The Answer Is Obvious
Of Course Hockey Skills Can Be Taught
While the teaching and instruction of many other disciplines has been has been around; evolved and refined over the course of hundreds of years, the instruction and teaching of hockey skills is quite new. It really wasn’t taken seriously until the late 1960’s or early 1970’s.
First – Some History
When it comes to skating; there is evidence of gliding on ice dating back several thousand years, although true ice skating didn’t happen until advent of steel edges being used sometime in the 1300’s. The first recorded skating club; located in Edinburgh, Scotland, dates from about 1750 and was was some form of figure skating. When it comes to laying claim to being the “first” in anything, many like to make that claim. It’s probably accurate that The McGill University Club; recorded as founded in 1877, followed by The Quebec Hockey Club in 1778 and The Montreal Victorias in 1881, represent the birth of some form of organized ice hockey as we know it today.
I’m not certain when the first actual technical hockey skills instruction (beyond just a coach working his team) started, but as far as I’m aware the first in my area would have to be the so-called Dr. Yasha Smuskin. Smuskin who was an Olympic figure skating coach in the Soviet Union and immigrated first to the United States and then quickly came to Canada in 1975 when he established his “hockey school”.
Cometh The Hour – Cometh The Man
Prior to Yasha Smuskin’s arrival in Toronto, “real” hockey skills training was virtually non existent.
Dr. Yasha Smuskin was a character with a “personality”. He was in the right place at the right time (when parents had heard a bit of news about Russian hockey skills development) and were looking for something new. He was astute enough to exploit the opportunity and maximize (from a marketing point of view) his assets. He yelled at the students mostly playing to his audience of the parents who payed the the freight. He utilized his Russian accent and would wildly swing his hockey stick in the air when berating the students to the amusement of the parents. He used props like like spring boards over which the students would skate and jump and “carousels” to aid in crossover skating (which I believe actually helped in that particular skating element).
He was new and he was the man of the hour filling a huge pent up demand for development of hockey skills that parents were craving for to help further their hockey dreams for their hockey playing children. Word spread quickly and and the Smuskin hockey school grow at a phenomenal rate and had a good long run
A New Growth Industry Is Born
The success of Yasha Smuskin was noticed in the greater Toronto area and spawned a new growth industry of hockey schools. A whole pile of people jumped in to start a hockey school and this continues to the present day. There is no end to people willing to start any sort of hockey training facility and there is seemingly no end to the willingness of parents to pay for training that might give their hockey playing children an advantage to help their progress.
The Problem With Smuskin – (And His Ilk) – As I see It
Smuskin was and is a figure skater. I have never seen a figure skater do a routine with a hockey stick while handling a hockey puck. That would be something to behold in itself; however, how about doing all of that with someone (actually a number of people) on the ice not just getting in your way, but also trying to hit you and perfectly willing to take your head off in the process.
Early on, I sought out the help of some figure skating girls to become a better skater. They taught me basic figure skating edges drills (semicircles on inside edges going forward and backwards and transitions from one to the other) and this was definitely a help. For the most part edging and proper body position while doing edges is the same for both figure skating and hockey are the same. However as I said, in hockey your handling a puck and you better learn to keep your head up because there is are opponents ready to take your head off.
In addition to skating with a stuck while handling a puck, There are also some really huge differences in the demands to achieve top level performance in hockey and therefor quite different techniques are necessary for application of power to the ice in order to be successful. The demands for successful performance are different in figure skating and therefor figure skating has some very big differences.
The Answer Is Obvious
And More History To Follow
As I write about this topic I realize that it’s more substantial than I initially thought. I need to write more and continue with the history of the development of hockey schools and hockey specific skills training. We need to understand where we are; and part of that understanding requires the need to know how we got here.
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