Andy & Diane Ness

Building an explosive start

By Diane Ness

Developing a great quick start takes power, quickness, explosiveness and a lot of practice. How does a skater become more explosive? There are certain on-ice drills that can help any skater improve just this. I will explain a few drills that will help any skater become more explosive.

First, we should start with the skater over by the boards making sure he/she starts a few feet away. The skater should then lean in to create the same angle that would take place when a skater is starting. One of the most important things a skater should remember is to turn their skates out so they are able to push against the ice. If their skates stay parallel, the skater will be pushing straight back on the flat of their blade, in a front to back running motion. This will not allow them to move forward. 

Explosiveness is created by force pushing against the ice to get the skater to move forward. Once a skater is in the proper position by the boards, he/she can drive the opposite knee up towards the boards. This will give the skater the idea of pushing the load skate against the ice while getting the other skate (foot) some distance. This simple step should be repeated using both the right and left skate.

My favorite drill in developing an explosive start is a drill we call the “net push.” One person will provide resistance against the net while the skater will try to push the net with 3-5 explosive steps. Again, making sure your feet are turned out so can apply force to the ice. If the feet are parallel the skater will “slip” while trying to move the net and end not being able to move it at all.

After 3-5 steps, the skater should stop, load his/her feet again, and execute another quick start. This should be repeated for about 4-5 continuous reps up the ice. This drill will really get the skaters tired so make sure they are recovered before the next set.


Finally, for younger skaters, anything to get them chasing something will give them the optimum body lean that we are looking for. That is why a simple game in which the coach drops his/her stick will force the skater to move out of their comfort zone. Not only do the kids love doing this, but we are also working on them getting their feet moving faster than they are used to. A coach can challenge the skater by backing up or having two skaters race each other to try to catch the stick. 

Diane Ness has been a full-time professional skating coach for over 35 years. She has coached both figure skaters and hockey players alike and is a former U.S. gold medalist in figure skating. She is the Director for the Pro Edge Power hockey camps and the Learn to Skate program at Highland Park Arena. Ness is the skating coach for the New Jersey Devils, the University of Minnesota men’s and women’s hockey teams and the U.S. Women’s Olympic Hockey Team. She has trained players in the NHL, AHL, NCAA, USHL and NAHL.