There’s no question, hockey season — or any sporting season — can be a grind. Late night practices, weekend games and everything in between, there’s an element of your game you’ll want to keep in tip-top shape in order to navigate the season demands: off-ice training.
“In the last 8-10 years off ice training has become a huge part of the culture in hockey now,” USA Hockey Director of Sports Science and Founder of GVN Performance Brian Gallivan said. “More and more teams and organizations are doing it, so I think having a good off ice program is really important.”
We caught up with Gallivan on good off-ice tactics to focus on for a successful season.
USA Hockey: What are some things players can do to prepare for the grind of a junior hockey season?
Brian Gallivan: Train all summer. That’s the easy answer there. I think your higher-level players, you get to be a teenager and know that you want to compete in junior hockey, is when you start to make the decision that you’re going to be a hockey player. Then, you need a good six to eight weeks of training in the offseason to prepare yourself for the long season.
USA Hockey: Speed is crucial in today’s game, what are some good ways to encourage and build that?
Gallivan: If you want to get better on the ice, work with a skating coach. Players that are elite skaters, whether they’re strong or not tend to be faster.
Teenager development spectrum is so broad at that time. I have younger teens who are ready to lift weights, and some who are not. You need to figure out where your junior hockey athlete is at on that spectrum and train appropriately. All these kids want to be more powerful, and they want to be faster. How do you get that? Strength. You need to be strong to have power. Strength is a prerequisite for power, and power is a prerequisite for speed, and you need to train those. If you’re not strong, there’s not a whole lot of point in doing a lot of other training.
USA Hockey: How often should a team be working office in to practices or training regimens?
Gallivan: NTDP for instance, that’s a very elite team. We train at least four times per week. They’re in the gym every single day. What they’re doing in the gym varies, but we typically resistance train at least three times per week.
At least 70-80% of the teams we work with train at least two times per week during the season.
Now we make adjustments based on the game schedule — if they have three games on the weekend, you’re going to adjust what you’re doing on Monday for sure. I think where some organizations don’t do a great job is understanding that if you have a team playing a bunch of games on the weekend, the priority is strength training. If they have that much time on the ice over the season, they’re going to get weaker, so recovery session could be low volume and mobility work.
USA Hockey: And recovery is incredibly important, too, right?
Gallivan: Yeah. Just to touch on resistance training too, everyone categorizes that as weight training, but resistance training is your body, too.
You don’t want to do is get away from that stuff. Just need to do it safely. It’s a very different training plan for Patrick Kane and Auston Matthews than it is for teens. Junior hockey players are still growing, they need to get bigger and stronger so they can get more powerful and faster.
USA Hockey: How do you put a complete package together while training to be a junior hockey player?
Gallivan: I think during the season nutrition is really important too, especially for teenagers. You’re going to put all the time into sports, how are going to do that with nutrition? Keep a bag of snacks when you travel, teenagers need to eat. Don’t show up to practice on an empty stomach. If you’re going to commit to that junior hockey lifestyle, have a plan. It doesn’t need to be crazy, just prepare for it. If you know you have these practices and games.
And then managing social media and blue light and screens. I always tell kids, I’m not trying to take the device away from you but managing your time on it. You have to manage hockey schedule and school at the same time, and I think cellphones and technology is another thing these kids now have to manage. When you sit there glued to it, it can disrupt your sleep and recovery. Start to think about how to manage that aspect of your life, and what the best way is to put the phone down 45 minutes before trying to sleep, that can help.
By managing nutrition, sleep (recovery), and your work output, that’s where you begin to develop good habits that are going to pay off throughout your junior hockey career.