What do Sidney Crosby, Connor McDavid and Mathew Barzal have in common?
If your answer is tremendous skating skills you would be correct. All three made several highlight reel plays in the National Hockey League season because of their skating ability.
“They are naturally gifted to begin with, but they still had to work on the craft,” says Rob McLaughlin, Okanagan Hockey Group’s associate director of hockey operations and head skating instructor. “Bottom line is if you can’t skate, you can’t play.”
Having worked with countless players, McLaughlin points out that improving skating ability comes down to focusing on basics as well as learning proper technique and body position.
When McLaughlin works with academy students and those attending the summer camps, focus of power skating is placed on balance, edge work and stride. However, the biggest key is knee bend.
“Lots don’t bend the knee,” he says. “The greater the knee bend, the longer the stride.”
Off-ice work is important too. That is something McLaughlin says many players forget.
“To be more effective, you have do the work with off-ice training” stressed McLaughlin, a certified power skating instructor who has been with OHG for more than 30 years. “There is lots of great training equipment to help work on agility, speed, balance and core.”
The off-ice work will translate to the ice. McLaughlin has seen huge differences in the skating ability of the kids he works with from start to end, as well as when they return from their off-season breaks or the next summer camp.
When instructing players, McLaughlin puts in work to eliminate bad habits, which may have been developed from the start. Those habits take time to be fixed but happens with repetition. McLaughlin also stresses for players to not rush through technique. After technique has been mastered, coaches can work on power and speed with players.
McLaughlin takes great pleasure in working with players and seeing the reactions from them and their parents.
“I love the smile on their faces,” says McLaughlin, who has played a part in helping athletes reach higher levels from junior to pro hockey. “I’m impressed how kids can change in a week.”
Players are smart enough to know, says McLaughlin, that having strong skating skills is key in advancing through hockey. With the ultimate dream for most being making the NHL, speed and skill are at the forefront.
McLaughlin says many parents rush to have their kids in skating programs, especially power skating, which is good, but he comes back to what they must do.
“It’s important they put in the work. It isn’t enough just to sign up for the program,” he says.
Okanagan Hockey offers multiple skating camps during our summer months, including the popular Speed Camp, Power Skating/Battle and Compete Combo Camp and Power Skating/Shooters and Scorers Combo Camp.
I can confidently say the Okanagan Hockey Academy had an impact on me as a hockey player but more importantly as a person. OHA taught me to bring my best self in all aspects of life including as a student, player and community member. I learned many life skills during my time at OHA that I will take with me much longer than my playing career and that is the greatest gift the staff, coaches, billets and community gave to me. I strongly believe I am a more well-rounded individual because of my time at OHA. I hope any young hockey player with drive, determination and a passion to become a better player and person is able to have the chance to attend somewhere so amazing. For me OHA gave me the best balance of academics, athletics, family and social life. I am extremely grateful for my time at Okanagan Hockey Academy.