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Archaic Ice Hockey Warm-ups
While the sport of hockey has come a long way over the past 20 years through new equipment technologies, training procedures, coaching, recovery methods and attention to small details, I find fascinating that outside of our rich traditions, we still choose to keep certain parts of hockey even… when it really needs to change.
Take for example the warm-up in hockey. Compared to other sports, we are in the dark ages. While other sports apply science and common sense to prepare for a physical event, we in the hockey community laugh in their faces, skate willy-nilly, sit back and listen to a coaches conference, then we stand like statues before the game is played. If this physical preparation strategy were used in other sports like sprinting, bobsledding or skiing (to name a few), a large number of athletes would get injured. Maybe it’s time for hockey to learn from others and adopt a better system.
The current system
Let me first dissect a typical hockey warm-up so that later I can share my perspective on the flaws in the current system.
1. As a general rule, if the team has someone on staff with a minimum of training in physical education, a warm-up on dry ground will be the first thing to do. But this is not always the case. I’ve seen high-end hockey teams play against each other regularly without warming up on dry ground. Usually, teams send athletes out for a short run or put players on a stationary bike followed by static stretching. For the sake of argument, let’s assume it takes 30 minutes (although most teams spend 10-15 minutes on the warm-up and call that pretty good).
2. In some cases, coaches want to spend about 10 minutes talking about a basic plan for the upcoming game. Maybe the whiteboard will be busted and they’ll talk about breakouts, shorthandedness, forechecking that night, or other basic strategies. Some coaches don’t currently, so it may depend on your team.
3. The next order of business is to put on your gear (30 minutes is usually allotted).
4. At this time, the players go out on the ice for the traditional 15-minute warm-up. The first 5 minutes are spent skating in circles (usually counterclockwise), followed by 5-8 minutes of 2-on-1, 3-on-2 drills to get players’ feet moving and developing feel for the puck. The last 2-5 minutes are spent shooting the goalie, stretching on the ice, doing short sprints from side to side of the ice.
5. After the on-ice warm-up, the players return to the locker room (for 15 minutes while the ice is flooded) and sit down while the coach presents the pre-game talk and strategy session.
6. After the flood, the players return to the ice and stand for the national anthem (or anthems) to be played. Immediately afterwards, the players return to the bench and play begins shortly thereafter.
Current system faults
1. The first flaw in the system is that coaches tend to talk about strategy and systems too late in the warm-up, when athletes are supposed to be warmed up. Having the team sit down to listen to a 15 minute speech just before the game is ridiculous. This should be the first thing to do when athletes arrive at the rink. Spend as long as you want…but do it at the start, not the end, when athletes should be concentrating on warming up for the match!
2. The next area of concern is the off-ice warm-up. For starters, not all teams do an off-ice warm-up and those that do are usually wrong. A short or stationary bike will NOT adequately prepare you to play hockey. The hip musculature, trunk and shoulder girdle should be actively warmed up to stimulate blood circulation and help prevent injury. This is accomplished with a dynamic warm-up (with movements such as fire hydrants, wide climbers, flips to V-stretch, backward lunge stretch, scorpions, and other movements to increase core temperature and stimulate blood flow to the muscles After this dynamic warm-up, the team should move into light conditioning moves (like burpees, side lunges, windmills, swings and push-ups) to sweat and accustom the body to physical movement, as hockey is a fast sport based on agility.The use of light plyometrics, ladder drills and, for goaltenders, the hacky-sack will do wonders for warming up before hockey.At the end of the dry field warm up, a slight range of motion stretch should be done just to keep everything loose. tion that you don’t play dumb and get down to business.
3. After the warm-up on dry ground, players should put on their equipment but it shouldn’t take 30 minutes. During this time, the athletes will be cold and tight, so the warm-up on dry land was of no use. Coaches should limit dressing time to 20 minutes and ensure players arrive at the rink early enough to sharpen skates, inspect equipment, tape sticks and make any other necessary preparations well in advance of put on their gear. When I check out the teams and see the coach (or assistant) sharpening the skates right before warm-up, that’s my first sign of a poorly run team.
4. Once the players have their gear on, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to get everyone moving again with push-ups, squats, kettlebell swings (if possible), or similar bodyweight exercises. Make sure players have skate guards to keep blades sharp, but why shouldn’t players do a little pre-ice warm-up with their gear?
4. When the players come on the ice, I believe the national anthems should be played at that time. My reasoning is that after the warm-up you have an extra 2 minutes of chanting (2 more if you’re playing another country’s anthem), plus whatever time it takes to line up and then get back to the benches before the game. . This can easily add up to 8-10 minutes for a professional game. If a player was sitting in the locker room before the game (17 minutes) and then steps out onto the ice to hear the anthems (another 8-10 minutes), it may be 25-30 minutes before they start moving . Let’s listen to the anthem before the warm-up so players can focus on the hockey right after the warm-up.
5. During the ice warm-up, this is not the time to skate willy-nilly like an idiot. Skate 5 laps around your end of the ice to loosen up a bit, then begin movement drills that focus on moving the feet. From this point, coaches can perform 2 on 1 or 3 on 2 drills for 5 minutes. As this happens, goalkeepers should have an established routine with one or two players shooting or helping them warm up (players can rotate in and out of this so they are also heat up). At the very end of the 15 minutes, players should perform movement drills (such as inside edges, outside edges, turns, back to fronts, etc.) as well as sparring drills with light sticks or shadow to move the feet. Please note that I didn’t mention stretching while warming up on the ice, as many players seem to do…that’s because it’s a waste of time at this point (you should be loose already ), and ice cream really isn’t. t the best place to stretch the muscles to warm them up!
6. Right after the warm-up is over, I think the match should start. You see this in midget hockey in tournaments where the rink is trying to make the most of the time given to it. I don’t see the need for a flood after the warm up as the ice isn’t very torn up and it allows players to go straight into the game when they are warm. Leagues would see a drastic reduction in first period injuries if they adopted this method of play and fans would see players able to compete from the start of the game without the slow first period blues that plagues many games.
Now, I have no reason to suspect that the current warm-up system for hockey that has been around for decades will ever change, because hockey has a rich culture and many people in the industry resist change. Personally I’m waiting for the day of change… but I’m not holding my breath.
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