Monday, January 18, 2010

Hockey stops and my f-----g dumb right foot

One of the more frustrating parts of learning to play hockey has been dealing with my extremely stubborn right foot when it comes to hockey stops. At various times I've threatened to actually saw it off, the only thing stopping me being the great amount of pain and mess that would involve.

The problem is this: On solid ground, I'm right-handed and right-footed. But on the ice, my left foot appears to be more dominant, particularly when it comes to stopping. I've been able to do a rudimentary hockey stop with my left foot on the outside since early last summer.

And the right foot -- well, not really. I've been able to kind of stop with it, but not the kind of stop I would ever use (or could use) during a scrimmage.

As a result, it's something I've had to work around and it's been a really, really big pain in the ass, the reason I suggest you watch the above video if you're in the same boat. It's a little rude to ask opponents and teammates for the action to only unfold to my right and I doubt they'd go along with it. It also impacts a lot of everyday type of moves you make on the ice.

I know, I know. I should have dealt with this months ago. But I've been busy learning other things and I tend to look past skating fundamentals when it comes to stick time because life-with-puck involves so many other things to learn.

Well, some good news. A few putrid performances in some recent drills (well, more putrid than normal) led me to decide it's time for the right foot to get with the program.

And progress has been good. Not great. But I'm getting there.

The impetus actually came from one of the coaches at my Wednesday night clinic in Pasadena. I was doodling around with something that loosely resembles a slapshot and the coach made a couple of suggestions along with this helpful tip: "now do it 1,000 times."

In other words, do it until you stop thinking about it. I was impressed, too, that this coach somehow knew that just about anything that I think about gets completely fucked up as a result. It's always best not to think or to follow the wisdom of George Castanza: just do the opposite of what you want to do.

In any case, I was at a public skate the other day and started ruminating on what I was doing wrong that made me right-footed hockey stops so miserable. It didn't take long. The problem was that I was allowing the inside edge on my right skate to drop to such a severe angle that when I turned my foot, I couldn't scrape the ice.

The correction was relatively easy. The key seems to involve keeping the bottom of right skate relatively flat for a long while as I turn my skate sideways. If the bottom of the skate is flat, I can then get a nice push with my right leg that results in a scrape across the ice and a stop.

I still can't do it going as fast as I can with my left skate. But I spent 90 minutes at Pickwick on Saturday afternoon, basically just taking a few strides and then stopping with my right-foot on the outside. A thing of beauty it was not, but I was scraping the ice, creating some snow and stopping without toppling over.

I think I got up to about 350 times before the session ended. Another 650 to go. If you have any other helpful hints for me or readers, please leave a comment.

--Steve Hymon


  1. I have the exact same problem and at 45 this old dog's new tricks are learned very slowly.

    One very helpful piece of the video was to keep a wider stance during the stop. When I was getting skating lessons, they taught the figure skater turn/stop which involves feet together. I think I might still be doing that a bit -- see also Old Dog, New Tricks...

    Also practicing it 1,000 times seems to be the consensus. There are very few, if any, shortcuts.