While most NHL athletes differ about when they decide to get back on the ice in the summer, there are certainly underlying themes and concepts that are apparent in every NHL player’s off-season regime to “peaking” for training camp that younger hockey athletes can use to empower their off-season.
Let’s first talk about rest. This is a great topic and I think it really depends on the athlete. Most NHL player’s take 2-3 weeks off, they typically spend 3-7 days in their NHL city for meetings with coaches, management, equipment personal and training staff all while getting things organized in their in season homes to be able to transfer to their off-season homes. Once settled into their off-season homes, they might take some time to visit family, take a holiday or just relax in their off-season locale enjoying the opportunity to not be on a schedule. After 2-3 weeks of rest, most guys are ready to start with the first phase of their strength and conditioning plan.
For younger athletes I think it’s good to take a break too. Most younger players begin their on-ice preparation 3 weeks before tryouts in late July and are pretty much going strong until the middle of Feb (5 ½ months) and depending on how their team does in the playoffs which typically concludes late March (7 months) and possibly provincials which are typically held during the first two weeks of April (7 ½ months) not to mention spring hockey which typically ends around the middle of June (9 ½ months). That’s a ton of hockey for a young player. NHL players typically start training camp on the 2nd Thursday in Sept and the NHL’s last game of the regular season is normally somewhere around the first weekend in April (7 Months). Half of the entire league is eliminated after 7 months, while the other half gets widdled down to another half every 2 weeks until the Stanley Cup Champion is crowned somewhere in the 3rd week of June (9 Months). NHL player’s are grown men with elite athletic capabilities so if most are taking 2-3 weeks off after a 7 month season, younger athletes should be following suit. I think the number of weeks really varies but I think most kids will fit into that 2-4 week period before they are really ready to tackle their next organized athletic activity.
Let’s now chat about types of training. I think it’s important to know your athlete’s physical and mental maturation. Check out this great article in scienceforsport.com, it basically describes PHV as a key indicator of the types of training relevant for an athlete. Pre-PHV athletes are typically males 13 and under and females 11 and under and their need is the building of the nervous system. Playing multiple sports, riding their bike, playing manhunt with their brothers and sisters and climbing a tree in the backyard like Tarzan all help develop neural effectiveness. Athletes within these cohorts should focus on motor control, skill and speed acquisition. When it comes to on-ice development, athletes should focus on reputable and results driven skating mechanic programs, speed and quickness programs involving skill acquisition, and “Play” programs where they can transfer skills into game performance.
Post PHV athletes need to continue building upon their neural development with the additional focus of structural development. These athletes can begin to implement a true strength and conditioning program but not at the cost of neural development. Ensuring a proper balance is key as the effectiveness of neural training typically decreases at a much more rapid rate with age compared to strength training. An example is that often players in this cohort start to sacrifice on-ice training for strength training and it was amazing to see the reverse effect while working with Connor McDavid leading into his rookie season. Still a physically growing body with no true strength and conditioning records on his resume but a strong enough, pliable body with maxed out on-ice skill sets. He’s currently considered to be one of the top two player’s in the world. It’s a great reminder for us all to not sacrifice strength training for skill training especially at a young age. Pre-PHV focus on playing multiple sports, being an athletic kid and working on your on-ice skills at least 3 weeks prior to tryouts. Post-PHV follow the same routine and balance in a reputable strength and conditioning program.
After a stimulating rest period and first couple of phases of their strength and conditioning program, most of my NHL clients will begin to hit the ice around the middle of July and every year I start them off the same way. We hit the ice with a skating mechanic programs that focuses on postural alignment, joint mobility, stability and asymmetry of movement correction, which we call our PS program. Then we build toward a speed and quickness program with skill acquisition and in game performance, which is our SAM Program’s specific for Fwd’s and Def, and lastly we finish it off with an Elite Pro Training Camp where athletes can use their refined skill sets in the performance environment where ultimately they will be evaluated. This video talks about how we have structured our summer programming to follow this methodology.
This system of performance has worked for 200+ NHL clients, so talk to us about your summer development goals and be at your best heading into tryouts!