Ice hockey is an extremely competitive sport. Any player knows that the only way of getting good is practice. But that’s where most find themselves in a dilemma. I’m sure you are desperately searching for ways to develop your hockey skills, but you can’t make much progress because you have nowhere to practice. In that case, you might want to look into Rollerblading.
Rollerblading is an alternate option to hockey. You can develop your balance, agility, control, and even train your legs to become stronger by practicing rollerblades. Since you don’t need ice for rollerblades, you can practice all year round, regardless of the season.
If you are practicing ice hockey, leisurely cruising on a pair of rollerblades isn’t going to cut it. There are specialized hockey drills that you can do on rollerblades. There are many ways rollerblading helps with hockey, but there is a chance that you might develop bad habits. I’ll try to explain how to practice the right way while avoiding mistakes.
Why Does Rollerblading Help Hockey players?
Rollerblading and ice skating used in hockey are very similar because rollerblading originated from ice skating. That’s why a lot of the moves are almost identical. The primary difference is the riding surface. Ice is a tricky platform, so ice skating is slightly harder than rollerblading.
Most people are not able to directly jump on ice skates and perform well. That’s why many start by learning how to use rollerblades first. After learning rollerblading, it becomes very easy to transition to ice.
On top of that, you can rollerblade all the time without worrying about the seasons. As a hockey player you probably think that the limited time-frame on ice is a prominent obstacle for everyone. A lot of smart players work around it by practicing their skills on rollerblades instead of waiting for the winter.
I’ll admit there are some downsides to practicing on rollerblades. People find it hard to let go of the bad habits and form they pick up while riding on them. However, it can be easily avoided if you practice while consciously checking your form.
3 Ways Rollerblades Benefit Hockey players
I explained why a lot of amateurs and pros alike use rollerblades to practice ice hockey. That way, they get all-year training time. They can stay in shape through rollerblading. Now let’s talk about exactly what sort of benefits they get in terms of skills.
1. Improves a Player’s Overall Balance
Rollerblading is all about proper weight distribution. You have to balance yourself on the wheels while moving. The same principle applies to hockey skates, so your gains will transfer from rollerblades to hockey skates.
Rollerblades are not slippery like hockey skates on ice, as such, it is much easier for beginners to try out and practice tricky moves on rollerblades first. Since rollerblades give much better balance, you could execute some fairly advanced hockey skills.
Balance is tied to every aspect of hockey. Mobility and hand controls are nothing if you can’t hold your ground. The balance will improve your pluck control, shooting, passing, and dodging. And a good way of improving this attribute would be rollerblading.
2. It Gives Better Leg Control
Hockey player’s greatest assets are the legs. Legs determine how fast a skater can skate and how much they can maneuver. A hockey player’s strength, speed, agility, and maneuverability all depend on the legs.
You could try all sorts of leg workouts you want, but they usually won’t help you on ice. The ice is a completely different surface, and the best way to improve your synergy with that environment is by practicing on it repeatedly.
However, ice doesn’t stay there all year round. So you can’t get any real progress by normal means. That’s where rollerblades come in handy. Since they work exactly the same way as hockey skates do on the ice, you can do many different drills, even during warm weather.
Rollerblading targets the lower body, and it helps develop your legs. If you continue to practice with rollerblades you can easily gain stronger legs. Your handling would improve a lot too and you will be a lot more agile.
3. Helps Develop Ground-Awareness
Ground awareness is a crucial factor in hockey. You need to be able to move around the court while you play with confidence. You also need to know the shortest and most efficient ways of moving in certain places.
You need to be so confident with your movements that it needs to become second nature. People who play other sports are also familiar with this theory. They also practice in their fields for extended periods to develop this instinctive awareness.
Sadly, ice hockey players do not get their field all the time, especially in some European countries with short winters. The ideal condition for ice hockey doesn’t last long. That’s why many players adopt rollerblading to develop their experience in the field.
The benefits of rollerblading aren’t there. Hockey is a sport that allows the player greater flexibility in terms of what they want to do in the off-season. Many slack off and get out of shape because they don’t particularly like any other sport.
Rollerblading can keep you in shape and increase all your physical attributes. You even get to continue most of your ice hockey drills.
Lastly, rollerblading is fun. If you feel bored after training specific drills for a long time, you can take a stroll down the road on your wheels. A little recreation does wonders for mindset. So, having something fun to do while you train can be a blessing. It will boost your overall performance and help cheer you up. I would consider that a benefit in and of itself.
When Should You Practice Hockey Using Rollerblading?
The answer is anytime ice is taken out of your rink. You need to understand that practicing on ice in a proper rink is the best place you can develop your hockey skills. If your rink is still open and you have access to it, then take a stick and a pluck and get out there. It would be even better if you can bring some mates with you.
As I mentioned before, winter doesn’t last that long in most countries. Chances are your rink will be dry for at least half a year. Most sportsmen constantly practice their skills to stay in shape, but you can’t rightly do that with ice hockey. Most folks don’t have expensive set-ups like ice revolution tiles.
Your best bet is to keep going with rollerblades during the warm seasons. Pay special attention to summer. Summer is a crucial time for developing a sports team’s strength. Most other sports out there use summer as a stepping stone. With the long breaks from study, it’s not unnatural for teams to set up summer camps.
Sadly, most ice hockey players can’t utilize this time as well because of obvious reasons. So, the second-best option is to practice continuously with rollerblades. Get into a rollerblade hockey team if you have to. Every bit of experience you can gather with a puck and stick goes a long way towards developing your overall skill level.
Rollerblade Drills for Hockey
I mentioned earlier that you need to train with rollerblades by doing specific kinds of drills; if you want to improve your hockey skills. That’s because ice skating and rollerblading are different things. They may share common attributes, but on a technical level, they have distinguishing differences.
The differences are subtle, but they can affect your performance both positively and negatively. That’s why many coaches will advise you to stay away from rollerblades. I’ve seen this more in amateur leagues where kids don’t yet understand all the technical stuff.
The coaches forbid them from going near rollerblades during the off-seasons. I suppose it’s a good incentive on the coach’s part because if you aren’t doing it right, then rollerblading can ruin your form.
Since they can’t guide the kids during the off-season, they should avoid using rollerblades altogether. However, I’ll outline some drills that will improve your performance on the rink significantly.
Low Stand Shuffle Front Stride
The goal of this drill is to improve your movement. Find a suitable space and put your rollerblading gear on. You want to crouch down as low as you can while standing on the rollerblades. Then shuffle your weight between your feet and move forward.
You want to try and go as fast as you can while maintaining a set rhythm. You can’t take your feet off the ground either. This drill is designed to improve your speed by fortifying your balance. If you take your feet off the ground, it might give you more speed. But that will eventually develop into a bad habit for when you get on the ice rink.
Even though you are riding on rollerblades, remember that you are ultimately training for the ice rink. So, try to mimic the movement of ice skates as much as you can. Get as low as you and bend your knees. Extend your leg as far out as you can.
A bonus tip for this drill, try to get from one end out your street to the other with the least number of strides possible. That’ll help you keep your form right and make things a bit more interesting.
For this drill, go get your stick and puck. You will do the low stand shuffle just like before, but the difference now is that you will be moving your puck with you. You don’t need to do anything crazy with the puck, just keep it moving by alternating your stick.
You can’t move your feet off the ground for this drill either. It may sound easy but your puck will generate a lot more friction compared to the smooth rink. Try to be fast with both your hands and the feet.
Your hands need to move in the same rhythm as your feet, so this drill will both increase your hand speed and leg speed. Since you have to sync the movement of all four limbs, it will significantly boost your coordination.
Long stride puck handling
This drill works almost the same way as the previous one but in the opposite direction. For this one, you need to lean to the sides and take nice long strides while moving the tip of your stick in the opposite direction.
You are going to try and move forward as fast as you can while moving the puck all the way from far left to far right. Lean in the direction of the puck while extending the opposite leg for a full stride.
When you first try this, you might not be able to move the puck around smoothly all the time, and that’s ok. Take it slowly till you get the hang of it. Once you can comfortably do it, try to extend the stick even more while separating your opposite foot even further.
Puck Recovery drill
You can’t practice battle on your own, but you sure as hell can practice puck recovery. And you don’t even need to be on a rink to do that. As long as your practice surface is smooth enough and you have your stick and puck with you, you can do this drill any time.
To start it off, you need to take full strides and move forward like the previous drill, but after every stride, let the puck go between your legs. If this happened in a real game, most novices would watch the puck get away behind them, unable to do anything.
But you will gently tap the puck with the heels of your rollerblades and bring it back up to your stick. Then move another step and let it go again. Keep repeating the process and try to increase your speed gradually.
Once you get the hang of it, you can move it a step further and try to move two pucks forward at the same time. It’s a lot harder to do with two pucks, but I guarantee that you will have much better puck control once you learn to do this.
You can practice backward strides pretty easily with rollerblades. Bend your knees nice and good, and pump out with one foot. Extend that foot as far out as you can. Doing a little toe flick would help add a bit more power behind each push.
A good way to know if your form is right is to check your butt. If your butt is wiggling too much, then you aren’t doing it right. Try to keep it at the center while bending one knee and pushing out from the opposite one.
You don’t need to worry about your hands in this drill; just keep them tucked up under your chest.
Drawbacks of Rollerblading for Hockey Players
Rollerblades are a reliable way for hockey players to practice during the off-season, but it does have a few drawbacks. Rollerblading on asphalt has its own dynamics. Rollerbladers can do some crazy stuff by balancing on wheels and using the speed to do nifty tricks.
As a hockey player, you are not trying to do any of those things. It might seem easier for you to pull your feet off the ground a lot because it makes controlling rollerblades much easier. You might find it fun to put way too much pressure on your toes to reach higher. And it may seem like you’re going faster with smaller strides.
You need to avoid doing any of those things. If you are practicing for hockey specifically, then try to imagine yourself back at the rick. And try to synergize your rollerblade moves with that of your ice skates. If you don’t, you will develop bad habits that can be troublesome to break once you get back on ice.
Even if you practice carefully, you will find it very weird to skate on the ice again once the rinks open again. Rollerblades do not have edges, so you might need to get the hang of using the inner and outer edge again.
Thankfully, you can reintroduce yourself to the rink fairly quickly. Skating is like riding a bike. It may feel odd trying out a different bike after a long time, but the skill never leaves you. At most you would need one or two weeks of edge drills and other maneuvering drills on the rink to get your groove back.
So, don’t worry too much about people who keep insisting that rollerblading is bad for hockey. It’s only a minor adjustment issue, and it is way outweighed by all the skills you gained while practicing on the rollerblades.
As you can see, rollerblading can help hockey players to practice whole year round. And that itself is a reason why rollerblading can be so helpful to hockey players. Sure, it has its drawbacks but it’s better than not practicing at all. After reading this article I hope you are aware of the various ways rollerblading helps with hockey.
Thanks for reading till the end. Have a great day.