It’s unlikely that this will be a popular post, but we think it’s a very important topic!
If you’re a hockey player, you spend a lot of time on the ice. Between games, practices, specialty schools, and clinics, most of the players we work with are on the ice 5-6 days per week (sometimes it feels more like 8 or 9 days).
In the past, players would put their equipment away in the spring, take out their golf clubs, and not think about the game until the fall. This was consistent from the NHL down to minor hockey.
Those days are behind us, and the spring and summer have become just as busy as the winter for hockey players. Camps, tournaments, and weekly leagues are a staple in the modern hockey home.
There is no debate that you need to spend time on the ice to develop your skills, but if you want longevity in the game, you also need to spend time away from it!
It sounds funny, but taking a break can be stressful as a player. You feel like you’re not getting better when you’re not on the ice. But, if you use the time away properly, it will be the exact opposite. You’ll come back stronger and ready to go.
In today’s post, we’re going to cover our top 4 reasons you should get off the ice after the season.
The best way to get better at hockey is to stay in the game. Consistency is key! Hockey players need to take care of their bodies to stay healthy and be able to play their best. When players skate a lot without taking breaks, it can put a lot of repetitive stress on the body, leading to overuse injuries.
Overuse injuries are the result of repetitive motions, and hockey definitely fits the bill. The hockey stride is a unique position. The mix of forward flexion and a diagonal foot drive – i.e., the stride – can lead to chronically overtight athletes. We’ll often see hip, groin, or low back issues that could be cleared up with a bit of rest and proper training but instead get worse and worse until a more serious injury forces the player out of the game.
Taking a break from skating can help prevent these injuries by giving your body time to rest and recover. Just getting out of the same repetitive pattern does wonders for your body. Now if you pair that rest with a proper training program, you can make some real strides in injury prevention.
*A quick note – A good manual therapist can help you stay in the game longer, so take the time to find one.*
If you’re like the majority of players, your first priority in the off-season is to put on muscle mass – either for the first time or to build back up what you lost during the season.
In order to build muscle, you must be in a caloric surplus. This means the number of calories you consume in a day is in excess of the number you burn off through activity and training.
In a hard skate, you can easily burn over 1000 calories. You need to consume an additional 1000+ calories that day to break even, never mind gain muscle mass.
Once you’ve gained that muscle mass, it is easier to maintain, but during the initial growth phase, we’d highly suggest staying off the ice and allowing your body to prioritize muscle growth.
If you’re interested in more nutrition information and tips, check out the articles below.
Hockey Player Breakfast – What You Should Eat to Fuel Your Training
Taking a break from the ice is essential to prevent burnout and maintain long-term success. This year, we heard a great quote from one of our NHL clients about burnout. We asked him if he skated in the summer, and he said not until after his OHl draft because his Dad wouldn’t let him. When he was older and asked his Dad about it, he told him, “Do you think if I spent every day of my life selling insurance from the time I was 9, I would still like doing it? Well, hockey’s the same.”
When you train and compete continuously without proper rest, you risk physical injury – which we discussed earlier – and emotional exhaustion.
Taking a break allows you to rest, recover, and recharge physically and mentally.
Hockey is stressful. The game requires extreme focus, but the time away from the rink can be just as challenging. Even a couple of weeks can avoid the emotional toll of constantly pushing yourself to the limit. We tell all players that their first task post-season is to relax!
When you’re not always at the rink, you can focus on other aspects of your life, such as academics, relationships, or personal interests. These things are just as important as hockey but can be neglected during the season.
While stepping away from the game for any length of time can be difficult, it is essential to maintain long-term success, and you must have the discipline to do so. When you return to training and competing, ease into the routine. We’ve seen athletes go way too hard on their first day back and end up injured or ridiculously sore.
Work on Your Craft
If you want to be successful in your career, you’re going to have to practice. In fact, you’re going to have to take it a step further and practice with intent. Whenever we talk about working on our craft, it’s with intentional practice in mind.
Hockey is a complex and dynamic game that requires a range of physical, technical, and tactical skills, and the best players are those who have developed and honed these skills through consistent training and practice.
During the season, you are honing your tactical skills. These are things like positioning, reading the game, and making decisions. You need reps in live situations if you want to improve these skills.
On the flip side, the off-season is when you get to develop your technical skills. These are skills such as stickhandling, passing, and shooting. They are is essential if you want to be effective on the ice, but these skills take time and dedication to develop. You need to slow the skills down and focus on the individual aspects of each.
if you’re always on the ice in competitive situations, you’re losing out on the opportunity to develop the more technical aspects of the game. We’d suggest focusing on a skill for 2-4 weeks, then gradually using it in less and less controlled situations.
So you now understand that you should take time off the ice, but how much?
Well, that will vary based on each situation but as a general rule, at least 2 weeks away from the game. When you do get back on the ice, focus more on your technical skills and slowly ramp up.
The other suggestion we make is to schedule your on-ice session around your off-ice training. Building your physical attributes is the summer priority, don’t compromise those sessions.