When I was younger I didn’t really do much off-ice training and conditioning. I didn’t do things like plyometrics and aerobics. Heck, I didn’t even know what plyometrics were. All I did was play a lot of sports, especially hockey. And when my buddies and I weren’t playing at the rinks, we were playing on the pond behind the house.
When the season is over, you want to keep your foot in the door and not get too far away from being physically fit. I recommend that you do a lot of leg work and concentrate on your lower body in the offseason. That’s going to get you where you need to go on the ice.
I do a lot of leg conditioning in the off-season, whether it’s riding a bike, running or weight training. In the NHL, many strength and conditioning coaches have us do a lot of jumps, single-leg squats and lunges to build up our legs.
It doesn’t matter how old you are. You can go out and do things like jumps and plyometrics. It’s not going to stunt your growth.
Strength training has become big in hockey over the last 10 or 15 years. In high school we did a little bit, not a lot. Now it seems to be a much bigger part of the game. It’s important to do some weight training because it’ll help you get stronger and win more battles for the puck. But remember to train properly and work with a qualified instructor or coach.
Don’t be a couch potato. A lot of kids just want to sit at home and be on the computer. That’s all right if you’re doing your schoolwork, but get outside and do something.
Playing other sports besides hockey will help you improve different parts of your game. Plus it’s fun. When I was growing up, I played everything — soccer, baseball, and even football when I was in high school. I don’t necessarily recommend year-round hockey. I do think kids should be involved in year-round sports, for sure. In the summertime we used to take a little time off and play hockey maybe once a week instead of two or three times a week.
Remember This …
This tip may be more for the parents than the kids: Watch out for the burnout factor. That can come into play when you concentrate on only one sport or activity all year around. Don’t push your kids to play hockey 365 days a year. Let them decide. If they enjoy it, let them play as much as they’d like. If they don’t seem to enjoy it, back off a little bit.