Considerations for the End of the Hockey Season

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February vacation is right around the corner.

What that means for most is that life goes on because anyone that is not a teacher or a K-12 student still goes to work.

This also marks an important time for the winter sport season as well. It often means the end of the regular season.

When that week hits, its playoff time.

Ending the season on a strong note is important for several reasons. It acts as a good send off to any seniors, it may be responsible for keeping some jobs, and no one has ever complained about winning too much.

Ice Hockey - Men's Gold Medal Game - Day 17

What also happens during this time of year is that the game schedule intensifies. There a lot of games against quality opponents, in a short amount of time.

It is then extremely important that a hockey team is at its best physical preparation for these post-season tournaments.

What aspects are essential for this success at this time of the year?

1.      Recovery

This is a simple concept because if the kids are trashed for their games then they are not going to compete well. There are some things that a coach cannot directly control like sleep and stress. Obviously if the athletes are not getting enough rest their performance is going to suffer.

There are some other techniques to minimize the rigors of the season that can done for the whole team.

Mobility work at this time is going to be beneficial towards the team’s success. Hip flexors are tight like guitar strings, the glutes/quads are overused, and the shoulders can get pretty beat up by March.

It is important to work on good movement patterns and to get away from the habits of the game. Getting out of the hunched over hockey posture is going to make the players feel good and as a result, play well.

Foam rolling is another important tool for releasing tight muscles. Sports are usually not well rounded and leads to imbalances in the body. Some muscles groups are overused and some underused.

Some dedicated rolling will be helpful because the muscles will be more apt to perform at their highest when they are not under constant tension.

2.      Nutrition

Proper dietary techniques are the second half of the recovery equation.

Drinking tons of water, eating a wide range of vegetables, and minimizing junk food in the efforts of good nutrition are going to be advantageous.

Think of your body as a car. How well would it run without gas? It wouldn’t.

Now what if you put diesel fuel in a car that was not designed for it? You would also be in trouble.

Putting the wrong fuel in your body can be disastrous for athletic performance.

Avoid the snack bar at the rink and focus on taking in a lot of lean protein, vegetables, water, and real food. Minimize processed food, junk food, and other less healthy options in order to be at top physical preparation.

3.      Maintaining Strength and Power

When it comes to training at this point in the season, no one is going to get drastically better by lifting. All you can hope is to maintain the strength/power that you have been building.

Strength gains from a program are lost in about 25-35 days. Yes, that means that an off season program can lose its effects by mid season.

It might seem like a concern that strength can be lost very quickly, but maintaining strength on the other hand is actually pretty simple.

The best way to maintain strength and power is to use low volume, high intensity, familiar exercises. Sticking with exercises that the athletes have been performing the whole time will be essential in reducing muscles soreness.

Now the set and rep scheme is going to depend on what kind of scheme they were in before the playoff season. If the athlete has never lifted in the 1-3 range, now is not the time for heavy singles.

Typically this would be a good guide:

Sets- 1-3

Reps- 1-5

Intensity- High

Exercise selection- complex, large muscle movements that are not new to the athletes.

At this time of the year it might seem like one last push to get the team better is a good idea. This can actually be a catastrophe with too much volume and training.

The team is not going to improve physically in three weeks. They can, however, be at the best of their ability in that time.

Keep the volume low in order to prevent the kids from fatiguing when they should be fresh. 

A team that is healthy is going to have infinitely better results that the team that did not take the right steps for the late season push.

The real keys are to recover, eat/drink well, and maintain as much strength or power as possible. The athletes and teams that can pull it off will be celebrating with some new hardware by mid March.