TAMPA, Fla. — The off-season is when Tampa Bay Lightning players and prospects put in that extra work to get better at the basics. Each year, the Lightning organization brings in consultants to teach prospects skating techniques.
If anyone knows how important that thin blade is on the bottom of a skate, it’s Barbara Underhill. At the 1984 Olympics, Underhill lost the edge of her skate and fell, taking out her partner and ending their hopes of a medal.
She now takes what she learned from the devastating moment to help these prospects refine their own skating technique.
“I became obsessed with the science of skating and how different it was from figure skating and how to translate what I knew from figure skating into hockey,” Underhill told ABC Action News sports anchor Kyle Burger.
Underhill, who has worked with the Lightning for 12 years, is teamed up with her longtime friend Tracy Tutton.
“They have the iPad, and they have video, and we can see exactly what to fix,” defenseman Roman Schmidy said. “It makes it a lot easier. I’m a visual learner, so it makes it easier. They’re awesome.”
“When I first started here, a lot of guys never had a skating lesson or skating coach or done any power skating,” Underhill said. “And now, it’s such a huge part of the game. Guys are coming in a little bit more.”
“It’s always tough on hockey guys like us to tweak our stride now and again,” forward Grant Mismash said. “It’s good to get outside your comfort zone.”
Among Underhil’s greatest success stories is Lightning superstar Brayden Point. Tampa Bay drafted him 79th overall in 2014, knowing that he dropped in the draft partly because of his skating skills. The Lightning sent Point to work with Underhill.
“Brayden, when I first saw him at his first development camp, he was just a player that was a little bit out of balance. He was back on his heels; his acceleration wasn’t as good as it could be. Coming out of turns wasn’t as powerful,” Underhill said.
“Right off the bat, I noticed this good wasn’t in balance, and we have to figure out why. My job is to get to the root cause. What’s blocking him? It’s like a puzzle. Give him the information. Brayden is that type of athlete to take that information and figure it out right away.”
Now, Point is one of the fastest skaters in the NHL.