Inline Hockey and Ice Hockey

This question was raised to me just the other day ..... "If my child plays inline (roller) hockey will that effect the way he performs when playing ice hockey?" What a great question! After discussing it with them for a while I thought this was a topic that everyone on our HockeyTutor4u team could benefit from.

The core challenge a player will face when interchanging between inline and ice hockey will relate to their trust in their edges. This "trust" in their edges impacts the way the player will learn how to control their balance, change direction and ultimately leads to certain tendencies in the way they play the game of hockey.

Let's look a bit deeper at the need for balance. In either form of the sport, balance is required. Balance enables a player to:

  • Stabilize themselves on their feet
  • Move around the playing surface
  • Control the puck with their stick
When balance is not under control, a player's ability to perform any one of these activities is reduced. This will impact the other skills when trying to perform them together.

Trying to balance on a rubber wheel compared to balancing on a double-edged skate blade leads to different ways of learning how to balance. On rubber wheels, a player understands that rubber slides when pushing off, so keeping their balance more centered will help them recover to their next stride. On blades, a player can dig their sharp blade edge into the ice therefore they can move their balance farther forward from center into their next skate's stride. If a player begins learning how to balance on wheels and they switch to blades, their tendency is to not lean as much when pushing off which reduces their potential for generating speed on the ice. Likewise, if a player begins learning how to balance on blades and switches to wheels, their tendency will be to push harder and lean farther forward most likely leading to a lot of sliding feet and/or falling.

Now let's look at how a player reacts when there is a redirection of play. For a player that learns on blades they are taught how to stop suddenly (digging their edges into the ice) and then take off in the opposite direction. Their sharp edges enable them to quickly redirect their body to shift momentum in the opposite direction and accelerate forward. Players who learned on wheels do not have that advantage and instead leverage the motion of the wheels to make a curving (or looping) maneuver crossing over to pick up speed to go in the opposite direction. When a player switches from wheels to blades, the tendency to make the curving maneuver becomes visible, resulting in the player becoming out of position more often and they end up behind the play trying to catch up. Likewise, a player trying to stop on wheels like they stop on blades will find themselves sliding and not being able to accelerate like the other players on wheels who are keeping their momentum moving with the play.

With all that said though, here are several key interchangeable aspects that a player will utilize in both forms of hockey:

  • Stick handling work is interchangeable and does not differ much between inline or ice hockey. The only difference is the weight of the puck or use of a ball verses a puck however this is a minor difference that is usually easily overcome.
  • Heads up play using Peripheral vision is necessary in both inline or ice hockey. The pace of the game moves fast and the ability to play heads up hockey and see more of the rink can be interchanged between both.
  • Cross overs & Curving form is another interchangeable skill. Although the balance element will limit how much a player leans into a cross over or a curve glide, the way in which a player's body needs to move is fundamentally similar. If a player can cross over in one form, they typically can pick up crossing over in the other form quickly.
In the end, both forms of hockey are great activities with strong benefits for interchangeable skillsets. The key to moving from playing hockey on wheels to playing hockey on blades (or visa versa) is learning the difference of edge usage and balance management. When a player switches skating forms, they need to mentally overcome their tendencies of one style and actively practice the correct approach for the other style. With the right focus and desire to get out there (in either form of the game), the stronger the hockey player they will become.

Good luck and keep them practicing the way they want to perform in a game!