Feb 222010

The NHL’s fastest skater competition is held every season on the day before the All-Star Game. During this event, each individual skater is timed on how fast they can do one lap around the ice. 

Although each player who participates is certainly fast, I don’t think it determines who the fastest player in the league is. I’ve never seen a player skate a lap around the ice in a straight line during a game. This reminds me of the NFL scouting combine where they conduct the 40-yard dash. Very rarely do football players run in straight lines.

Hockey is a game of stops, starts and frequent changes of direction. The ability to accelerate, decelerate, then stop and accelerate again as quickly as possible is a huge characteristic in the game’s fastest players. 

Acceleration, or the ability to accelerate faster than others, is what the game’s fastest players are able to do. Very rarely does a player get up to his top-end speed, which is measured in the NHL’s fastest skater competition.  Coaches such as Boston University Hockey Strength and Conditioning Coach Mike Boyle and Washington Capitals Exercise Physiologist Jack Blatherwick have been promoting the need to develop acceleration for years and I totally agree with them.

So how do you develop acceleration?

First, I think it’s important to think about what characteristics the faster players in hockey have in common.  From my practical observations, they are all built like a track sprinter or a football running back. Big and strong quads, glutes and hips are characteristics of sprinters in hockey and other sports. When I recall some of the players that I have been fortunate to work with who were some of hockey’s best accelerators (Paul Kariya, Andy McDonald, Todd Marchant and Teemu Selanne come to mind), they are all very strong and powerful athletes. 

Acceleration is the ability to go from a dead stop to a sprint in as little time as possible. In our off-season program, we will always do drills to help players improve their acceleration ability. 

These drills are always done before any strength training or conditioning exercises. The focus of these drills should be on the first 3-5 steps, which should be done as fast as possible. Then the recovery should be as long as necessary for each athlete.  Speed work should never be done when an athlete is tired or when they haven’t recovered from the previous repetition. Some of the drills that we do with our players include lean-fall and funs, tennis ball drops, and partner chase sprints.  All of them emphasize the first 3-5 steps.

I have found these drills also are very easy to implement with a young team that I currently work with. We’ve simply done them in an empty space in front of the rink. 

The point is that hockey players need to be incorporating sprinting exercises into their strength and conditioning program. Implementing short sprints into your program combined with a strength-training program that emphasizes leg strength will go a long way in developing a young hockey player.

Feb 082010

I think it’s important to always be reading and learning new information.  Not only as far as Strength and Conditioning goes, but also for self-improvement and entertainment.  With the number of long trips that I have been on with our team recently, I’ve been able to get a lot of reading in. Here is what I am currently reading or have recently read:

Strength and Conditioning:

Advances in Functional Training by Michael Boyle.

By now, people who know me should know how much I respect Mike and his work. He has been a friend and mentor to me since I’ve entered this field. Mike’s a coach who actually coaches on as daily basis. This book is a great reference to what Mike is currently doing with his athletes. What I really like about the information in the book is that it is user friendly in my present coaching situation even though I may not agree with everything in it. Mike knows how to get a lot out of his athletes by using exercises and progressions that are done safely and promote a healthy athlete with improved performance.

Cardio Strength Training by Robert Dos Remedios

Coach Dos is another coach who is coaching in the trenches every day. Like Mike, when a coach like Dos writes something, I am reading and listening to what they have to say. The book is a great reference for some great ways to enhance work capacity, strength, and fat loss.


Confessions of a Public Speaker by Scott Berkun

This is a great book that is well written on how to give better presentations. I am always trying to learn new tricks and techniques on how to make my talks better. The author really gets into the small details that go into making them really good and he also gives advice on how to avoid giving a bad presentation.

Think Like a Winner by Dr. Walter Doyle Staples

This is a great book that is along the lines of what authors like Brian Tracy, Dale Carnegie, Zig Ziglar, and Napoleon Hill preach. By working hard on yourself along with having a burning desire to succeed, you can get more out of life.  This seems to be a major theme amongst these authors.

The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale
I just started reading this one as it is a book I’ve always wanted to read.  It is great so far.


Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane
This was a book that was given to me by my wife. The setting is the Boston Harbor Islands- a place near where I grew up. It was written by the same author as Mystic River and Gone Baby Gone, which are also thrillers set in Boston. I can’t wait for the movie to come out.

My next book to read is Lone Survivor which was recommended to me by my friend Jared Nessland who is the Director of Strength and Conditioning at Southern Illinois.