Recovering After a Long Season
The hockey season can be a grind. Most youth players start practicing in August and finish games in March or April. That’s eight to nine months of two to three practices a week and anywhere from 25 to 60 games or more played, not to mention any private lessons and dryland. This can take a huge toll on an athlete both physically and mentally. In the 2002-2003 NHL season, the Mighty Ducks played 113 games including the regular season and pre and post season. It was a great run to the Stanley Cup Finals that ended in June. By the time everyone one got home, it seemed like the training camp was around the corner. Instead of having time off to recover, everyone went right back in to training. This affected both their physical and mental preparation for the following year where many of our key players returned still feeling tired and complaining of nagging injuries that never had time to heal.
Following the season, players must tone it down a bit and take time away from the ice and even some of their off ice training. This isn’t to say they should go cold turkey and do nothing, but pick a priority or two and focus on them with less amount of hours committed to the game for the two to six weeks following the season. Take this time to be a kid a little bit or even play another sport. It can be easier said than done with pre-tryout clinics, tryouts, showcases, etc, so each players’ schedule may look a little different, but decreasing the demands and pressure for a period of time can do wonders.
During this down time, players can still be involved with hockey related activities, but choose a priority or two. You may speak with a coach who you want to play for who states that you need to be faster on the ice, so take this time to work on your skating. Some may focus on shooting the puck better, getting in the weight room and getting stronger or rehab a nagging injury. There are things that can be done during the off season to improve your game, but make sure you take care of the little things that you may not always have time for during the season.
Chris Phillips is an Athletic Trainer and Strength and Conditioning Specialist with over 20 years experience in professional sports including 8 years in the NHL.