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Blackhawks in figure skates? ‘I’d probably end up killing myself’

Brandon Saad (right) and Jonathan Toews race up the ice during an Oct. 21 game in Arizona. (AP Photo)

Vinnie Hinostroza has been skating since before he can remember. But he’s never put on a figure skate. Not once.


“I’d probably end up killing myself,” he said.


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Hockey players, particularly in recent years, have become fanatical about skating technique. They spend as much time on edge work and power skating in the offseason as they do on stick-handling and weight training.

But while the Blackhawks have tremendous respect for the figure skaters and speedskaters at the Olympics, there’s not a whole lot they can learn from watching.

While it’s still a metal blade sliding across a layer of ice, there are significant differences in the equipment and the technique involved in hockey versus other on-ice disciplines. The biggest difference in figure skating is the toe pick — little spikes at the front end of the blade. In figure skating, it’s used for fancy footwork and taking off for big jumps.

A hockey stride, meanwhile, usually starts at the toe. And anyone who has seen the 1992 movie “The Cutting Edge” — about a hockey player who tries his hands, er, feet at pairs figure skating — knows what happens when you try that in a figure skate.

“I would eat it, for sure,” defenseman Connor Murphy said. “We push off the toe, and then we almost push down the toe and it hits the ice a little bit first before you hit your full foot on the ice. We’d be toe-picking every stride. I still think we should try it, though. You’d never be able to jump with [hockey] blades, so it’d be cool to see if some of these guys could do it.”

No thanks, Hinostroza said.

“I’ve heard of guys using rental skates with their girlfriends, and they just face-plant because of the spikes on the front,” he said. “I would never try figure skating. But I would try those speed skates, just for fun. I’d like to see how those skates feel.”

Speedskaters use “clap skates,” which operate on a hinge at the front, allowing the heel to detach from the blade. It allows for longer strides, because skaters don’t have to pick up their feet as often.

“It would feel weird, but I definitely want to try one,” Hinostroza said.

Hinostroza is the NHL’s version of a speedskater, able to generate tremendous acceleration and carry it through the neutral zone. But his speed comes from quick, powerful bursts, not the long, loping strides of long-track speedskaters.

“You would never hold your stride out that long or that wide in hockey,” Murphy said. “And you’d never swing your arms that long, or that slowly. I think the short-track speedskating is the most relatable for hockey players. It’s similar — the crossing over, where you stay low and your shoulders have to be stacked over your body. We’ve worked with power-skating instructors, and it’s actually similar to some of that stuff, and the angles that they’re taking.”

Like hockey players, short-track skaters often have to move quickly through heavy traffic. But nobody’s intentionally trying to hit them, nor do they have to carry sticks or try to handle a puck.

“They’re just skating forward,” defenseman Jan Rutta scoffed. “It’s very different. How many times are you actually skating just forward in hockey? Not very often.”

So while the Olympics have been on in the Hawks’ dressing room for the last couple of weeks, it’s mostly to watch hockey highlights and marvel at the snowboarding — another thing professional athletes might be good at in theory but not necessarily in practice.

“It’s kind of like skydiving, where you think you can do, it but then you probably get to the top of the hill and it’s a whole different story,” forward Jonathan Toews said. “Just letting go is probably half the battle. So it’s pretty scary. I imagine watching it on TV doesn’t do it justice.”

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