Well, it looks like Spring in Michigan has arrived! (I sure hope I didn’t jinx us by saying that!) The regular hockey season is over, and hopefully the kids are engaging in some other sports. Spring and Summer are also the perfect time to work on your skating and “keep your legs” as they say in ice hockey. One of the easiest ways to do this is by training on the skating treadmill. You don’t have to buy ice (very expensive!) and the training is available 6 days/week at convenient times.

But what’s so great about the skating treadmill anyway? Well, by itself, the skating treadmill is just another piece of equipment. Like a set of weights, or a stationary bike, or a swimming pool, unless you add something to it, it won’t help you at all. What do I mean by “add something to it”? I think one of the best ways to understand how the skating treadmill produces noticeable results is to make the analogy of baking a cake. Let’s take a look at how training on the skating treadmill and baking a cake are one and the same-let’s “bake” a hockey player!!!

The main ingredient in any cake recipe is the flour, and the main ingredient in the All-N-Stride training program is the skating treadmill itself. If you put some flour in a bowl, and don’t add anything else to it, well, that’s all you have. Flour in a bowl. It is not a cake, and it certainly doesn’t taste very good. One needs to add some other ingredients to the flour to create a cake batter, like oil, sugar, eggs, vanilla, spices, etc., depending on what kind of cake one is making. The skating treadmill by itself is just “flour in the bowl”. By adding professional coaching, a progressive curriculum, a varied interval-based training protocol, and personalized attention to specific player needs, we start to incorporate the ingredients for IMPROVEMENT. Now we have an elite skater in the making, we have the hockey player batter!

But wait, while cake batter tastes pretty darn good, it is still not a cake. It is certainly nothing you would serve to guests or take to a family reunion! The cake batter needs to be put in the oven for 30-60 minutes at a certain temperature. Only then does the desired finished product appear. A cake!!!! YUM! Well, guess what, our hockey player batter needs to “bake” too. How do you bake hockey player batter??? PRACTICE!!! That’s right, think of the weeks, months, even years of practice as time in the oven. Athletes need to spend countless hours honing their skills. It takes a long time to be exceptional at anything, and skating is so specialized that it tends to take even longer than the other skill areas.

This is one of the common mistakes that parents and players often make-they take the cake out of the oven too soon before it is “done”. If your player only works on his skating a couple of weeks per year, or for a couple of years when he is younger, he/she will remain under-developed as a skater. The cake will be gooey in the middle!!!! If you’ve ever tried baking a cake, you know how frustrating it is to put all the work and effort into measuring the ingredients, and carefully following the recipe, only to end up with a finished product that isn’t that good.

I can tell you from my 20 years of personal experience with USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program (NTDP) that the players at that level have been practicing for A LONG TIME. Like since they were 3 or 4 years old! Not in a hit-or-miss, now-and then fashion. Regular, deliberate, focused practice. They’ve been “in the oven” a long time! And after 2 more years of intensive training at the NTDP, they come out as pretty good cakes = ready to play D1 College Hockey, and maybe even selected to play in the NHL (cakes with frosting!!!).

Hopefully this article has shed some light on the concept of specialized skating training. But more importantly, I hope you also now understand the difference between a PROGRAM like All-N-Stride or Kyle Gagneaus’ Performance Training, and a facility that happens to have a skating treadmill or gym in it. Remember that training tools are just flour in a bowl, it’s what/who that gets added to the tools that can make them special and worth your time, money, and effort. Let’s bake some NHL player cakes!!!!!