Kevin Neeld — Hockey Training, Sports Performance, & Sports Science

3 In-Season Hockey Development Mistakes

In honor of the international holiday that is David Lasnier’s 29th Birthday, I thought it would be appropriate to have him share with you some of his newly acquired wisdom that comes with another year of age. I asked David what he thought the three biggest mistakes hockey players make in-season were. His response below:

1) In-Season Training
One of the most important things hockey players don’t do in-season is lift.  Players from all levels starting at ages as young as 13-14 nowadays start lifting during the off-season to get stronger, faster and become better athletes in general (for younger players it’s going to be about improving neurological efficiency and motor patterns more than anything else).  And all of this off-season preparation, no matter how old you are is going to be great; players are going to arrive at training camp more ready than ever because they spent so much time training during the summer.  They’re going to be faster, stronger and more dominant on the ice, but as soon as the season starts they stop lifting completely.  How are you supposed to maintain the gains you’ve worked so hard to achieve if you don’t do anything in that regard?

Awesome.

It’s crazy to think that a player will be able to maintain these gains by simply playing hockey.  This is especially true with hockey because the season is very long and exhausting with a lot of games, tournaments, practices and it gets worse as the season gets closer to the playoffs.  Players just spend more and more time on the ice as the season progresses and fatigue accumulates.  When fatigue accumulates, the player will lose strength faster than anything else, so that’s why it’s really important to keep lifting during the season to maintain the gains made in the off-season.  While many will think it might be counter-productive because it will get players more tired, that’s really not the case if it’s done the right way.  It’s very important to understand that MAINTAINING athletic qualities does NOT require a lot of volume.  Most of the time, players will be able to maintain strength with as little as 1 or 2 lifting session per week of less than 45 minutes, which is very unlikely to affect the performance on the ice.  If anything, it will just insure that they don’t lose strength.

2) Soft-Tissue Quality
Another huge mistake hockey players make in-season is not taking care of their soft-tissue quality.  Like I mentioned previously, players spend a lot of time on the ice during the season, and it’s going to take a beating on their joints, especially their hips.  The not-so-simple motion of skating is far from being the most natural thing on the human body, and it will inevitably put stress on the hip joint and all the muscles surrounding it.  It’s no wonder why we see so many groin pulls, hip flexor pulls, sports hernia, pubalgia and the like in A LOT of hockey players when they spend a lot of time on the ice.  There are a lot of different things you can do to help reduce the risk of injuries and minimize the damage, and taking care of your soft-tissue quality around the hips is certainly one of them.  A regular visit to a qualified massage therapist during the season can go a long way in minimizing the incidence of strains, pulls and other injuries that might keep you off the ice for prolonged periods.  Once a month is a bare minimum for hockey players, and if you have the budget I would go as often as once every two weeks.  There is many different massage therapy options available out there.  While I recommend ART (Active Release Technique) more than anything else, there are definitely other good alternatives if that is not one available to you.  Whatever manual therapy or massage you get, as a general rule of thumb, it should definitely be pretty uncomfortable when the therapist works on your hip muscles, if not painful.

3) In-Season Nutrition
The last one is on a totally different note.  Players in-season travel a lot for games and tournaments and find themselves being out of town for many week-ends during the season.  Throw school in the mix and that leaves very little time for hockey players to plan meals and eat well.  It might be one of the most overlooked aspect of training and performance, but your nutrition is going to be directly related to the way you perform on the ice.  Hockey players, when away from home for games, at school and in general when hanging out with friends make horrible food choices, and they don’t realize the impact it has on their body and their performance.  They really need to plan meals ahead and make better food choices if they want to improve their performance on the ice and their energy levels for games and practices.  As a general rule of thumb, I feel like hockey players should eat more protein, fruits and vegetables and improve the quality of the carbohydrates they eat (e.g more sprouted grains, less processed food like cereals and most snacks).

-David Lasnier

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Kevin Neeld

Kevin Neeld Knows Hockey

Kevin has rapidly established himself as a leader in the field of physical preparation and sports science for ice hockey. He is currently the Head Performance Coach for the Boston Bruins, where he oversees all aspects of designing and implementing the team’s performance training program, as well as monitoring the players’ performance, workload and recovery. Prior to Boston, Kevin spent 2 years as an Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach for the San Jose Sharks after serving as the Director of Performance at Endeavor Sports Performance in Pitman, NJ. He also spent 5 years as a Strength and Conditioning Coach with USA Hockey’s Women’s Olympic Hockey Team, and has been an invited speaker at conferences hosted by the NHL, NSCA, and USA Hockey.