Backward Skating 

More often than not when we are at team practices or power skating sessions and we let the skaters know that the class lesson is backward skating we hear “yuck” or “oh no, not backwards”.  I simply explain to the skaters that if backward skating were easier than forward skating we would all be better backward skaters, and the vast majority of us, simply are not!

The technical aspect of backward skating is often overlooked at practices, and I feel not enough time is spent working on this important skating skill. We all need to be able to skate straight backward very fast.  It is important that all you forwards on the team learn to skate backwards, just as efficiently as the defensemen, to really improve your 2-way game. All players at some point in the game are placed in defensive situations. We are going to cover some basic points to remember and to continue working on in our backwards skating segment.

How to do it…

  • Try and skate backwards with your knees bent, head and eyes up, and back slightly arched as if you were just about ready to sit down on a chair or bench. I find getting the skaters in this position really helps them keep their full blades on the ice.
  • Keep your hips always square throughout the stride and glide
  • When the stride begins your feet should be close together. Your striding leg or thrusting leg should dig into the ice powerfully carving out a “C” with your inside edge pushing out to the side until your leg is fully extended and as far away from your body as possible. Have that knee on your thrusting leg lock and the toe of your inside edge pushing against the ice. 
  • Once that stride is completed, step to the opposite foot and lift the skate you have pushed with. Bend the knee of the free leg and pull it in towards the skating leg keeping your skate low to the ice. As the free foot comes in close to the skating foot start your stride with the opposite leg.
  • Make sure you push down on the ball of your foot so you are pushing off the front of the blade, using your ankle as well as your knee.
  • Remember that both the striding leg and gliding leg should have the full length of the blade in contact with the ice. Lifting up one or both of your heels will cause the body to pitch forward over your toe of your skate.
  • Remember to hold your stick with your top hand and keep the stick always on the ice in front of you. Just as in forward skating remember to keep your arms moving in rhythm with your legs.
  • Remember to keep your weight a little ahead of the middle of your blade when skating backwards.

Avoid these mistakes…

  • Don’t leave your feet spaced so far apart…. after each push you need to bring the striding leg back into recovery position to start the stride on the opposite leg.
  • Don’t let your shoulder sift from side to side… this takes the pressure off the striding leg causing it to slip and throw you off balance. I always say to my skaters “keep your shoulders parallel to the ice”. You really need to dig in on your striding leg.
  • Don’t rock to the back of your blade… when you’re skating backwards keep your weight on the balls of your feet. If too much weight goes to the back of your blade, they heel of your skate will dig into the ice and trip you. 
  • Don’t skate on straight legs… a stride is made by a bent leg that pushes out completely straight. You cannot straighten a leg if it is already straight.  Keep the seat of your pants near the ice so that every stride starts with your thrusting leg well bent.

Great exercise…

Hold your hockey stick up in front of you across your chest and have a teammate face you. Hold on to your stick palms down keeping the stick just below your chest.  Start skating backwards working on developing power with one leg striding and complete recovery of that striding leg, pulling your team mate along. Your team mate who is going forward should do a simple snowplow stop and be giving you enough resistance so that you are working really hard to keep that leg backward striding. Making sure you keep the full length of your blade down on the ice as you stride and recover. Remember to keep that striding leg fully extending as far away from your body as possible with a locked knee on each stride. Go back up the ice working on the opposite leg. You then continue striding backwards using both the right and left leg.  Once you have worked on this for a while try the backward strides on your own without any resistance. You must concentrate on staying low, and digging in just as powerfully as you needed to with the resistance. Remember to keep your chest, head, and eyes up while striding and keeping the seat of your pants down low to the ice. 

Until next time Scary Mary says I will see you at the rink…..    


Mary Giacalone “Scary Mary”

Head Instructor/Owner of Scary Skate Inc. @scary_skate