Posts Tagged ‘off-ice hockey training’

 When I say ‘Model Success’ this isn’t what I mean.

We’re all familiar with the expression ‘to learn from our mistakes’.

And this sometimes encourages people to forge ahead before they have the best information. This can lead to wasted time and, obviously, mistakes.

A better option would be to model success.

With that in mind I have taken some time to sit with Sean Skahan who is the strength and conditioning coach for the Anaheim Ducks of the NHL. While under his coaching the Ducks have won a Stanley Cup and were represented by 8 players at the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver.

I think it’s safe to say his programs generate success on the ice. So to model some of Sean’s success I asked him a number of questions about this training methodologies.

Read on to find out Sean’s answers and model his success.

5. What are some things you wished players did a little less?

Sean didn’t have too much to say here. I guess this is a testament to the fact that he has earned the respect of this players and they don’t veer too far away fro whar he wants them to do.

Earlier in his career there was the occasional challenge of hockey players doing too much cardio for their off-season training. This might take a variety of forms but basically came down to long, aerobic conditioning.

Another challenge from earlier on was to have hockey players head home for the summer and do their own thing. They may enlist the help of coach or trainier in their area but this individual had different ideas about what these players were going to work on.

6. With the recent increase in head injuries in the NHL are the Ducks doing any specific related to this?

Sean does include some neck specific work for his players but admitted that head injuries are a part of the game. If a player suffers any type of head injury here is a very strict protocol that is followed involving various levels of the team’s medical staff. He did make one interesting comment about neck training and head injuries and that was to say no amount of neck training is going to off-set an opponent’s speed.

7. Another question I had for Sean involed the level of intensity used during lifting movements. There is some debate as to how heavy a player should lift. Some coaches like their hockey players to leave it all on the weight room floor. Others want to see them approach a max but be just under it.

Sean’s take on this was the load was secondary to the form of the lift. He wants the last rep to be excellent, just like the first rep.

In this regard I see what he is saying. It would be worse for a hockey player to use a submaximal load with terrible form than to attempt a 1 RM with excellent form.

8. Next I picked Sean’s brain about shoulder development. This is another area where you will find varying opinions from coaches as to whether or not they overhead press their hockey players.

While he didn’t express a hard rule for overhead pressing he did stress the importance they place on posterior shoulder work. They spend some time doing face pulls and going through their YLTW patterns.

Stay tuned for Part III in this series where I pick an NHL s&c coach’s brain for your benefit.


Were you following the Masters golf tournament on the weekend? It was a great final day for a number of reasons.

First of all there were at least eight players who had a share of the lead on Sunday which makes for an exciting finish. And one of these players was Tiger which in the past was enough to intimidate the rest of the field.

But for me the last reason was the one that really got my attention. And it was this guy wasn’t in the running.

And by this guy I don’t mean John Daly specifically but instead the guy who is out of shape and not conditioned to perform at all.

Think back to what Tiger and the seven other final players looked like.

Not many of them had poor posture. Not many of them had bellies hanging over the belt line. And not many of them looked fatigued coming down the fairway on 18.

And while he may not be the first to have adopted fitness to improve his game on the course, Tiger is probably the best known. Younger players over the last 10 years have modelled everything he does in order to try and replicate his success.

But what about hockey?

Would you say there has a been similar change in the game of hockey? Are players more aware of the need for off-ice training? Do they now come into camp in shape instead of using camp to get in shape?

To be fair to players of previous years, I don’t mean to suggest for a second that the current batch of hockey players are harder working. Instead it’s a case of economics.

If you played before the modern era in hockey you didn’t make enough during the season to relax during the summer, go fishing, play a few rounds of golf and hang out with your buddies. Instead in meant getting back to the farm in Saskatchewan and working until the call for camp came.

So the current generation has benefited greatly from what the increased cable contracts, advertising revenues and luxury box sales. This has afforded them the opportunity to focus solely on the game of hockey, year round.

But when I say year-round hockey obviously I don’t mean on-ice the entire year. The best players know to take some time to get off the ice. This is important to allow for the mental and physical recovery that must occur.

This also allows these players to continue to improve on the athletic abilities that allow them to dominate on the ice. This includes things such as addressing their weak links, correcting movement dysfunctions, building whole body strength and translating this strength to power.

Eventually once there has been enough time away from the ice to rest and recover from the tolls of the game as well as to develop the requisite athletic abilities, then a hockey player can look to return to the ice.

Unfortunately there is a knee jerk reaction that sometimes happens where the hockey community believes the only way to get better at playing hockey is to get on the ice and play more hockey There are 2 problems with this.

1. Practice doesn’t make perfect

A noted physiotherapist once told me ‘practice doesn’t make perfect, perfect makes perfect’.  

Imagine if you’re a right handed shot and you place your right hand up high on the stick and your left hand down low. Now go out there and take 1000 shots a day from now until camp opens.

Do you think you’ll have the hardest shot on your team? You could take over 100,000 shots between now and training camp. That’s a lot of practice. And if we believe practice makes perfect you’d be well on your way.

But this will never work, will it?

The same goes everything else you do to prepare for the game of hockey. It’s about the quality of the preparation rather than the quantity of preparation. 

2. You are only as good as your weakest link

Imagine a piece of chain with a broken link in the middle. You want to hook the chain on to a sled and pull it. But it always breaks at the same point.

You can try pulling harder. You can get friends to help you. You can grease the bottom of the sled and add extra links to where it isn’t broken.

But the chain continues to break at the same spot and you make no progress.

This is very similar to what happens to many hockey players.

In the off-season they do what they’ve always done. They do what are familiar and comfortable with.

But they never take the time to determine where their weakest link is. And as a result they spend their off-season spinning their wheels and making minimal progress.


This off-season make sure to take some time to get off the ice. Take stock of what worked well this past year and what could be better. Talk to your coaches and get some feedback on where they feel you can improve. If your team has a strength and conditioning coach on staff make sure to get some feedback here as well.

Next invest in an assessment with someone who can identify your weak links, explain to you why this matters and most importantly provide solutions to address these weak links. Once you fix your weak links pulling that sled gets a whole lot easier.


In Part I of this article I talked about the rationale for off-ice hockey training. And this always has to be geared towards improving your on-ice performance.
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