets)? How well does he protect his weaknesses (liabilities)? 

Player "X's" overall skating strengths and weaknesses are by-products of his position. This is evident by poor backward skating fundamentals. As a forward however his skating skills are valuable assets. High tight turn and stop/start scores  enable him to be successful down low. These skills enable him to react quickly to transition and puck movement allowing him to keep involved in the play. He can work both sides of the ice well which would make him a valuable asset on specialty teams. However, his bent over skating style, poor backward skating and dependence on his tight turns limit his ability to face the play which could make him a liability on the penalty unit. As well, tactics that utilize lateral movement (crossovers) would suffer as well.  While possessing good speed , a valuable asset when driving to the net or forcing the puck carrier, situations where angling is necessary become compromised and success is limited. 

Scores high in tight turns (F/G - 98%), stop/starts (H/I - 98%) and forward acceleration (C - 80%) identify good leg strength, explosive power and leg speed. These skills are critical components of good checking and hitting fundamentals. 

 

Further analysis can be done by cross-referencing  more of the information. However, space is limited and at this time it is not prodent to do so.  Any questions that you may have can be directed to me personally.  

 

 SEE RESEARCH SECTION. for more information.

 

 

Link to Products and Services for complete player evaluation and digital analysis

Testing - Team System Relationships

The C.A.T. system of test / retest follows a set progression derived from game situations, moving players through a chronological process from testing, analysis, correction and training. For example: 

1. Identifying game inherent skills; tight turns, stops and starts, etc. 
2. Testing game skills; tight turns, stops and starts 
3. Analyzing information: feet per second, player potential. 
4. Providing an environment for improvement: knowledge leads to better practice planning. 
5. Teaching of fundamentals in a skill specific environment.: Utilizing the practice. 
6. Adding pressure to skills: competition drills to create game situations. 
7. Identifying game theory applications and executing in a practice environment: cycling, delay options, etc. 
8. Playing of games to assess strengths and weaknesses: 2-on-2, 3-on-3, down low mini-games.

In order to understand the relevance of the information presented in the previous chapter we must create a link between each specific skating analysis and its game application. Hockey can be broken down into 2 basic skating systems: 

1 - those skills involved in the short game (30 feet and under) 
2 - those skills involved in the long game (30 feet and over). 

In this chapter we will establish the relevance of distance, speed and skill and how testing can help to pinpoint weaknesses in individual as well as team play. 

In diagram no. 1 we are trying to create an environment where we can directly analyze a player's skill level not only at a personal level but at a team level as well. The above diagram represents a game situation in 3 stages. 

1 - Team has initiated a break-out option to the near side with the center supporting. 
2 - Lanes have been filled with players supporting each other as the puck moves through the neutral zone. 
3- Puck has moved into the offensive zone with puck carrier initiating a delay option play, with support down the near wall and a late man moving up on the play. 

In each zone specific skating skills are inherent to the success of the team's operating system. 

1 - Defensive zone: quick acceleration. Capitalize on opponents' static positioning. Quick acceleration in the form of crossover starts, running or "V" start, as well as accelerating through a curve (crossovers). 
2 - Neutral zone: maintaining speed through angular cuts or straight ahead. 
3 - Offensive zone: de-acceleration, slowing down, stopping, delaying, tight turns, Once attack has lost momentum, players again resort to short game skill and speed. 

We must break down the above diagram to understand game to practice to testing relationships.

 

Diagram No. 1 represent Defensive zone player movement.  Diagram No. 2 represents breakout practice.

 

            Diagram No. 1                                                             Diagram No. 2

 

Diagram No. reflects tests that mimic player movement relative to game and practice enviroments.

 

Diagram No. 3

Diagram No. 1 shows only the defensive zone excluding defensive players. Lines in the diagram represent movement of players (skating patterns):
D2 initiates play with pass to near side winger F1 
F2 is in a support position 
F3 skates into gap in neutral zone and receives pass 
D2 is in support position in front of net 

Players move out of defensive zone into neutral zone with speed filling lanes. 

Diagram No. 2 shows a basic drill to mimic above game situation. 
Coach dumps puck on net and players breakout by moving into proper support positions. 

Lines represent movement of players (skating patterns) 

Diagram No. 3 isolates skating components inherent within the breakout system. Each position has basic skating fundamentals that are required to make the breakout successful. While isolated by position, all players should be able to execute these skating fundamentals well. 

Shown per position - skating component and corresponding C.A.T. Test 

Left Winger:          Stop/Start CAT  Test: 
Left Def.:               Back/Forward Pivot CAT  Test: 
Right Def:              Back/Forward Pivot CAT  Test 
Centre:                  Forward Crossover CAT  Test 
Right Wing:           Tight Turn CAT Test 

Diagram No. 4  Neutral Zone Transition                Diagram No. 5 Practice Simulation

 

 

The diagram below reflects CAT tests:

A - Forward Full Stride Sprint Test   B - Forward Crossover Test     C - Forward Full Stride Puck Carry   D - Agility Test

 

Diagram No. 6 Testing Simulation 

Diagram No. 4 represents phase 2 : the movement of players through the neutral zone. It is through this 
zone where maximum speed is attained in this type of situation. 
Diagram no. 5 represents player movement through the neutral zone and the Excel corresponding tests. 

A - Forward Transitionary  CAT Sprint Test 
B - Forward Crossover CAT Test (skill isolated) 
C - Forward Full Striding CAT Sprint Test 
D - Forward Agility CAT Test (with and without a puck) 

 

Development - Testing Team Development Relationship

In order for a player to maximize skating potential, a series of drills must be implemented during the practice format. Most "power skating" developmental exercises can be used. Certain exercises are used during power skating and can be utilized during practice. It must be remembered that power skating programs are short, intense training sessions that focus on one or many skills. This is due to  the pressure to maximize development of all skating skills in a short period of time due to the costs involved. At 50$ to 
200$ per hour,   players and parents expect results in all areas of skating in a very short period of time. At the amateur hockey level we have strayed away from form correction during the practice format and focused more on system implementation. . This is due in part to a lack of knowledge of skating techniques. However, drills can be used that will accomplish results just by "doing" them without the pressure on the coach to be the "expert". 

 

One of the most basic and most important components of skating is balance and edge control. While all hockey players exhibit good balance, edge control is a major problem. This is due to either ankle strength, poor body alignment or even miss-alignment of the blades on the boot. This problem should be checked every time a new pair of skates are purchased. In most cases, the blade is mounted incorrectly creating an inside edge dominance. Both fundamentals can be enhanced by performing a simple exercise for a couple of minutes a practice. In the diagram no. 1, a player is skating through the neutral zone balanced on one 
leg zig-zagging back and forth from inside to outside edge. 


This drill will be difficult for younger players but should be done no matter the age. Increasing levels of difficulty enhance the training effect. Increasing speed as well as movement from side to side to jumping and landing on alternating edges will achieve maximum results. This drill should be performed both forwards and backwards.

 

The following diagram represent one leg balance and edge control used in above drill.

 

 

 

Key teaching points: 

- keep knees and ankles flexed.   (A and B)
- keep weight aligned properly; shoulders over knees, knees over toes. (D)
- keep head erect and stomach/abdominals tight. 
- extend leg (straighten) on thrust (inside and outside edges)  and flex on recovery (transferring edges)

Perform at the beginning of practice for several minutes both backwards and forwards. 

 

Once testing has identified problem areas, how can coach's set about implementing a developmental plan that addresses player's or collectively, team weaknesses?

The   drill variations demonstrated below are basic formations for developing proper technique. Inherent in each drill are components that are critical to it's successful execution in a game environment. Power skating instructors have utilized a language that, much like hockey coaches within the game and practice environment, address these components. Terms such as gliding leg, skating leg, knee and ankle flexion, and recovery gap depict visual models for correction. 

During power skating camps, players execute the above maneuvers once correct form has been demonstrated, while receiving verbal cues from a professional. The problem with most amateur and even professional coaches is that they do not consider themselves knowledgeable enough to make these verbal corrections. They instead are more concerned with movement within the drill itself speaking in terms of space and speed as opposed to technique. 

However, if a player executes the above mini-drills enough, noticeable improvements will result. Since the majority of these drills represent short game play, reaction time will improve. Overload training will also occur due to the forces placed on the thighs and gluteals during the crossovers, stop - starts, and tight turns. Players not only will improve their technique but will become stronger as well. 

What is necessary then is to identify how to place the above mini-drills effectively within a normal practice environment. A normal practice environment is one that deals with team systems as opposed to isolated player skill development as incorporated by hockey and skating schools.

 

 

The diagram  demonstrated below is  a common swing drill used by many coaches. It has been given many names from "horse-shoe to St. Louis" but is a basic swing with players skating down the wall, swinging through the top of the zone to receive a pass from m the corner and then proceed down the ice to take a shot on the net. 

Using a format of 15 skaters (3 full lines) we have work to rest ratio of 1:7.5. The drill incorporates approximately 200 feet of straight line skating with a low load crossover swing across the top of the zone with minimal crossover activity attacking the net. What we want to accomplish through modifying the drill is to increase crossover and tight turn development which has been identified  as a  team weakness,  as well as to increase work to rest ratios.

 

 

This basic drill can be "spruced up" to add necessary components. For example:

 

All tests identify inherent game skills.  Once weaknesses have been identified, developmental components have to be implemented.  Testing - development integration is my area of expertise.  Questions and comments can be addressed via E-mail regarding information posted on this page.  There is much more information that unfortunately I cannot post here due to volume of content but will endeavor to make available as time and space permits.

 

Testing Prices

 

Ron Johnson,   President, Technical Director Quan-Tech Sport Systems Inc.
Copyright 1996 by Ron Johnson. All rights reserved.
Revised: 04 Nov 2009 08:40:24 -0800 .