Backwards Skating

A common myth in hockey is that only defensemen need to be strong backward skaters. While it is true that defensemen will spend much of the game skating backwards, it is still vital that forwards make every attempt to master backward skating techniques.

The speed of the game is such that forwards are required to make quick changes of direction, as well as controlled backward-to-forward moves necessary to stay involved in the play. Plus, when a defenseman gets caught up ice, the team depends on the forward to get back and cover for them, making it very important that they can skate proficiently backward as well.

Skating Imagery for the Backward Stride:

When skating backward your body posture and positioning are extremely important. You should feel like you are sitting on a stool with your backside almost parallel to the ice, keeping your back straight and your weight centered directly over the middle of your skates. Positioning your upper body and chest too far forward when going backward will put too much weight to the front part of the skate and definitely take away from your balance, speed and power.

The Basic Skills:

The skating fundamentals needed to be a better skater when going forward, such as deep knee bend, body weight centered over the skates, 100 percent power on each push, etc., are the same when going backward.

When picking up speed while going backward in a straight line, coaches like to see players use backward crossovers to help accelerate and generate maximum power right out of the gate. Once a player gets moving however, we like to see him use the backward stride, which will gives him better balance and less side-to-side movement … plus, when used as a defenseman, it forces the forward to make the first move.

This technique is often called a C-Cut or Half-Moon Cut … with the optimal word being “cut,” as a player needs to cut through the ice, up and out to the side to generate speed (it looks like a “C” or “Half-Moon” in the ice).

The following is a checklist to improve the backward skating stride (C-Cuts) and backward crossovers:

  • Bend your knees deeply so that they are covering your toes.
  • Your back is straight, head is up and eyes are forward.
  • Start each push from directly under your body.
  • Pivot the heel of the pushing foot up and outward so that it is perpendicular to your glide foot (forming an upside down letter “L”).

There are three main parts to the Backward Stride:

  • The Push: Pushing one foot at a time and getting all your body weight on each thrust, drive the pushing foot full extension up and out to the side…cutting a “C” or “Half-Moon” into the ice.
  • The Glide: While the pushing skate is extending, the other skate should stay under the body, gliding straight back to cover distance and to gain speed.
  • The Recovery: Then, return the pushing foot back to the middle, under your body and repeat the exact maneuver with the other foot (do not swivel your hips like you are dancing. Maintain as direct a line as possible).

Ok all you hockey players out there now we know the basic ‘C’ cut manoeuver, this drill will need to be preformed basically everytime you are skating backwards so keep practicing it all the time.

By Warren Nye,
October 6th, 2012