NHL players are some of the fastest skaters in professional sports. With sharp blades on their feet, these athletes can reach astonishing speeds on the ice. But just how fast can they go?
The speed at which NHL players skate is a topic of fascination for fans and analysts alike. It’s not uncommon to hear broadcasters and commentators marveling at the sheer quickness of a player as they streak up the ice.
“Skating ability is one of the key factors that separates great NHL players from good ones,” says hockey analyst Jack Edwards. “The best players have an almost supernatural ability to move across the ice.”
Knowing how fast NHL players skate can provide valuable insights into the game. For example, if you know that a particular player is capable of reaching top speeds of 30 miles per hour, you might be able to predict when and where they’ll make certain plays on the ice.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the subject of NHL skating speed. We’ll explore some of the tactics players use to increase their velocity, examine the benchmarks for different positions, and reveal some surprising facts about the fastest skaters in league history. So strap on your skates and get ready to hit the ice!
Top Speeds: How Fast Can NHL Players Skate?
The National Hockey League is known for its high-speed action, with players skating up and down the ice at incredible speeds. But just how fast can NHL players really skate? Let’s take a closer look.
The Importance of Speed in NHL
Speed is an essential element of any successful NHL player’s game. The ability to move quickly and efficiently around the ice allows players to create scoring opportunities, break up opposing rushes, and generally control the pace of play.
According to former NHL forward Brendan Morrison, “speed is incredibly important in today’s NHL. It gives you the ability to get into areas quicker than other guys, jump on loose pucks, win races, things like that which are so vital.”
The Fastest Skater Competition at NHL All-Star Game
One way to gauge the top speeds of NHL players is by looking at the annual fastest skater competition held during the NHL All-Star Game weekend. This event pits some of the league’s speediest players against each other in a race around the rink.
“It’s an exciting challenge,” says current St. Louis Blues forward Ryan O’Reilly, who won the 2020 competition. “Obviously we’re all competitive guys, we want to go out there and give it our best.”
While not a perfect measure of a player’s overall speed, the fastest skater competition provides a good snapshot of some of the most impressive skaters in the league. Winners in recent years have included Connor McDavid, Dylan Larkin, and Kendall Coyne Schofield (the latter beating out several male competitors).
The Impact of Speed on Player Performance
Aside from creating highlight-reel moments during the fastest skater competition, speed has a very real impact on player performance throughout an NHL game.
For example, faster players are typically able to generate more scoring chances for themselves and their teammates. They’re also better equipped to backcheck and defend against opposing rushes, as they can close gaps more quickly and disrupt plays before they develop.
“Speed is something that you can’t really teach,” says Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe. “It’s such a valuable asset though, particularly in today’s game where everything is so structured and systematic. You need guys with pace to break through those structures.”
It’s clear that top speeds are an important component of success in the NHL. Whether through the annual fastest skater competition or on the ice during regular gameplay, being one of the league’s fastest players can help elevate a player’s game to the next level.
Records: What is the Fastest Speed an NHL Player Has Ever Skated?
The NHL players are known for their impressive speed and agility on the ice. One of the most common questions among hockey enthusiasts is “how fast do NHL players skate?” It’s a great question, and one that has been answered by several record-breaking performances throughout history.
Current Record Holder and Speed Achieved
In January 2020, Connor McDavid set the current record for the fastest skater in the NHL All-Star Game Skills Competition. McDavid blazed around the rink at a mind-boggling top speed of 42.797 kilometers per hour (26.588 miles per hour). This was not McDavid’s first victory as he has won his third consecutive fastest skater competition title when he broke Dylan Larkin’s previous record which is discussed below.
Previous Record Holders and Speed Achieved
Dylan Larkin had held the previous record since 2016 when he completed a lap around the rink with a time of 13.172 seconds during the NHL All-Star Game Skills Competition. The record was broken by Connor McDavid in three years after Dylan Larkin created it in 2015-16 season.
Before Dylan Larkin, Mike Gartner previously held the record for nearly two decades who achieved 36.0 km/h (22.371 mph) during the 1996 NHL All-Star Game, which stood for over 18 years until Håkan Loob attempted to break it.
The Evolution of Skating Speed in the NHL
The speed of skating has evolved significantly over the course of NHL history. Back in the earlier days, such as in the 1920s and 1930s, the average NHL player skated at a speed of around 20 km/h. Very few players were recorded to skate with speeds that surpassed this figure.
By the turn of the millennium, players had become faster due to advancements in technology and training techniques. Today’s fastest players are able to reach speeds upwards of 40 km/h. The evolution has helped create more energy and excitement around not just events like All-Star Game but regular season play too.
“There is no denying the effect technology has played on hockey sports,” said Eric Lesser – skating coach for Frozen Ropes Training Center.” Better-quality ice surfaces, improvements in fitness levels, from both an individual and team perspective have allowed for athletes to move even faster across the rink than ever before.”
Connor McDavid currently holds the record for the fastest NHL player after achieving a top speed of 42.797 kilometers per hour during the 2020 All-Star Skills Competition. However, it is worth noting that other incredible skaters like Dylan Larkin and Mike Gartner have held the record previously. Overall, the sport of hockey has seen continuous improvement over the years as speeds keep reaching new heights due to better skills, technology, and improved fitness regimens.
Factors: What Affects a Player’s Skating Speed in NHL?
Player’s Physical Attributes and Genetics
The speed of a player’s skating in the National Hockey League (NHL) can be greatly influenced by their physical attributes and genetics.
A player’s height, weight, muscle mass, body composition, and overall fitness level play fundamental roles in how fast they can skate. Naturally, players who are taller and weigh less than others have an advantage due to their longer strides and reduced drag. Additionally, those with lower body fat percentages tend to have more explosive power, allowing them to generate higher speeds over shorter distances.
But what truly gives some hockey players a considerable edge is their genetic makeup. Studies have shown that there are certain genes responsible for producing fast-twitch muscle fibers required for quick bursts of acceleration, which help skaters achieve top-end speed on the ice. Players naturally gifted with these genes have an innate ability to shift from a slower stride to lightning-fast sprints and change directions rapidly.
“Every player possesses different abilities,” says Barry Karn, Founder and President of Athletics International. “However, research has repeatedly demonstrated the importance of good strength, power, flexibility, technique and agility performance to produce high skating velocities.”
Skates, Blades, and Equipment
When it comes to getting around the rink quickly, having the right equipment is paramount.
Perhaps the most crucial pieces of equipment are a player’s skates and blades. The type of boot, blade radius, and hollow profile impact a skater’s edgework, balance, maneuverability, and speed significantly. Different types of blades provide varied levels of bite or slide depending on the angle and velocity at which pressure is applied, so individual preference plays a big role in the decisions players make regarding their equipment.
Uniformity in skate sharpening is also vital as a difference in blade sharpness can result in an imbalance between turns and straightaways, which will ultimately slow skaters down. Therefore, some NHL teams have introduced precision grinding machines that ensure consistency in blade sharpening for all of their players.
“Blade stiffness and performance are important considerations,” says Jon Tabata, who invented the skate-blade contouring machine.”Not every high-performance blade on the market works for everybody. By matching the right components according to weight, playing style, and position requirements, players can achieve significant improvements.”
Ice Conditions and Temperature
The temperature of the ice affects speed because it determines the hardness or softness of the surface and therefore how easily players can dig into it with their blades. Colder temperatures cause the water content of the ice to freeze solid, producing harder, slicker surfaces, whereas warmer conditions produce softer ice that slows players down.
A well-maintained rink yields faster skating times than a poorly maintained one due to variations in texture and depth throughout the surface. Uneven ice leads to inconsistent stride patterns, putting more effort on pushing off and increasing energy demand while reducing velocity.
Certain factors such as humidity, air movement, and arena location also play roles in determining ideal ice quality. For instance, arenas in tropical climates may face particular difficulties in hosting hockey games since maintaining low ice temperatures can be challenging. Such matchups may require additional standby compressors and temporary chiller systems to keep the ice from melting during gameplay.
“Temperature control and humidity maintenance have always played major roles in creating optimum skating environments,” says Don Moffatt, Ice Arena Manager at the University of Delaware. “We take great care in monitoring these factors year-round, whether through our rink refrigeration systems or humidity regulation tools.”
The factors that impact how fast NHL players skate are complex and often interconnecting. Some of these variables can be controlled while others cannot. However, with an understanding of these elements, players at all skill levels can take steps to increase their speed on the ice.
Training: How Do NHL Players Train to Skate So Fast?
Off-Ice Training Regimens
NHL players are some of the fastest skaters in the world, but their speed doesn’t just come from natural talent. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to develop the strength and endurance required for elite-level skating. That’s why off-ice training regimens are such an important part of every player’s routine.
One key component of off-ice training is strength training. This includes exercises like squats, lunges, and deadlifts, which help build leg muscles that are essential for powerful strides on the ice. Core and upper body exercises are also incorporated to improve balance and stability while skating.
Another crucial aspect of off-ice training is conditioning. Hockey games can last upwards of 60 minutes, so players need to have the stamina to keep up with intense play for extended periods of time. Endurance workouts like running, cycling, and circuit training help players maintain their energy levels throughout the game.
“To be successful in today’s NHL, you need both power and speed, and that comes down to having a really well-rounded training regimen,” says fitness coach Matt Nichol.
On-Ice Drills and Practice Techniques
Off-ice training can only take a player so far when it comes to developing skating skills. To truly master the art of fast and efficient skating, on-ice drills and practice techniques are essential.
One commonly used technique is edge work, which involves manipulating the edges of the skate blade to change direction quickly and efficiently. Skaters will often perform drills involving crossovers, tight turns, and transitions between forward and backward skating to hone their edge work skills.
Speed drills are another crucial part of on-ice training. These exercises focus on improving a player’s ability to accelerate quickly and maintain top speed over short distances. Sprints, interval skating, and agility drills are all commonly used for this purpose.
“The best skaters in the game understand the importance of constant practice when it comes to developing their skills,” says NHL veteran and skating coach Dwayne Blais.
Finally, there is no substitute for actual game experience when it comes to developing elite-level skating abilities. Playing in games allows players to refine their instincts, read plays more effectively, and learn how to adjust their skating techniques in different situations.
NHL players develop their fast skating abilities through a combination of off-ice training regimens and on-ice drills and practice techniques. Strength training and conditioning help build the muscles and stamina needed for powerful and enduring skating performances. Meanwhile, edge work, speed drills, and game experience all contribute to the development of efficient and effective skating techniques that allow players to reach their full potential on the ice.
Comparison: How Does NHL Skating Speed Compare to Other Sports?
Comparison to Speed Skating and Short Track Speed Skating
NHL players are known for their exceptional speed on the ice, but how does it compare to other forms of skating? When compared to speed skating and short track speed skating, which both involve athletes racing around a timed track, it’s important to note that while NHL skaters may be faster in terms of straight-line speed, they can’t match the agility and technical skill required for speed skating.
“In speed skating, there’s no comparison. They need to lean into corners at up to 40 degrees, picking up incredible speeds – every four years during Olympics you see just how fast these guys skate.” -NHL analyst Jamie McLennan
Comparison to Other Fast-Paced Sports like Football and Basketball
In terms of overall speed, NHL players are some of the fastest athletes in team sports. This is evident when comparing their top recorded speeds to those in football and basketball. While the NFL boasts some of the fastest players in professional sports (with a few reaching speeds of over 22 mph), it’s important to remember that hockey rinks are significantly smaller than football fields. NBA players also exhibit impressive speed with records showing players hitting over 20 mph, but again, with the smaller playing surface and added equipment, this doesn’t necessarily translate to being faster than NHL players.
“In hockey, not only do you have to be fast, you have to change directions really quickly, so the acceleration component of stopping and starting and changing direction is far greater in hockey than it would be in most other sports.” -Dr. Jeff Leiter, University of Waterloo Kinesiology Professor
Comparison to Non-Team Sports like Running and Swimming
When comparing the speed of NHL skaters to individual, non-team sports like running and swimming, it’s important to consider the added challenge of their equipment. Hockey players wear heavy gear which can add an extra layer of difficulty in achieving maximum speed. Though NHL skating speed might not reach world record-breaking marks set in events such as sprinting or high-level swimming, elite level hockey players are still incredibly fast when compared to the average person.
“Professional ice hockey players put up speeds between 20-30 km/h (12-19 mph) while the best athletes in other sports tend to crack out over 34-40 km/h.” -The Sports Bounce
Comparison to Speed Records in Recent Olympic Games
The Olympic games serve as a benchmark for sporting records worldwide, so how do NHL players fare when matched against some of the fastest Olympians? The answer is mixed. In the Sochi 2014 Olympics, Russian forward Ivan Barbashev recorded a top-speed of 29.97 mph/48.2 kph during the tournament. While this is faster than most players typically skate in league play, it doesn’t match the record speeds seen at the Olympics for sports such as bobsled or downhill skiing.
“Hockey demands so much more from your skating. It’s hard to compare with anything else because you’re adding sticks, pucks, opponent checking into the equation” -NHL analyst Jamie McLennan
Frequently Asked Questions
How fast can NHL players skate?
NHL players are some of the fastest athletes in the world, with top speeds reaching over 30 miles per hour. Skating speed is crucial in the game of hockey, allowing players to create scoring opportunities and evade opponents. While some players may have a natural ability to skate fast, others work tirelessly to improve their speed through training and technique.
What is the average speed of an NHL player on the ice?
The average speed of an NHL player on the ice varies depending on the position they play and the situation in the game. However, it is estimated that the average skating speed of an NHL player is around 20 miles per hour. This speed is maintained for short bursts throughout the game, with players reaching their maximum speeds during breakaways or when chasing down loose pucks.
What is the fastest recorded speed of an NHL player?
The fastest recorded speed of an NHL player is currently held by Dylan Larkin of the Detroit Red Wings, who clocked in at 22.44 miles per hour during the 2016 NHL All-Star Game. However, it is important to note that this speed was achieved in a straight line and does not necessarily reflect a player’s overall skating ability or agility on the ice.
How do NHL players improve their skating speed?
NHL players improve their skating speed through a variety of methods, including on-ice drills, off-ice training, and proper technique. Skating drills that focus on explosiveness and quickness help players increase their speed and agility, while strength and conditioning exercises improve overall power and endurance. Proper technique, such as maintaining a low center of gravity and using proper stride mechanics, can also greatly enhance a player’s skating speed.
What impact does a player’s skating speed have on their performance?
A player’s skating speed has a significant impact on their performance, as it allows them to create scoring opportunities, win races to loose pucks, and outmaneuver opponents. Skating speed is also crucial in defensive situations, allowing players to close gaps and prevent opposing players from scoring. Overall, a player’s skating speed is a major factor in their ability to succeed in the fast-paced game of hockey.
How does the speed of NHL players compare to other professional sports?
The speed of NHL players is comparable to other professional sports, such as soccer and football. However, the nature of the game of hockey requires players to constantly move and change direction on a smaller playing surface, making their speed and agility even more impressive. Additionally, the use of skates allows NHL players to reach higher speeds than athletes in other sports who rely solely on their feet.