Posts Tagged ‘rest’

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.


Are you following the NHL playoffs? If you haven’t there have been some great games so far this post-season. Some years it’s hard to get excited during the first round when a team gets up 2-0 or 3-0. And that might even be when you’re following your team. But this year everything is so close. We didn’t have to wait at all to start seeing games go to overtime. And the 8th seeds on both sides are giving the top seeds a run for their money by stealing the first game and home ice advantage.

Being from BC I’m going to follow the Canucks more than any other team. And it seems like everyone else around here is as well. There is always some extra excitement when the playoffs roll around and the Canucks are in it. This year there seems to be an after-glow from the Olympic gold medal game in February that has carried over to the start of the playoffs. But I’m not sure about the Canucks chances.

The Kings are playing really well right now. They’ve good some good young defencemen. Their goalie didn’t show any nerves on the road in Vancouver for his first playoff experience and is comfortable at home. Plus add to that their power-play is on fire and their key guys are getting it done for them.

The Canucks on the other hand have shown spurts of energy but not enough to be leading the series. And Luongo in particular did not play well in Game 3. It would hard to fault him on the first goal which he probably didn’t see. On the second he didn’t seem to do a very good job of controlling the rebound. He played it off his blocker right to Handzus. While it would be hard to fault Luongo on the third goal the fourth was a mental breakdown. Had the paddle of his stick been on the ice he would have made the save. Instead he wasn’t set or prepared for the shot, gave up the goal and got yanked as a result.

So what’s going on with Luongo? He’s given up 12 goals in 5 periods at the Staples Center. Sure he has faced some power plays and maybe the skaters in front of him haven’t been doing the best job of clearing rebounds and letting him see the shots. But maybe there’s more to it.

Apparently Luongo is the type of player who doesn’t skip a practice. While veterans and certain key players may rest during optional skates, Luongo takes part. Add to this grind of the long travel schedule the Canucks experienced this year plus all the games Luongo played during the Olympics and it could be that he needs a rest. The lack of concentration on the last goal and the difficulties he has had playing in LA might suggest the last thing he needs is more time on the ice.

Obviously the Canucks will go back with him tonight for game 4. He is their captain and when he’s on his game, arguably their best player. Hopefully he takes some time for himself, gets away from the arena for a bit and is able to relax. They need him to be on for game 4. Because if he doesn’t play the way he is capable the Canucks will be in a deep hole going back to Vancouver. And having taken both games 1 and 2 to overtime in Vancouver the Kings have no doubts they can compete in GM place.


There are a number of components to having success on the ice and performing as a hockey player. Besides the on ice practices, skates, video sessions and meetings there is also all of the dryland training that needs to be done. And when you ask most players what comes to mind when they think of training for hockey certain lifts and exercises are envisioned.

Since hockey is a striding sport it makes sense that we need to develop strength that allows us to become stronger on our skates and quicker when we have to move. So right away, we probably think of all of the leg exercises such as squats, deadlifts, lunges, step-ups  and any other type of compound lift that is done from a standing position and has a lower body emphasis.

While these lifts would generally be a great idea they aren’t always what we want to be doing for our weight room training. And this may sound contradictory unless you  realize that all training is cumulative. This means that everything physical we do takes a toll on our bodies and requires time to recover. The cellular energy we have to train and play is of a finite quantity and is not endless. So if we do countless sets and reps of squats and deadlifts before a busy week of games how will our legs feel? And how will we play when the puck is dropped?

This is where good intentions can work against us. We want to be our best in every game. We know certain movements and muscles are vital to performance in hockey. So we spend our time trying to develop our abilities in these areas. Unfortunately as the season wears on and the intensity of the games builds the need for rest and recovery between games becomes even more crucial. We can use the time in between games to regenerate for the next game or shoot for PBs in the weight room and be less than 100% come game time.

So as the season wraps up and playoffs begin look to see where you are putting your resources and energy. Is it on the ice allowing you be your best and perform at your highest potential? Or was it left in the training room the day before the big game?

Let me know what you think. And what do you do the day before a big game? Or if you have multiple games in a row on multiple nights what strategies do you use to get ready?