Physics of Skating

Hockey players glide over the ice with a  speed an grace that becomes second nature. The following is a fun video depicting some basic skills of skating.

YouTube - ‪Hockey Powerskating Drills from Canada (part 1)‬‏

Skating Forward

The physics behind skating related to skates gliding over the ice while players push off the ice.

The properties of ice allows players to skate the way they do. Low friction allows for players to easily glide over the ice. Players can stop, turn, and speed up based on the properties of ice.

A player must push with a force perpendicular to the skate to get moving on the ice as the diagram shows here.

When the player starts to skate, they push with their rear skate with a force F. The player will lift or glide the forward skate then repeat process. The player can increase speed by increasing the angle alpha.

Skating Backwards

Skating backwards is common and becomes as second nature to hockey players. The basic pattern for skating backwards is a  s pattern as depicted here. The player is not pushing off the ice the same way as skating forward, and can not move as fast based on the lack of force.

But, the player gains the a dvantage of not having their back to another player!

Adapted from:

Other Interesting Facts:

  • The force a player can exert on the ice decreases the faster they go. More force can be exerted at rest and less force as they reach their maximum speed.
  • A player maintains balance by crouching forward. This counter acts the force of the movement on the ice by changing their center of gravity.

Application to Physics:

The third law of motion states: Whenever one object exerts a force on a second object, the second exerts an equal and opposite force on the first.

  • Newton's third law applied to hockey shows that when a skater pushes backwards on the skate the ice pushes them forward
  • Stopping is another way to demonstrate this principle when a player can come to a quick stop the blade is dug into the ice to create a small wall when cutting into the ice. The player will exert the force against the ice in a perpendicular fashion.

Adapted from           

                              If you have any questions, please email Melissa
or Tim.