Kelowna, BC

Kelowna, BC

There’s a progression to off-season training (that follows some time away from the game) in every sport. In hockey, that means rebuilding what you’ve lost from the previous season, aiming for heavier weights and more reps, and shifting from raw power to quickness towards the end of summer. Being monsterously strong is a neat concept, but not when it makes you a slug.

Part of the graduation from power to quickness involves a crazy concept: skating with hockey skates on ice.

I’ve never mentioned this in a blog post before, but I used to play hockey. And with the wealth of knowledge I gained over that time, I can bring you this insight: skating on ice is an important skill for hockey players. Read on for more.

In all seriousness, what I didn’t really get about great NHL players and the way they train is their general disdain for incorporating skating into their summer regimens. I basically skated year round, using the logic that “to be a good hockey player, I should work on my hockey game.” They did not agree with my thinking on this.

Living in Kelowna, you would see the progression of the summer hockey game slowly move from slugs to stars (May to September), and realize that there’s a direct correlation between success in hockey and how early guys would skate, I assume because raw talent is raw talent and the best could afford to take a break.

At the start of the summer it would be me and four-to-six other guys playing half-ice three-on-three. We were fringe pros and European players and desperate goalies. The game would slowly grow until there were subs, then we were 5-on-5, then we were a full-on, full-ice hockey game.

By June you’d see some lesser pros get in the mix. In July, your fringe NHLers and AHLers would start trickling in. And in August – on August 1st, as in today, specifically – all the best players in the world hit the ice. If you’re going to pick an arbitrary day to get back at ‘er, two months before opening night is as good as any.

There are exceptions to this of course; some guys at the highest level just love to play too. But most of them figure they skate so often over so many months of the season (often twice a day between morning skate and games) that if there’s other ways to stay fit and get better, they’d take them. They need the mental break, where I felt I couldn’t afford to take one.

So today, the Capital News Center in Kelowna will be riddled with great NHL pros playing terribly.  I mean, the hockey is just awful. Dany Heatley is notorious for toe-picking once or twice on his first day back on the ice.

On August 1st the ice surface there is so packed with guys that they occasionally ask the youngest, “least important” members to beat it (it happened once to me when I was in junior). I know that’s seriously harsh, but they get a deal on the ice (the rich get richer) thanks to who the big names are, so the small fish are the first to fry.

I figured I’d share a couple notes from summer hockey in Kelowna:

It’s deep

Dany Heatley, Duncan Keith, Shea Weber, Scott Hartnell, Scotty Upshall, Ryan Getzlaf, Josh Gorges and way, way more show up to play. They used to give me the puck like I was a Make-A-Wish kid everyone wanted to see score. You can do it, little guy! I did not care for this.

Heatley makes poor decisions

I mentioned the toe-picks. He’s also unafraid to take slapbombs through ankles (a big no-no among dudes just trying to get in shape in a game that doesn’t actually matter), and he’s not afraid to go high-and-hard on the random fill-in teen goalie who’s less effective than a Shooter Tutor. This is also a no-no.

They call Duncan Keith “Bambi” there

He kind of bounds about when he skates. It’s ridiculously effective, whatever it is.

The rules

Games to five, then switch goalies. Goalies are KEY. If you get one pro, and one fill-in, the pro-less side has zero hope. They play “possession” ala basketball too. You score, the other team “ices” the puck down to your end, and away you go again.

Short shifts

Most drop-in and rec hockey consists of guys trying to maximize their ice time, because they paid to play. Somehow they don’t realize that if everyone just changes quick, you get the same ice, plus you’re fresh. These guys get that.

Mitch Fritz is a goal-scoring machine

Remember him? 6’8″ tough guy in the show for awhile. You don’t realize how skilled some of the lesser names are until you see a no-contact shinny game. Blake Comeau might have the best hands of anyone out there.

Logos in

You don’t want to be the guy wearing your team colours head-to-toe as in “CHECK OUT WHERE I PLAY I’M IN THE NHL.” It’s kinda bad form. You can’t really hide it with NHL guys who have all their team gear with them, but most guys flip their jersey inside out anyway. It’s a weird, sort of respect thing, like there’s no status during the game, whether you’re flipping a WHL or NHL jersey inside-out. Part of hockey’s pseudo-modest culture, maybe.

Pass before shooting

Goalies hate playing in this game, because guys pass up clean looks to attempt back-door tap-ins all day. You get yelled at for that in-season, so it’s fun to try to be the Harlem Globetrotters in the summer.


Games like this aren’t just happening in Kelowna, they’re happening all over the world.

August 1st has kind of become the unofficial start of hockey season. The fans won’t see the guys for awhile, but as of today, the real work starts for players.

Comments (32)

  1. Do it Bourne! One more time, do it! Tell me you once played one more time and I will waltz up there to Canuckland. Damnit offseason sucks!

  2. This might be a very stupid question (hey, I am British, this is a hockey backwater), but would a team not have issues with a guy on ice not on their watch, in terms of insurance etc….

    I have played 5-a-side/6-a-side soccer against EPL guys & it was a kinda a hush-hush thing. One guy (played for Aston Villa for a long time) said he wasn’t supposed to play without their consent (even for charity games) due to this and it was ‘off the record’ so to speak.

    Fascinating insight again BTW.

    • Training is quite a bit different than it is with soccer, players don’t spend their off-seasons heading out on vacation and then coming back to the team facility to train, they head out on their own and report back for training camp in the fall. Some guys may stick around and work with team staff, but most guys are working with their own trainers back in their hometowns. That is when they aren’t out on the lake or the golf course.

    • It’s much easier to get hurt in an exhibition or charity game in a sport like soccer than hockey. This is not to say that guys cannot / do not ever get hurt in these pick-up shinny games, it’s just not likely. They’re no-hit games so nobody’s getting lit up at mid-ice or driven awkwardly into the boards, nobody’s laying out to block shots, nobody (other than Dany Heatly apparently) is ripping slap shots through people’s shinpads, etc.

      While similar logic may apply to a 6-on-6 soccer game, where the real difference lies is the surface, i.e. running on grass vs skating on ice, and the preponderance of lower body injuries. Skating is MUCH lower impact on the knees and ankles than running is. Anytime you play a sport like soccer there is a very real possibility of rolling an ankle or twisting a knee that could turn out to be nothing more than a minor sprain or as catastrophic as a blown achilles or a torn ACL. That same danger simply does not exist with skating.

      Hockey is a dangerous sport, no arguing that. But when you remove the physical contact and come as close as possible to eliminating the odds of getting hit by the puck, the likelihood of sustaining an injury is almost 0. The same cannot be said about soccer, where one false step at any time could put you on the shelf for upwards of a year.

    • Would be nice to get Bourne’s perspective on this.

      The off-season shinny/practice games are a common annual tradition to get ready for the next season, so there must not be a problem with the insurance or the players wouldn’t be allowed to do it.

    • NHL training camps are literally 3 days and then in to preseason. The guys can’t afford in the modern game to NOT do their own training. Here in Denver the guys will filter in to town about a week before camp and do “unofficial” shinny games and bag skates (Sakic used to have the team do them, not sure if the Landy can get the guys on board with that but who knows).

      I’ll tell you right now in those Shinny games the top six skaters are going about 50%, even in official training camp they go about 75% with little bursts to top effort from time to time. Usually if they are getting chirped/pissed. It’s why at training came there’s aways a fringe guy that looks like a star. Sakic, Forsberg etc., al are never training camp stand outs. Brian Wilsie looked like a first ballot All Start in 2007 Avalanche training camp.

  3. Oh boy, you are getting me excited for hockey.

    There’s just something about the team atmosphere and being ‘one of the boys’, you know?

  4. This just makes me happy, so very happy.

  5. the day mario lemeuix stopped getting french fries with his sandwich at the turn

  6. I had heard about these games for a long time, and spending a lot of time at the rink in SJ, always wondered where/when they were happening… Then I realized… “These guys don’t “work”… the middle of the day”.

  7. Such a cool piece, thanks for sharing this one man. #50in07

    • You fuckin bet I’m out there rippin shots at the goalie. Fuck do i care if he’s 18 this isn’t fuckin reach for the top. I’m a fuckin all-star. Tell melnyk about the fuckin sweet boat i bought with all his money. #50in07

  8. As a college hockey player I personally hate these type of skates. Yeah it’s really cool to skate with show players, but the “pass before shooting,” lack of backchecking, and hitting are what make these type of games regressive for development. I find that all players end up working on is bad habits that hold them back in real games. This includes giving up prime shooting opportunities to try and make a pretty play and poor positioning without the puck since everyone is trying score. After doing this for an entire month, it’s hard to shake mentally come training camp.

    I don’t think it’s a bad thing for players to skate during the summer at all. In fact, players should be working on their games in the summer. The gym is great and very important for on ice strength, but lifting weights and doing box jumps won’t score goals. Nothing you do in the gym can help you think the game better or shoot better. Proper shooting technique is 95% of the battle and you can’t fix that in the gym, nor can the gym develop your hockey IQ. In the summer, players should be working on their shots constantly, and do small area games on the ice to improve thinking on the ice. Those 3 on 3 games you mentioned should be moved in to below the hash marks instead of the red center line. Sure it’s less skating, but taking a way a players time and space will force them to learn how to make good decisions.

    I agree that the summer is important to get away from the game to take a break, but whenever you start skating again in the summer it shouldn’t be about just getting back in shape, it should be about working on things that make you better. There’s a reason why a guy like Joe Pavelski just signed a fresh $30 million dollar deal and trust me when I say it’s not because he waits till August to lace up the boots for a shinny skate.

    • “Bourne, I’m sure your buddy Steve is a great guy, but don’t invite him out again. He’s way too intense. It’s August.”

      “I know, I know, sorry about that. Won’t happen again.”

      • I never said the intensity should be high in those skates. In fact, anybody who backchecks or hits hard in those skates is a loser. I said that because there is no intensity and a big dissimilarity to real games, it is counter productive to getting ready for the season.

        • well steve, i’m assuming you know exactly what it takes to be a pro.. we look forward to you seeing Duncan Keith and Shea Weber both look stupid next time you play them in the regular season…

          • Yeah some guys can clearly get away with it. But someone like Heatley is a perfect of example of a guy who is on the decline in the prime years of his career because he doesn’t improve his game in the offseason. Casual August scrimmy’s with the boys clearly isn’t working for him.

            You think I’m throwing crap against the wall, but I know plenty of show guys who refuse to do these skates because it facilitates the development of bad habit.

            P.S the retarded comment was very articulate. Funny coming from the guy that can’t even spell his own pseudonym properly. Kharlamov’s name was Valeri, not Valery.

    • i think you may be retarded…

      • Actually “Steve” this is my real name.. and like my Namesake our names are indeed spelled with a Y at the end.. Russian alphabet is different.. most Russian names are spelled different so they dont confuse all you North Americans.. Alexander Semin.. Aleksandr Syomin.. If Vsevolod Bobrov ever came to north america.. you guys probably would have called him something stupid like “Seve”.. but thanks for caring bro, yer still retard.. what community college you play at anyway.. i’ll fly over there and show you how its done bro

        • also.. “steve” “the guys you talk to” play at the same community college as you.. so their input isn’t exactly much of an arguing point.. Heaters demise isnt because he developed bad habits fucking around at a rink in burnaby or wherever.. his demise is because he generally doesnt do fuck all for excersize.. so while his sublime shot still exists.. his lack of physical fitness has eroded his ability to do much else to make that nasty shot of his more dangerous.. so once again.. who do we listen to here? “Steve and the Junoir college runner-ups” or Duncan Keith and his rag tag band of norris trophy winning bad habit developers?

    • Well in Steve’s defense, who wouldn’t want to skip shinny for the chance to do box jumps and work on proper shooting technique? yeeeee hawwww!

  9. “Blake Comeau might have the best hands of anyone out there”


  10. Fascinating — thanks for this glimpse behind the summer scenes. Do fans generally leave these guys alone? The ice times must be a badly-kept secret in a place like Kelowna, and no matter how bad the hockey is, there must be lots of people who’d be curious enough to want to watch. Do they make any effort to keep the looky-loos out of the rink?

    • No fuckin shit eh? I don’t want a bunch of fuckin kids watchin me for free skatin around snipin and hackin the fuck outta guys. I’m a fuckin all-star, gimme some more fuckin money.

      • Haha you Sens “fans” are still butt hurt about Heatly eh, must suck having your messiah Alfie the Clown give ya the middle finger and fuck off to Detroit.

        • Who the fuck cares about shit hole ottawa or fuckin Alfie. Highlight of his fuckin career was playin with a fuckin allstar like me. #50in07

  11. I would kill to be the sieve in one of these games… I play against an ex-AHLer in a regular pick up group. He makes everyone look terrible. Never misses his shot. If he is one on one with me I have a 20% chance of saving it if I’m on my game. I can stop the far out shots, but below the hash mark with any time and I am almost helpless.

  12. Steve is getting upset.. read above

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