Archive for the ‘Practice’ Category

The author, learning hockey with people who are smaller than the cones they skate around.

The author, nearly thirty, learning hockey with people who are the same size as the cones they skate around.

Sunday Morning

I am only three strides gone when I lose the puck. I don’t know how it happens. One moment, I have it, and the next it is in my skates and then gone. I look back and the thing seems a hundred feet behind, the mocking eye of the ice. I turn back to retrieve it, determined to exert my dominance once and for all over this piece of recalcitrant rubber, and I botch the crossover and fall sideways onto the ice. It is at that point that Sean passes me, deftly skating around my splayed body, puck firmly on stick.

Sean is seven years old. I am 28. On the sidelines, his mom snaps a picture.

I never intended to learn to play hockey. A serious fan of the game and sometimes-serious writer about it, I wanted to play. I wanted to play so badly it would literally hurt, a twitching kind of spasm in my arm muscles when I’d pass an outdoor rink on a sunny, frigid Montreal afternoon. Someday, I’d tell my friends with a convincing semblance of sincerity, I’ll take lessons. Someday, when I finish my degree. When I have more money. When I live closer to a rink. Someday, really. But it was a lie. The truth was, at the time I discovered hockey, I was 24 years old and rocking a 12-year-run of total inathleticism. Hockey is something to be learned in infancy. If you’re not a Timbit, you’re never going to be any good. I wasn’t about to invest a lot of time and money in something I knew I could never do well.

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Yesterday I wrote a little bit about the importance of conditioning, and the mental advantage of knowing you put in the work necessary to be prepared for that double or triple overtime game. Today I had planned on drawing up a list of conditioning drills I was put through over the years, but I had a better idea: instead of torturing minor hockey players by sharing those with coaches who happen to read this site, why not share the greatest drill of all-time and reward them? (Psst, coaches – it’s still tiring as hell.)


* A team with functioning brain cells. (A huge number of coaches just slumped their shoulders, disappointed.)

I mean, aside from a full roster and a few pucks, that’s pretty much it. Read the rest of this entry »

My junior hockey coach (Mike Vandekamp), whom I’ve written a lot about on this site and others, was unlike any other coach I ever had before or after our time together. He was, shall we say, a bit unorthodox. But, in my two years with him we went to the BCHL finals and lost in six, then swept every single series the following year to win the BCHL title. You can be as unorthodox as you like if you win, apparently.

Once your roster is solidified, a coach can only do a few things to ensure he gets the most out of his team: mainly, he can be sure they’re in shape, he can be sure they understand the systems, and he can make sure they buy in.

We were going to be the best conditioned team in the League, like it or not. I was firmly entrenched in the “not” group at first – bag skating is usually used as a threat or a punishment on most teams, and we hadn’t done anything wrong, so…why, Mike, why? It was just the way it was, so, take it or leave it, Desperate-18-Year-Old-Clinging-To-Hopes-Of-A-Career-In-Hockey.

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The life of the professional hockey player has changed somewhat over the years. My Dad’s NHL career spanned from 1974-1988, and over that time, he witnessed a huge shift in how players trained during the off-season. By the middle of his career, the term “training camp” was no longer where you began to work out if you hoped to keep up.

These days players let their bodies rest for as long as need be after the season – usually two-to-three weeks, maybe a month at most – then get back in the gym and start rebuilding the muscle they lost over the course of the last season, and hope to reach new “bigger, faster, stronger” heights.

Still, the routine isn’t that miserable. How long can a sane person really train for in a given day? Most guys get to the gym in the morning, and spend whatever amount of time they see fit – one-to-two hours for most – then head to the rink to skate. Read the rest of this entry »


"Ovy, I'm gonna need you to get your ass out of your head."

I got a note from a friend of my previous blog today that I thought brought up a fun topic – when you go to a new team, how do you figure out all the new drills in practice?

Every team and coach has their standard, favourite drills that they execute with regularity – to simplify, coaches often give them “code names” (and you know how great hockey players are with nicknames, eh “Smitty’s” of the world? It’s just about as clever with drills).

Usually, these names come from where the drill originated, or are assigned the name of a team that does them a lot, or are named by reading the collar of a random dog then assigning the drill his arbitrary name. Who knows?

The note went as such:

I skate at the Cap’s practice facility, and the other day their “Practice Line-Up/Drills” sheet was left taped to the wall.  Can you tell me what any of these mean?

Winnipeg BO
Blkhwk wrmpup
Tom Watt 41
2-2 Hi Low

The last two I think I have, but the first few…I’m terribly curious.

First off, that’s like a 40 minute practice, tops, so it’s a glorious thing to see when you come to the rink. And actually, besides the dreaded, hauntingly vauge “Conditioning” warning, it looks like a relatively painless day from what I can tell.

I can’t crack the Capitals pre-season practice code entirely, so here’s me swinging at a pitch just outside the zone:

Warning: pic may not be from this season.

Winnipeg BO – While it’s tempting to make a lazy joke about Winnipeg and BO, we all know it’s far too cold there for anyone to sweat. (Ha, yessssss, got a shot in anyway.) BO means breakout. My guess is the Caps don’t have Winnipeg’s systems dialed in this early in the year with a new coach, so it’s probably a throwback to whatever the original Jets used, which means it’s something simple. You know, cause in the early 90′s the game plan was essentially ”have better players, have them beat the other team.”

Blkhwk wrmpup – If you’re not sure what that is, you’re probably horrific at hangman and worse and Wheel of Fortune. I have no idea what the Blackhawk warmup is or why someone wedged an extra p in the word “warm-up,” but like I said – most classic drills are named after the place the coach first learned them. Hell, Pee-Wees do the “St. Louie” drill. God knows what year that one earned it’s name.

BONZ flow – This is a flow drill (I’m like the Hardy Boys), that goes from the breakout to the neutral zone, which in my estimation is the most common variety of mid-practice drill around. “Flow” implies they aren’t blowing the whistle to stop and start new guys, so here’s my best guess: They’re probably working on their breakout, while another line is in the neutral zone working on their neutral zone defence. Once they break it out (sometimes it takes many tries), there’ll be a dump in (and a change), and the line that was on D will go back and break out the puck, while another line comes out and waits in the neutral zone. It “flows” like that. Read the rest of this entry »