NHL Players Recognize the Importance of Year Round Training

Every time I come across an article like the one by Canadian Press writer Chris Johnston, I see the value of our book The Hockey Conditioning Handbook. Click on the Store tab above to check it out. The article is on www.canoe.ca and it titled NHLers spend summer training. Here is an excerpt.

Whether Rod Brind’Amour’s season ends in June, April or February, one thing always remains constant – he starts training for the next one as soon as he can.

The captain of the Carolina Hurricanes is one of the fittest players in the NHL because he refuses to stop exercising. He turned 38 over the summer and still has three years left on a contract he fully intends to play out.

Brind’Amour typifies the character needed to be a veteran in today’s NHL. In the past, some believed that longevity was best achieved by taking extensive time off over the summer to let the body heal before essentially starting anew during training camp.

That strategy simply wouldn’t work now.

“It’s definitely a year-round job,” Brind’Amour said during a recent interview. “I think the guys that approach it that way are the ones that last the longest…

The training methods vary by individual.

Brind’Amour likes to get up by 6 a.m. for a bike ride before hitting the gym or going for a skate. Alzner has added more bench press and chin-up exercises to his normal routine that focuses on core strength. Andrew Ference of the Boston Bruins is a friend of Simon Whitfield’s and participated in triathlons while taking time away from skating early in the summer.

The key to Jason Spezza’s off-ice workouts is the presence of other NHLers. He’s one of 10 guys that train together at a gym in Toronto over the summer.

“It’s pretty intense,” said the Ottawa Senators forward. “That’s why you try to have other guys around you that are kind of working towards the same thing.

“It makes it a little bit competitive and keeps the edge on the days you don’t feel like getting out of bed. You’ve got to beat the other guys.”

The 29-year-old Ference believes his generation of players is used to working out all summer long and showing up to training camp in top shape.

However, one change he’s observed over nine seasons in the league is the different approach players now take to their workouts.

“Some guys used to think training was all about going in the gym, pumping iron and getting huge,” said Ference. “They forgot they’re not professional weightlifters or bodybuilders – they have to be ready for hockey.

“I think the type of training, guys have maybe adjusted that to be more specific to our sport.”

Read the rest of the article for more insight on NHL players feeling for the importance of year round specific training for hockey.

Burnout and Other Concerns for Young Hockey Players

Here is an excerpt from an August 26, 2008 Globe and Mail article by Tralee Pearce where she discusses the burnout factor in sports.

Until last week, Oakville, Ont. hockey player Stefan Legein was a poster boy for youth hockey. After star turns with the Canadian junior team and a stint with the Ontario Hockey League, he was drafted in the second round by the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets last year.

But last week, when the 19-year-old decided to call it quits on the eve of training camp, many observers wondered if youth hockey’s gruelling expectations might be to blame.

“Not getting a break from that high-pressure environment can lead to burnout,” says Scott Oakman, the executive director of the Greater Toronto Hockey League.

Coaches and sports administrators admit that the relentless pace exacts a price. “There’s been a big shift in philosophy. There’s much more year-round hockey taking place,” Mr. Oakman says. “That certainly lends itself to kids dropping out of the game earlier than historically they would have. They might be getting a lifetime’s worth of hockey in a shorter period of time.”

There’s no research to suggest that young kids who love their sport will risk burnout, says Joe Baker, an associate professor of kinesiology and sports health at York University. But with so much at stake, it’s no wonder some kids don’t speak up about not enjoying it…

Beyond the mental strain, there are also growing reports of injuries due to intense training in single sports in the past five years, according to Tony Reynolds of the U.S. International Youth Conditioning Association, which provides youth-specific training programs to coaches.

In sports such as hockey in which players are dominant on their left or right side, lower back and shoulder injuries are cropping up at younger ages. “It’s going to get worse,” he says. (Mr. Legein suffered a separated shoulder in a Christmas World Junior game last year.)…

In his 20-year experience, youth hockey coach Ron Sticklee says he has observed that it’s more often the parents with NHL stars in their eyes.

But even if a child is mentally and physically prepared for a hectic sports schedule, new research suggests throwing a kid’s sports eggs in one basket can make him a worse, not better, player. York’s Prof. Baker has been collecting data on athletes considered the “best of the best.”

“Some of the data we have shows they spent a lot more time playing at their sport in an unorganized way,” he says. Fewer rules and drills appears to promote a flexibility in the way kids think about problems on the court or rink.

From my experience more players that make it to the pro level truly have fun playing and competing. And, their parents understanding the importance of fun for the athlete. Rarely did the parent or athlete have an NHL-or-bust attitude.

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