How (and When) to Skate Backward in Hockey

Backward skating

Skating backward is one of the most challenging skills for a hockey player to develop. At the same time, it’s a critical skill for competing at the sport’s higher levels.

How to Skate Backward

If you’re just learning the skating basics of gliding backward, start slowly, and gradually gain confidence. Make sure you have the proper protective gear, which includes a helmet and pads, and a ‘skating pal’ to glide next to you as you learn.

To quickly gain confidence, you can try a couple of proven exercises:

  • First, place your hands on the boards, and simply push off gently, allowing yourself to glide backward; repeat this exercise until you feel solid.
  • Next, beginning with a balanced stance, execute a few backward “baby steps.”

In each exercise, don’t be concerned about how long you glide backward after pushing away from the boards or how many “baby steps” you take. At first, simply focus on maintaining your balance.

Turning around and skating backward could prove to be a bit intimidating in the beginning. But confidence is the key to developing and eventually mastering this skill.

How to Improve Your Backward Skating With the ‘C-Push’

The c-push is an important technique to practice. Perform it smoothly, and it will eventually help you skate backward faster.

Beginning with both knees bent, push backward, keeping one leg on the skate’s inside edge, gradually straightening it as you make a semi-circle or ‘C’ shape with the skate, and then start shifting your weight to the other leg. One knee should remain bent until all of your weight is transferred to the other leg. Practice on one leg at a time, and practice alternating from one leg to the other.

During the push-off, it’s vital to keep the glide in motion by maintaining a majority of your weight on the skating foot.

Keep the skating foot on the flat or barely on the outside edge so you don’t slow down or begin to pivot.

Additional Tips to Help Your Backward Skating Technique

  • Begin by keeping your toes together and heels about shoulder-width apart.
  • Keep your skates in front of or under your body, and get comfortable with the blade’s edge.
  • Remember, the more you bend your knees, the more speed you’ll be able to generate.

When to Skate Backward

If you play defense, the answer is, when are you not skating backward?

Blueliners need to know how to skate efficiently and control the puck while moving backward. They also must learn to pivot quickly and skate forward, before turning around again and again—forward and back, forward and back.

Mastering the technique of switching back and forth on the fly is vital to combat rushing opponents. By facing foes, defensemen will find themselves in a better position to limit the time and space for them to create a scoring chance via pass or shot.

Keeping control of the puck while skating backward is another tricky challenge. A lot of younger skaters tend to overhandle the puck instead of focusing on containing and protecting the puck before issuing a breakout pass.

Of the many available, one basic drill calls for a player to skate backward while puck-handling with both hands on the stick. As the player’s skills advance, they can practice using only the top hand gripping the stick while the bottom hand swings back and forth to gain acceleration.

Remember, if you can’t efficiently skate backward, it’ll be tough to go forward with the sport.

How to Skate Backward Crossovers

Vancouver Canucks rookie defenseman Quinn Hughes may be an elite skater, but even the No. 7 overall draft pick in the 2018 NHL Draft has, from time to time, gotten crossed up on backward crossovers. Everyone does.

To learn how to skate backward crossovers, start by refining your crossovers and c-cuts.

The first step to practicing crossovers is to maintain balance while standing still before moving laterally, placing one skate over the other. It’s a good way to become comfortable shifting your weight from the blade’s inside edge to its outside edge.

Work on c-cuts begins with getting into a hockey stance, with your weight evenly distributed. After laying the blade of the hockey stick on the ice for extra balance, push out with one heel, and with the skate’s blade remaining on the ice surface, reposition the foot back into the starting position. Repeat on the opposite leg and continue until you can accomplish this in a fluid motion.

So, you want to patrol the blue line? Great. First, learn how to ice skate backward efficiently, because defensemen spend nearly half the game that way.

Few can duplicate Hughes’ elite hockey skating skills, but with diligent work, skating backward will become as natural as skating forward.