Posts Tagged ‘playoff’

sleeping athlete

As the first round of the playoffs wraps up the match-ups for round two are being set. Having eliminated the Kings in 6 the Canucks now look forward to a rematch of last year’s playoffs against the Chicago Blackhawks. But rather than look ahead to the next round I want to take a step back and look at something from the previous series.

After game 4 in LA, which the Canucks won 6-4, Vancouver took the unusual decision of over-nighting in LA after the game. This might seem as unusual for some as game 5 would be back in Vancouver. Wouldn’t the Canucks want to get home as soon as possible for their next game? Wouldn’t they feel more comfortable in their own beds? Don’t teams normally fly out right after away games? The answer to all of the these is probably yes. Or at least it used to be.

For the past couple of years the Canucks have been consulting a sleep doctor and they base their travel and accomodation schedule on his recommendations.  So as  a result, the Canucks opted to stay Wednesday in LA and fly back to Vancouver Thursday. Here are some of the possible reasons why.

A typical west coast game starts at 7 pm PST and goes at least until 930 pm PST unless there’s overtime. Once obligatory post-game media interviews, showers and post-game business are completed it’s probably closer to 11 PM. Even flying from a private terminal without the same security, line-ups and delays of commercial air travel probably means an arrival into Vancouver no earlier than 2 am and bed time closer to 3 am. Once there is disrupted and incomplete sleep we start to see the following repercussions.

When we are sleep deprived we will have delayed response times. Quick reflexes and responses is such a key to winning face-offs, to beating an opponent to the puck and for Luongo to make an opportune save. Take away somebody’s sleep and they don’t make the same, quick plays as they would if well rested.

Sleep is when we recover. And the playoffs can be a very taxing time of year, both physically and mentally. If the demands are that high and the need for recovery is that great than you wouldn’t want to minimize your team’s ability to be fully recovered for the next game by restricting their sleep.

There is also a strong correlation between various hormones in the body and the amount of sleep we get. When we are sleep deprived we notice that the messages that tell us when we are hungry and full are out of whack. So we feel hungry sooner than we should and we feel full later than we should causing us to over eat. Add to this that the stress hormone cortisol is elevated with sleep deprivation whereas testosterone and growth hormone are lowered and we can quickly see how important missing a few hours of sleep can be on our hormonal status.

Lastly, if there’s one thing hockey players like it’s consistency. It’s beyond ritualistic and to the point of superstitious. They have a particular pre-game meal. The get dressed the same way with the same lucky socks. They are lead out for warm-up by the same player every game. The list goes on. In keep with these traditions and rituals it make sense for teams to want to establish the same consistency with respect to the rest and recovery schedules of their players.

Obviously there is huge merit to ensuring a hockey player is well rested and fully recovered prior to each game. The same applies to your off-season hockey training as well. Ensure that you get a minimum of 8 hours of sleep every night and strive for the consistency of going to bed and getting up at the same time every day. While you may not be competing for Lord Stanley’s Cup you can steal a page out of the Canucks program and apply it to your own hockey training.


Hi there: I just got back from California where I was able to meet up with a notable NHL strength and conditioning coach. It’s always good to check in with what’s going on at the NHL level for a number of reasons. First it allows you see other ways of doing things to accomplish a common goal. Secondly it affirms what you are doing if it is similar to what you already use on a day in day out process. Lastly it provides the opportunity to talk shop with a colleague. You’re able to bounce ideas off each other. You can pick each other’s brains about a certain question or topic. And you get a chance to rant as well with someone who understands the constraints, demands and challenges of one of the most rewards careers there is. But enough about my trip down south. On to the article.

You can usually tell a lot about what a player needs to work on by watching them play. And more importantly you can tell more precisely about what a player needs to work on later in a game, specifically in the third period or over-time. Here’s why.

When we are fresh and energized we are more capable of doing everything right and minimizing our mistakes. Picture the first few minutes of a playoff game between heated rivals. The tempo is quick, the pace is fast, the hits are intense and the play is exciting. Contrast this with the latter part of the game and everything slows down a little bit. Picture an NHL hockey game that goes to multiple over-time periods and the play is definitely slower and sometimes can get a little sloppy. Teams know to throw everything on net to take advantage of this deterioration in play.

A colleague once taught that there are four levels of learning. The first is unconscious incompetence. This basically means we don’t know we are doing the wrong thing. But then a coach enlightens us as to our mistake. Now we are consciously incompetent. We know are making a mistake but don’t know how to fix it. So now the coach spends some time using a variety of drills to teach us the correct way. And under controlled situations and focused attention we can perform properly. Lastly with enough practice and time we can develop the athletic abilities that become automatic for us. They happen almost as a reflex. This is known as unconscious competence.

Except for the truly great ones most athletes operate somewhere between conscious and unconscious competence. When their focus is broken or they fatigue they will falter and mess up. The great ones thrive under pressure, don’t get rattled when the stakes are high and continue to perform even under the bighest circumstances and fatigue.

Recently while taking a game featuring one of the athletes we coach I noticed his body position change toward the end of the game. As this player fatigued I noticed the upper body bent more forward. Was this the result of tight hips? Or maybe from a weak posterior chain that isn’t stabilizing the upper torso as it should. Hard to say for sure but it definitely something I made a note of and we will be sure to assess and address this off-season training.

There’s a lot of info you can get from watching a game. You can assess the fitness level of the player. You can see how they compete. You can see how they relate to both teammates, opponents, coaches  and officials. You can gather a ton of info that will help you do a better job helping that player with their off-season hockey training program. But you get the best and most accurate info towards the end of the game when the pressure and fatigue are highest.