EDMONTON - In Edmonton minor hockey circles, a few names are gold when it comes to training players. High on that list is Steffany Hanlen’s Quantum Speed program.
Quantum trains everyone from nine-year-olds to NHLers. It gets glowing testimonials from players like Montreal Canadiens forward Brendan Gallagher. Hanlen’s program has also helped train two NHL skating coaches, David Pelletier of the Edmonton Oilers and Barb Underhill of the Maple Leafs.
As a youth, Hanlen was a figure skater and hockey player. She got into the business 30 years ago after her brother was drafted into the Western Hockey League. She watched his tryouts and was appalled by the poor skating of the players.
In 1981, she convinced the Okanagan Hockey School to hire her as a skating instructor. She kept improving her expertise and, in 1991, persuaded Oilers general manager Glen Sather to hire her as the team’s strength, conditioning and skating coach.
A lot of the pro players at that time had been told their skating would never change because they were adult pros, but Hanlen realized if she could get the players to try new drills and ideas, they could improve.
“At one point I had (former Oilers winger) Georges Laraque doing break dancing in the corner. I couldn’t get him to move his hips properly in his skating stride so we’re down in the corner one day … and I say, ‘You’re going to show me how you dance. Show me how you are in the bar. Show me how you move your ass and your hips. I need to see how you move, because this is ridiculous. You got to skate like you move. You got to play big. You’re a big guy. You got to skate big. You’ve got to use everything that you have.’ ”
Hanlen started up Quantum Speed in 2003 so she could train other instructors to do exactly what she does on the ice with player development. She made her top pupil, University of Alberta Pandas player Vanessa Hettinger, the head instructor, then promoted her to general manager. Quantum now has 30 instructors and teaches 2,000 player each year.
Professionalism and individual teaching of the players are the core of the Quantum approach. “That’s really all I had,” Hanlen says. “I wasn’t a celebrity. I wasn’t that good of a skater. I wasn’t even that nice of a person. But I knew that I had a high, high value on professionalism and I wanted to make a difference.”
Quantum’s session are marked by one-on-one feedback from instructors, something that is lacking in some hockey programs. “A lot of what we do is repetition and we’re saying the same things all the time.” Hettinger says. “But one-on-one is an individual conversation every single time because people hear things differently, learn things differently … So it’s not only inherent that we’re talking to each player all the time, but it is also what makes what we do really fun, that connection and interaction with the individual.”
As for advice for young players, Hanlen says, “The first thing is get a pair of skates that fit … Your skates are your most important piece of equipment. We own Professional Skate Service and we are fanatical about skate fit, blade alignment. We can’t as skating coaches do our job if your tools aren’t awesome.”
Hanlen says a common problem with young players is the skates are too stiff, so the player can’t bend their ankle, knees and hips to generate power. These players end up skating too upright.
Players have to realize they don’t skate and generate power with their feet, but with their entire body, she says. “We actually have to get guys to stop skating with their feet, that slam, slam, slam, slam. The first thing we do is we correct that. Think about the lack of damage to the feet and ankles when they actually stop pounding their feet into the ice and they actually start moving from their centre. That’s why Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin and those guys look like they’re just floating. Their feet barely touch the ice because they’re moving so efficiently.”
The irony is that when you look at top Quantum Speed skaters, they don’t look like they’re working hard. In fact, they’re working smartly, smoothly, efficiently and moving near their peak speed. That’s the Quantum Speed trademark, so it’s little wonder the program gets excellent word-of-mouth reviews in Edmonton hockey circles.
Journal columnist David Staples is a regular contributor to the Cult of Hockey analytics blog