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Be a better hockey player… Train in the off-season!

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Just because high school hockey season is over, doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to improve your endurance, speed, balance, flexibility, quickness and agility throughout the Spring and Summer to get back on the ice in November a better hockey player. Lachlan Burgess, Endicott Hockey Assistant Coach, joins the ranks of the New England Future Stars as Head Coach of the first Essex County Eels Varsity squad and lends some expert advice for training in the off-season.

“Off ice training follows the same rules as we apply to on ice training. You should practice like you play and create good work habits. You should create a schedule and continue to stay on that schedule throughout the off-season.”

Endurance & Speed

When we think of cardio and being in shape, we think of marathon runners and running for as long as we can. But for a game like hockey, being able to skate up and down the ice endlessly is only so useful. It’s all about the bursts of speed, sprints, followed by a slower pace or your shift on the bench. That’s how you should train.

Try running sprint intervals, resting in between each one. This prepares your body to crank up the speed quickly, like bursting off the bench into the play, or taking off after a puck. At a track, sprint the lengths and walk the curves. On a treadmill do a minute sprint (running as fast as you can), with a 20-30 second rest in between, as many reps as you can handle before cool down. You can also do this in a spinning class or on your own stationary bike adding resistance for increased difficulty.

Jumping rope is also a simple and great exercise for hockey players in the off-season or even warming up for a game to improve cardio, hand-eye coordination, foot-eye coordination and quick feet. It will strengthen lower legs, increase endurance and improve agility, while being an easy tool to throw in your bag or do at home.

“Develop an off-season program which focuses on aerobic training, improving lateral quickness, and core strength. What I find best about working on these types of exercises is they don’t require purchasing gym equipment or memberships, and many can be done either in a backyard or open space.”

Legs, Legs, Legs

Don’t skip leg day! “The legs feed the wolf.” Being strong in all areas of your body is great for any athlete, but for hockey players, having a strong core and lower body is crucial.

Squats, with or without weights, are a great leg exercise that you can take to the next level for hockey by doing one-foot squats called “stabilizers.” Stand with one foot on the ground and do a four to five inch squat. Once you’ve got it, squat deeper each time, focusing on your form, engaging your core and keeping your weight over your heel.

Then you’ve got traditional lunges, that you can add weight to and employ many variations. Single leg deadlifts are also excellent for building balance and strength in not only the legs but the groin muscle, a popular injury site in hockey.

Flexibility

Joint and muscle flexibility is important for any athlete trying to complete at a high level. Why? One big reason is the more flexible, the less prone to injury. Flexible limbs and joints increase sports performance by allowing a more complete and powerful range of motion. Try employing plyometric movements in your fitness routine this summer, or even a regular yoga class. Yoga builds strength while helping your body become more flexible and releasing muscles more difficult to stretch, like hip flexors which are very important for hockey players.

Consider a slide board

The slide board is a relatively affordable and simple piece of equipment. A hinged piece of wood attaches two bumpers to an 8 to 10 foot piece of plastic which when lubricated, is highly slippery, allowing a hockey player to mimic his or her on-ice skating stride in the gym or at home whenever they have time.

Hockey slide board training allows you to increase and decrease your lateral hip angles, which strengthen your adductors and abductors — muscles that are important from start to finish through the stride. Training these muscles can increase skating stride speed and strength. The lateral push-off produced during each slide engages the glutes to maintain hip stability and produces a more efficient stride. Try it to change up your off-ice training routine and notice how your stride improves. You can even add your stick and a puck to work on some stick handling while on the slide board.

“There is no asset more important to you as a hockey player than your ability to be a great skater. The summer is a great time to work on your skating technique… You often hear “you can’t teach speed” but you can teach the skills which will give you the opportunity to skate to the maximum of your stride potential.”

On-ice opportunities

When choosing camps & clinics to enhance your game over the summer, Burgess has some advice to get the most out of the experience.

  1. Individual Attention:

“One key to look for in selecting a power skating skill coach or clinic is the coach to player ratio. You don’t want to be one of thirty skaters on the ice with one instructor running you through drills.”

2. Small-area games:

“Many camps won’t offer specific small area games; it’s good to find a camp that has this as part of their regimen. My favorite aspects of small area games are the best way to simulate game situations. Hockey is a game in which no two situations are exactly the same. By using small areas and short shifts, players are training and developing skills to read and react to situations quickly, as well as under pressure. I also find them beneficial because they best represent a replication of a hockey shift which is 30 to 40 seconds in a small area game followed by a rest. This is much more representative of an actual hockey game rather than taking a turn in a drill, going to the end of the line and waiting for your turn to come up again.”

3. Have fun:

“Most importantly have fun with the game of hockey, those who continue to play through high school and into college do so not only because they have the passion for the game but also because the game remains fun to them.”