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Turning the corner

By Jack Blatherwick, Let's Play Hockey Columnist, 03/13/18, 10:15AM CDT


You’re not alone if you feel like a klutz cornering to the right.

Each dot represents two scores for one player.

Work at mastering corners with crossover strides by getting a good knee bend while pulling against resistance.

You’re not alone if you feel like a klutz (like me) cornering to the right.

Did you ever wonder if you’re the only one who struggles more doing crossover corners to the right (clockwise)?  Actually, you’re in the majority.  Furthermore, sprinters feel the same way you do, so it’s no accident that track meets are contested in the counterclockwise direction.

Why the graph? Well, the state tournament is such a great tradition that school is basically suspended throughout the state.  Principals let students out for simply showing a ticket, or maybe even a good story. To avoid math withdrawal syndrome, I thought it would be good to have a graph to study between periods. There’s nothing else to do, right?

We tested a team of the best professional skaters in hockey, cornering to the right and left behind the goal, then accelerating out of the corner to top speed in the neutral zone. We anticipated a slight difference, but amazingly, every player but one reached higher speeds after cornering to the left.  

Note: each player’s dot represents two scores, showing their top speed after cornering either to the right or left. Players who cornered slower to the right have dots on the graph above the 45-degree line.

Why is this? Is it a genetic characteristic? I don’t have that answer, because when we tested, I failed to ask the simple question: Is this related to the dominance of one leg (or arm) over the other? That was poor scientific inquiry by me. 

Every athletic movement has some genetic component, of course. We will never be as fast as Usain Bolt or as strong as Arnold, and we may not run marathons like the best in the world. But we can get a lot better.  

Mastering corners with crossover strides can be addressed in the usual way: get to work. Do thousands of reps on the ice. Use video and compare yourself to great skaters. Then add some off-ice drills as well. Do side crossovers with good knee bend up a steep hill or while pulling against resistance – a sled or training partner holding a cord.

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