Monday, 17 February 2014

My Thoughts on Spring & Summer Hockey As It Relates to Physical Development

As we are rolling into mid February, many competitive hockey teams are finishing off their season and are either heading into the playoffs or deciding what to do with all the free time.

Just like the pros, who have a very long and tiring season, competitive hockey can sometimes be just as demanding for kids aged 13 and up. Long road trips to tournaments with inappropriate nutrition, many weekly practices and games can all lead to a decrease in lean body weight, loss of power, and the mental strain that goes along with being on the ice for such a long period of time. As a matter of fact, most minor hockey players across all age groups, likely play MORE hockey than the average NHLer! Factor that into a year round calendar and the potential for physical development continues to go down. Here is a great article by Ken Cambpell that recently appeared in the hockey news add to this the likelihood that they may have been doing in-season circuits for off ice training and you are seeing a bunch of factors that go into declining physical development. I have called this the Jack of All Trades Workout for Hockey, click on the link to read.
Zach Bogosian 2005-15 yrs old 155lb

Zach Bogosian 2013 - 220lb NHLer
At the end of a long season, the pros will often take 10-14 days, depending on when they finish, to recuperate and re-invigorate their mind before that trek back to the weight room to focus on strength and conditioning for hockey. Most pros will not step back onto the ice until late June, and at that it might only be once a week to focus on their hands and to begin the process of ameliorating their new strength to the specific skill of skating. By late July this would increase to twice a week to focus on specific skills and by mid to late August they may be participating in scrimmages to prepare for training camp.

This process is critically important to their mental and physical development. Yet often I hear about young kids who are back on the ice within a few weeks of the end of the regular season, playing in spring tournaments and summer leagues. These are kids who are hoping to play at a higher level the following fall, and as with most cases, it’s IMPERATIVE that they become bigger, stronger and faster for hockey.  Depending on the age group, minor hockey kids should be in the gym strength training 2-5 days per week. The larger number is obviously for the older kids major bantam and up.

In most cases kids are pressured by their own organizations to participate, with the belief that this will be beneficial in their quest to make the team (the revenue stream for these teams are never mentioned as a benefit) In some cases its what a friend might be doing and peer pressure to participate. Whatever the reason, playing spring and summer hockey does absolutely NOTHING for a player that needs to get stronger, faster, improve his balance, correct some movement errors, improve his conditioning, or actively rehabilitate some chronic injuries. Strength and conditioning for hockey, off-ice training, physical development for hockey, or whatever you would like to call it, is what will make a young hockey player better. Build the engine to support the technical skills.

The off-season is just that, the OFF-SEASON. Use it wisely as you decide what physical components are important to improve on-ice ability.  In my 20+ plus years in the NHL I have never seen a player participate in a mandatory summer hockey league, but I do see them in the strength and conditioning room.

There are many options when it comes to trying to select a program for your young player. This article How to Pick A Hockey Conditioning Program may be helpful.

Check out the Athletic Conditioning Center for our spring programs and get a jump on your off-season off-ice training programs now!