Sprint Performance in Elite Ice Hockey

Case StudiesLast Updated:

Study Information

Laakso, L. A., & Secomb, J. L. (2023). Skating sprint performance and the influence of lower-body strength and power in professional and junior elite ice hockey athletes. Sports Biomechanics, 1—12.



Despite known correlations between lower-body strength, power and skating sprint speed, it is unclear which specific components of skating sprint performance are most crucial for an athlete's development and progression through different competitive levels. This study aimed to bridge this gap by identifying key physical capacities influencing essential aspects of skating sprint performance, thereby enabling more focused and effective training strategies for ice hockey athletes at various levels of competition.

Methods and Key Findings

The study used quantitative assessments of lower-body strength, power and skate speed in professional and junior ice hockey athletes. Fifty-seven male ice hockey athletes from the Swiss National League (NL), Under 20 (U20) and Under 17 (U17) participated. Following a standardized warm-up, athletes performed three countermovement jumps (CMJ), squat jumps (SJ) and isometric mid-thigh pulls (IMTP) on a dual-system portable force plate (ForceDecks Lite, VALD Performance, Australia), sampling data at 1000 Hz. 

On-ice 30 m skating sprint testing was conducted approximately six hours before the initial assessments to allow adequate recovery. Athletes, equipped with their standard hockey gear, performed three sprints on a regulation ice hockey rink. Timing gates (SmartSpeed, VALD Performance, Australia) were used to measure split times over distances of 0—10 m, 10—20 m, 20—30 m and total time (0—30 m). The best time from the three reps was used for subsequent analysis. 

Linear mixed models, effect sizes and correlation matrices were used to analyze the effects of lower-body strength and power on skating sprint performance and compare results between athlete populations. Key results include: 

  1. The NL and U20 athletes showed significantly faster sprint times, greater lower-body strength and power compared to U17 athletes, suggesting a minimum standard of lower-body strength and power required for optimizing technical skating performance. 
  2. Significant differences were found between NL and U20 athletes in the 10—20 m skating sprint split times and some CMJ variables (concentric relative peak and mean force, and reactive strength index-modified), suggesting that the flying acceleration phase (10—20 m) is crucial for advancement through higher performance levels. 
  3. Given the high correlation between relative concentric force production and 10—20 m skate sprint performance, it may be an important metric to track longitudinally to develop national-level ice hockey athletes. 

VALD’s Solution

The study highlights how practitioners can use SmartSpeed and ForceDecks to help quantify changes in lower-body strength and power, and their influence on skating sprint performance, particularly in the critical 10—20 m acceleration phase. Additionally, tracking improvements in specific metrics like the 10—20 m split time and CMJ performance can help distinguish developing players from the elite.

VALD Hub enables practitioners the ability to see all physical performance data in one centralized platform. By integrating testing data from various technologies, VALD is one of the few companies providing systems to effectively measure and reliably track the impact of training on strength and power development, and their translation to on-ice skating sprint performance.