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Q & A with Oilers Skating and Skills Coach Steve Serdachny

by Marc Ciampa / Edmonton Oilers
Steve Serdachny puts Tom Gilbert through the paces at training camp.
-photo by Andy Devlin

Edmonton Oilers Skating and Skills Coach Steve Serdachny just wrapped up the team’s prospects camp on Friday. Throughout the week, he worked closely with a number of top Oilers prospects, including Andrew Cogliano, Taylor Chorney, Theo Peckham and others on their on-ice skating and skills.

Serdachny has been teaching hockey skills and skating for over 23 years and throughout the year works with everyone in the Oilers organization from prospects to rookies to veterans. Following the conclusion of prospects camp, he took the time to speak with

Q: Can you talk about the importance of having a camp like this, bringing a number of the Oilers prospects together and to be able to work with them prior to their off-season workout programs?

A: Kevin Lowe, Mac-T, Scott (Howson) are really dedicated to player development. It’s a big commitment on the part of the Oilers organization to put a camp like this on and I think it’s a testament to player development and home growing our prospects from the ground up.

It’s a crucial thing for them to learn how to become pros, how to develop as players, to give them an opportunity and access to develop their skating and develop their skills – learn how to train both on the ice and off the ice for the summer.

It’s a critical camp for young players and a great camp that really allows them to set their programs and learn how to do things biomechanically and technique-wise the right way.

Q: What skills do you work on in the camp specifically – or does it vary from player to player?

A: I think each player has individual needs – certain players have strengths, certain players have weaknesses. What I try to do with the on-ice program is really develop their first-step speed, their quickness, their explosive acceleration, stride efficiency, multi-directional pivoting, dynamic balance, speed with the pucks.

We work a lot on developing proper biomechanics and technique of skating. When they’re moving to that next level, skating is everything. Skating is the game today with the rules structured the way they are. What I’m trying to do is teach them and train them in a way that they’ll develop into NHL players eventually.

We’re giving them the proper technique instruction but also the proper drill instruction and feedback they’ll need to become top-level players.

The camp also features advanced stickhandling techniques, explosive moves, shooting and goal scoring, passing – very advanced skill base.

We’re giving them specific training ideas and programs that they’re going to take home to their communities and they’re going to be able to practice. Rather than just playing shinny they’re going to have an opportunity to work on their skating and skill development.

I gave them a video program to follow from an on-ice perspective where they can actually watch and see what they need to focus and work on.

Q: At the end of the camp, you had one-on-one meetings with each player. In the meetings you talked about the results of some of the testing that was done earlier in the week. Can you talk about that process?

A: We did some baseline testing with them on Monday – 30 foot, 60 foot, 100 foot sprints, agility tests as well as speed with the puck tests. We used the SportsQuest timing system, which is a body mass laser-induced system so there’s no human error with a stopwatch.

The distances are standardized. The timing starts as they break the beams and the timing ends as they break the beams so there’s no human error involved – the score is the score.

This data is going to help us and help management and the coaches know where the players are right now and how they’ve trained over the summer. It’s going to give us an opportunity to re-evaluate them (at training camp), how they’ve improved and where they’ve gone.

It’s also great data for me to see where players are strong and where they’re weak. For example, the 30-foot sprints are an excellent indicator of explosive first-step speed so it tells me where a player is strong. Perhaps he needs to work on his first-step speed; perhaps he needs to work on his backwards acceleration or his speed with the puck.

Q: What are some of your duties with the Oilers during the season?

A: I’ve got a really great job, it’s working with professional athletes. My jobs are varied from running prospects camp to doing rookie camp and main training camp to Mac-T having me work with the D sometimes or working with the whole team. Also, working with our young prospects throughout the year in Wilkes-Barre and Stockton.

It’s a pretty diverse and dynamic job from working with the big team to prospects to our minor-league affiliates. It’s a rewarding job and it’s great to see players succeed and move to the next level.

I think of some of the young kids in our organization like Kyle Brodziak. He’s been working so hard. Skating’s been a knock on him but he had a great year – an MVP year – with Wilkes-Barre this past season. He got a few games up with the Oilers and I think he’s going to seriously challenge for a spot on the roster next year.

Then there’s the Tyler Spurgeons and Troy Bodies who worked their way from the east coast league and had some great seasons – they got a chance to play in the American Hockey League this season.

Q: Personally, what is your background and how did you get into this line of work?

A: I’ve been a professional skating and skills coach for the last 23 years. I grew up taking the programs and started teaching them at a very young age to younger kids. When I was 15 I was asked to help at a school and at 16 I started my own power skating school.

Basically, what I did was I designed my program based on everything I didn’t have as a player growing up. There was a real need for a 100% hockey-specific skating and skill development programs for players that takes players beyond the basics and challenges them – gives them practical, meaningful and relevant skills on the ice. If it’s speed, if it’s driving to the net, if it’s puck protection, if it’s dynamic balance – people that were teaching programs I don’t think necessarily had the hockey background or the know-how and the dynamics of what hockey’s all about.

Currently I teach my program in six countries around the world – Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, United States and Canada. I work with professional teams like the Swedish Elite League champs Farjestad, SaiPA from the Finnish Elite League, the Pelicans and a lot of other players from all around the world.

It’s a rewarding job to work with the Oilers and it’s also rewarding to be able to teach my skills on a global perspective. I’m also lucky as well to be associated with Craig Simpson as a hockey and power skating expert on the TV show hockey academy. Don Metz brought me on board for that and it’s a great opportunity to share information.

I also have a three DVD set that’s distributed around the world. Our stuff is unique, it’s dynamic and it’s designed for serious players who want to take it to the next level.

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