How Fast Can Hockey Players Skate? Average Player Speed 2023

Posted on April 14, 2024 by Dan Kent
hockey player

Ice hockey is a high-speed sport. Players use powerful strides and razor-sharp skate blades to reach impressive speeds on the ice. The game is only getting faster, too, as players are developing into stronger athletes with fitness regimens and diet plans. 

But just how fast do hockey players skate? What is the fastest speed that a player has been recorded skating? Luckily for you, I will be crunching the numbers on hockey skating speeds here.

How fast do NHL players skate?

At their fastest, hockey players can touch upwards of 40 km an hour (25.5mph). These speedsters can also complete a lap around the ice in 13 or 14 seconds. Only the fastest ice hockey players reach these speeds, however. Most professional hockey players can reach the 20 to 30km/h (12 to 20mph) range, especially when skating in aggressively on the forecheck. Most recreational players will be far below the average speed of professional hockey players.

How fast are NHL players on the ice?

During a hockey game, different skating styles and speeds come into play. In previous decades, it was considered impressive for players to reach above 30kph (20mph). But in just a short period, today’s fastest NHL players can now touch upward of 40km/h (25.5mph) – partly thanks to improved skates and athlete training.

How many miles does the average NHL player skate per game?

The number of miles a hockey player skates during a game will heavily depend on the ice time they receive. For example, a top-line NHL player may skate 5-6 miles during a single game, or around 9.6 kilometres. In contrast, a bottom-tier player on the fourth line may only skate a mile or two.

What is skating top speed in hockey?

The NHL’s fastest hockey players can skate over 30km/h and upwards of 40km/h at their absolute fastest. That’s nearly as fast as a car travelling at a moderate speed. 

Hockey players are only getting faster with advances in skills, training, equipment, and video analysis. But remember that these speed levels are reached by only a few of the sport’s best.

While being a fast skater is part and parcel of playing hockey, improving your skating speed helps you to change line fast, break away with the puck and avoid checks.

The moment players have the highest speed is when they are racing in a straight line across a large distance of the ice. 

A start involving crossovers is the best method to gain speed quickly. Skating over a long distance allows players to attain a high speed that continues to grow as they stride down the ice.

Another way to consider how fast players skate is through the NHL All-Star Game’s Fastest Skater competition. It times how long it takes players to complete one lap around the outer edge of an NHL-sized ice rink.

Keep in mind that this competition tests skating speed and ability. It requires players to take corners around both nets, requiring skills beyond pure speed.

Mike Gartner held the record for the fastest lap at 13.386 seconds, set in 1996.

The exact starting position and amount of a permissible “running start” changed for the 2008 competition. This has led to disputes when players check in with times better than Gartner’s record – which was accomplished with a standstill start.

Dylan Larkin, Connor McDavid, and Mathew Barzal are among those who have surpassed Gartner’s mark. Still, there is a debate on who truly holds the record.

Who is the fastest skater in NHL history, mph?

There is little debate that Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid is the league’s fastest skater. He has won the NHL fastest skater competition at the all-star game in 3 out of 4 years. He is routinely voted as the fastest player in the league by players.

Remember, the NHL’s Fastest Skater competitions simply judge speed based on a full rink lap sprint. The competition may be tight for Connor McDavid in a situation like this. However, once you add a puck on their stick and opponents in their way, no player comes remotely close to him in terms of speed.

What speed does Connor McDavid skate at?

On an end-to-end rush in 2017, McDavid can exceed speeds of 25 miles per hour. This is relatively close to one of the fastest runners in history, Usain Bolt, who has reached speeds of nearly 28 miles per hour.

Although McDavid is the fastest skater in the NHL, plenty of others are right behind him. Nathan MacKinnon, Jordan Kyrou, and Mathew Barzal – who beat McDavid as the fastest skater at the 2020 NHL All-Star Skills Competition – are commonly in the conversation for the league’s fastest skaters.

How fast would Gretzky skate?

Although Gretzky was agile and quick on his feet, he was not necessarily the fastest skater around. Not much data provides actual speeds that Gretzky could skate at, so this is a difficult question to answer.

If you were to watch him play, his skating in terms of everything except maybe top-speed potential was world-class, and it consistently allowed him to outmaneuver defenders and set up plays. Gretzky is in the Hockey Hall of Fame and is known to be the best player to ever play the game.

How fast are speed skaters?

Short and long-track speed skaters can skate at incredible speeds, often exceeding 30 miles per hour. This is a large enough speed to leave even some of the best NHL players, like Connor McDavid, in the dust.

However, it is a much different track and different equipment. These speed skaters have trained their whole lives to focus on one thing and one thing only, the most efficient form of skating to gain maximum speed.

Dan Kent

About the author

Growing up in a hockey hotbed (Calgary, Alberta. And yes, I'm an Oiler fan), I decided to put my love and knowledge of the game to work. I started at five and am still playing today into my early 30s. By acquiring Brave Stick Hockey and rebranding it to Big Shot Hockey in 2023, I plan to teach people about this great game and educate them on the best equipment and history of the game. On a career level, I am in finance, running one of the largest financial websites in Canada, Stocktrades.ca.

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