Gift Guide: Stocking Stuffers

Gift Guide: Stocking Stuffers

Gift Guide: Stocking Stuffers

Hockey is almost tailor made for stocking stuffers. Well, aside from 40” leg pads, and sticks that don’t lend themselves well to wrapping paper. But take those out of the equation and there may not be a better sport for finding stocking stuffers than hockey.

Training aids like the Smart Hockey Training Ball or the Green Biscuit Training Puck are the perfect size to slip into a stocking and are even better gifts since they can be used at home or at the rink with ease.

Of course every hockey player needs tape and there never seems to be enough of it no matter how many rolls you buy. Toss a few rolls of white or black tape into a stocking with a couple rolls of clear tape for a fail-safe gift that will never need to be taken back because it was the wrong size. One note on buying tape, double check the color the person you’re buying for uses as hockey players are a finicky bunch when it comes to superstitions like the color of their tape.

There are even some cool accessories from the hockey apparel at Great Skate. For example, Bauer’s skate lace bracelet would make for a very cool, unique stocking stuffer that many hockey players would love to have.

Some of the hockey stocking stuffers at Great Skate are a bit more practical than a skate lace bracelet or even a composite mini stick. Everyone loves having sharp skates but sometimes you’re running too behind to get a sharpening taken care of. A Sweet Stick solves that problem as the pocket-sized blade re-edger can fit into a side pocket of a bag and be used in a pinch when a sharpening is out of the question. Another skate-related accessory that makes for a great stocking stuffer are Elite skate guards. These are the exact same skate guards used around the NHL and offer protection for skate blades while also preventing rusting. The Elite skate guards can be found in many different colors to match the team of the player you’re buying for.

One newer item that could make for a nice addition in a stocking this holiday season is the Tacki-Mac stick grip. Great Skate carries three different versions of the Tacki-Mac grips and each provides a pre-cast, tacky butt end for a stick. Colors and styles all vary but these are becoming more and more popular as they’re designed to extend the life of gloves while offering more grip and command than a regular tape buttend offers.

If you find yourself without a few extra stocking suffers as the holiday season wraps up, check with a Great Skate sales associate to help round out the final items on your shopping list this year.

Packing an equipment first-aid kit

Hockey Helmet Repair Kit

Hockey Helmet Repair Kit

What would happen if your lace snaps two minutes before warm up? What if your ear loop rips or a helmet buckle pops off? What if you need to re-work an edge on your skate or tighten up part of your helmet? Do you have the tools to address any of those issues or any others that crop up through the course of a hockey season?

If you answered no to any of those questions you should consider putting together an equipment first-aid kit and store it in your bag at all times.

In addition to a screwdriver (both a Phillips and a small flat-head) I also keep extra laces, helmet hardware and skate sharpening tool in my bag at all times. That way, if there are any unforeseen issues in the locker room, I’m not stuck with a faulty piece of equipment – or something that would prevent me from playing – for the game I’m preparing for.

Having some sort of emergency gear kit is particularly helpful if you’re on the road at a tournament or somewhere that may not have the comforts of you home rink. This is particularly important if a fully stocked pro shop isn’t at your disposal. Exactly what you deem to be important to have in your bag at all times comes down to your own personal discretion, but there are certainly some key items that no hockey coach or player should be without when you find yourself in a pinch.

  • Standard Phillips or flat-head screw driver: A vast majority of the hardware on your helmet or gear will require a Phillips screwdriver, but it doesn’t hurt to have one of each in the event that a flat-head is needed. This should be considered a must have for any bag.
  • Scissors: Again, an item that you won’t want to be in the event that you run into any sort of scenario where a quick fix is necessary. You don’t need to have this on you at all times, but it wouldn’t hurt either.
  • Allen wrench: This is getting a bit more technical, but it you happen to keep an Allen (or hex) wrench can help in the event that you need to tighten up something on your skates. This may be best used at home, but you may find it necessary in an emergency.
  • Extra laces: Whether you’re a waxed or non-waxed guy, don’t get caught with a ripped lace and nothing to replace it with. That’s the last situation you want to be in. An extra pair of laces aren’t going to take up much space and will turn out to be a life saver when you find out you need them.
  • Skate sharpening tool or stone: At the very least, a stone will allow you to work an edge back onto your skates if you’re in a pinch. I use something very similar to a Sweet Stick that basically re-sharpens your skates and works out burrs. The version I use happens to have a stone on it, so it’s the best of both worlds. Great Skate also carries the Skate Mate if that’s the product you’d prefer.
  • Helmet hardware: Just like with stocking a stone or Sweet Stick in your bag, having some sort of helmet hardware will save you in a pinch. This can be as simple as a few extra screws for your cage right up to a full Helmet Repair Kit with additional buckles and straps if you really want to go big.
  • Extra mouth guard: For those of you who are required to wear a mouth guard in your leagues, keep an extra one in your bag. This way, if you happen to drop yours at home, you have a back up handy.

Another key is having something to keep all of this in. Get a small shaving kit or toiletry bag and stash your backup gear and hardware in there. That way all of these small, loose items don’t get mixed in with your bag. If you have extra pockets on your bag, those work as a great place for them as well.

I use an outer pocket on my bag to hold my Sweet Stick, screwdriver, tape, extra laces, extra suspender straps (for my goalie pants) and additional helmet hardware. It never gets mixed in with my gear so it isn’t in the way and can’t get lost.

Keep some of these ideas in mind and the next time you or a teammate are in need remember that a simple equipment first aid kit would solve all of your problems. 

Exciting time for hockey in Buffalo as HARBORcenter rises

Exciting time for hockey in Buffalo as HARBORcenter rises

Exciting time for hockey in Buffalo as HARBORcenter rises

The cranes that dot the skyline in downtown Buffalo are feverishly assisting in assembling Terry Pegula’s newest piece of the growing Sabres campus at the foot of Washington Street. HARBORcenter is rising higher by the day as the hotel, twin-rink and parking garage complex works towards the slated 2014 opening date.

HARBORcenter –  is set to welcome a Marriott branch to the hotel portion of the project – will also include a large parking facility that will serve the adjacent First Niagara Center, hotel and the pair of rinks which will sit on top of the parking structure. One of the two rinks will seat 1,800 people and it was just announced that it will serve as the home for the Canisius Golden Griffins hockey program.

With the Golden Griffins joining the Junior Sabres minor program, it will make HARBORcenter a mecca for hockey in downtown Buffalo. Don’t forget that since the facility will be joined to First Niagara Center, it will create the NHL’s first three-rink facility.

Perhaps the ultimate benefit of having a premier hockey venue in the heart of downtown won’t be felt, but I’m sure that it won’t take long for the benefits to reveal themselves. Not only will one of the top youth programs in the area be operating out of the building, Buffalo’s lone DI NCAA program will not be playing feet away from the NHL rink. If there was a better way to bring the focus of Western New York’s hockey community to this building I’d like to know how.

There’s certainly no guarantee that Canisius’ program will blossom uncontrollably due to their move, but the recruiting trail might be a bit easier when professional scouts will be a hop and a skip from every home game in a brand new, state-of-the-art arena that is set to feature a training center specifically designed to develop hockey players.

I’m hopeful that the Griffs will be able to lure a few more premier names to their home for inter-conference matchups now that they’re no longer borrowing home ice at a different facility. Perhaps a certain blue and white clad team from Pennsylvania will want to check out the digs funded by the very man who provided funding for their new home.

Another benefit that will surely be on the table thanks to HARBORcenter will be the ability to lure national tournaments to Buffalo’s doorstep. This includes the Frozen Four. Buffalo first hosted the tournament in 2001 and have since (slowly) built out the waterfront while hitting the fast track with a premier hockey venue which will not just serve as a practice facility for the teams being hosted but also has a hotel to house each of the competing teams. Not to mention the additional development that is sure to impress the visiting guests from across the country.

Despite the fact that his professional team is beginning the difficult process of a rebuild, the construction happening outside of the First Niagara Center should bring attention to the arena for years to come.

Hockey Fitness: Summer Training

Now that we’re officially in the dog days of summer, you’ve probably had plenty of time to spend at the beach, hanging with friends and possibly getting some ice from time to time with friends or even rec teams. But with summer heading towards the finish and tryouts and the regular season closing in, it is time to whip yourself into game shape.

There are a million and one hockey workouts for the summer online and they’re all great. For the most part you can find a host of programs that focus on weight, endurance and cross training to ensure you get a full body workout while you’re away from the rink on a regular basis.

The beauty of a summer workout is that you can vary the exercises you wish to focus on. Is this an offseason where you want to put on solid weight? Are you looking to build explosiveness and foot speed? Or maybe you’re looking to get back into game shape with a simple, well-rounded workout routine.

Regardless of your primary focus, a sound cardiovascular element is vital. Whether it’s on a stationary bike, roller blades, bicycle or jogging, make sure you build in an adequate amount of time for a proper cardio workout. Few things are going to help keep your third period legs fresh than a run or bike ride in the heat of July and August.

Mixing in different cardio elements will aid in building different muscle groups while keeping the primary focus on your cardiovascular health and building some of the endurance you may have lost catching up on the tan you lost during the winter. One other key to your cardio work out is to keep varying levels to the workout. Interval training is a great way to not only maintain endurance but also build explosive and high-tempo bursts (much like shifts in a game) into that training.

As for the weight and strength training aspect, the key is a full body focus. Keep the focus on specific muscle groups and ensure that each day’s workout is collectively going to improve that muscle group. One practice I picked up from working with various trainers is the concept of supersetting work outs.

This may not necessarily be the practice that you wish to pursue, but using a superset workout will not only allow you to mix in multiple exercises at once, but can provide for full body movement as opposed to single-muscle exercises that you may be used to.

The final element, if you hadn’t already worked this in, is core strength and agility. While a lot of agility drills work very well in a cardio setting, they can definitely be done individually and when combined with core strengthening workouts can serve as a tremendous compliment to the typical cardio and strength training programs you’ve used in the past.

Ultimately your summer workout is yours to build. Goalies may be only concerned with lower body focus, cardio and a high level of agility training to increase their side-to-side mobility and effectiveness for the coming season. Maybe some defensemen are trying to add weight and strength for added physicality as their regular season is set to begin. Or perhaps you need to get back in shape and ready for training camp and a full-circuit workout is just what the doctor ordered.

Do your research, see what other players are doing and make sure that you keep a broad focus on the entire practice.

Predicting the 2014 USA Olympic Roster – Defense & goalies

Predicting the 2014 USA Olympic Roster – Defense & goalies

Predicting the 2014 USA Olympic Roster – Defense & goalies

Now that I’ve taken a look at the forwards who I expect to make the US Olympic team for the 2014 Olympics, let’s take a look at the group of players who will be keeping the puck out of the net.

I feel like there is going to be a ton of turnover between 2010 and 2014 on the blueline. A boatload of young Americans have come up through the ranks and are ready to take on a major role in Sochi. Gone will be guys like Tim Gleason and Ryan Whitney to be replaced by young stars who will move well on the big surface:

Ryan Suter (A)      Ryan McDonagh      Brooks Orpik

Keith Yandle      Kevin Shattenkirk      John Carlson

Paul Martin

  Ryan Suter returns to my roster with an increased leadership role from 2010. He was a minute hog in Vancouver and certainly will be again in Sochi. Pairing him with Ryan McDonagh is a no brainer for me. McDonagh might just be the best defenseman of this group and should only get better with another year under his belt. This will be the shutdown pairing for the United States.

Brooks Orpik happens to be one guy who I’m on the fence on. He’s a guy I love to watch and a player who holds a lot of value in my opinion. I also think that he’s a quality defender who won’t get caught in the wash on the big ice. However, I could see his footspeed as an issue to the decision makers.

Regardless, Orpik and Keith Yandle make up my mixed second pairing. Yandle, a straight-ahead puck mover should be complimented well by Orpik’s steady, stay-at-home style quite well. Unlike my top pair who has the ability to contribute at both ends, this is a pairing which will need to feed off each other to be successful.

Kevin Shattenkirk and John Carlson make up my final pairing of quality two-way defenders. Shattenkirk is more of an offensive threat but Carlson has an all-around game that is perfect for the short Olympic tournament. He also happens to be a seasoned international participant (remember his WJC triumph?) which helps his resume.

Paul Martin is penciled is as defenseman number seven for now as he has really rounded back into form these past few years. I think he has the mobility to be effective on the big ice and will bring a very nice presence to the roster because of that.

In net the Americans are stacked. Vezinas, playoff veterans and a Conn Smythe dot resumes of American keepers that will be eligible for a spot. How Dan Bylsma plans to sort this out is anyone’s guess, but I have a good feeling about the guys I take.

G

Jimmy Howard

Jonathan Quick

Ryan Miller

 

You’re probably wondering why I have Howard over Quick. I just feel that Quick is better suited to play the type of teams the US will be seeing on a big surface. Quick is such an aggressive goaltender that I worry his tendencies will be exploited while playing on an Olympic surface.

Howard plays a slightly more measured game which seems to have less of an opportunity to be hurt by rebound or back-door opportunities. That isn’t to say that Quick isn’t deserving of the starting job, but I just have a sneaking suspicion that Howard may fare better on the big ice (he’s also seen a couple World Championships).

Ryan Miller makes my roster on the darkhorse ticket. His numbers have fallen off but he’s played his best hockey in Olympic years. I have little doubt that this trend will continue in the 13-14 season and he may even steal the starting job again if he has a stellar opening to the year as he did in 2010.

As for the watchlist on the backend, here’s a few names to keep an eye on:

Cam Fowler – A young prospect who could certainly steal a spot if he catches fire this season. I doubt that he’s a primary target but I wouldn’t doubt if his play merits consideration.

Jake Gardiner – Same boat as Fowler in many respects. He’s a great puck mover who might garner attention with a strong start to the season.

Justin Faulk – If the United States management team is looking for an offensive x-factor, Faulk will be it. Paul Martin is a nice two-way player as the seventh defenseman but Faulk could certainly make the team as a power play specialist defenseman.

Predicting the 2014 USA Olympic Roster – Forwards

Predicting the 2014 USA Olympic Roster – Forwards

Predicting the 2014 USA Olympic Roster – Forwards

As time continues to tick down towards the opening ceremonies at the 2014 Winter Olympics, hockey fans are gaining more interest in which players will be representing their country at the Sochi Games.

After an impressive and surprising silver medal effort in Vancouver, the United States will come to Sochi with much higher expectations and a much more impressive roster. With an impressive amount of defensive depth and a bevy of talented goaltenders to choose from, the biggest challenge will be determining who will be scoring the goals for the Americans next February.

I expect to see a few roster spots turnover for the US team this time around, but the same strong core will return up front:

LW

C

RW

Patrick Kane

Joe Pavelski

Dustin Brown

Zach Parise

James VanRiemsdyk

Phil Kessel

Max Pacioretty

Paul Stastny

Bobby Ryan

David Backes (A)

Ryan Kesler

Ryan Callahan (C)

Derek Stepan

 

The offensive engine for the United States will be powered by Patrick Kane, Zach Parise and Phil Kessel. Those three bring a different level of electricity to the ice and they should thrive on the big surface where they can escape from the high traffic areas they typically encounter on the NHL pad.

As of now I have Kane skating with Joe Pavelski and Dustin Brown. Brown is riding shotgun for the offensively gifted duo and his muck and grind style should result in a few ugly tallies throughout the tournament. Pavelski is going to play a major role for the United States as they’re woefully thin at center from top to bottom.

The Kane, Pavelski, Brown trio should combine will with Parise, James VanRiemsdyk and Phil Kessel to form a top-six with plenty of scoring acumen. While my penciled in top line has a little bit of two-way responsibility (Brown and Pavelski), my second unit won’t be entering the Selke race any time soon.

I also take a slight stretch by placing VanRiemsdyk at center. This isn’t his natural position but I love the idea of he and Kessel feeding off their preloaded chemistry from the regular season. Parise is the outsider in a sense, but he’s such a great talent that I doubt he will struggle to run up some points with that pair.

My third line is something of a set of sleepers. Max Pacioretty, Paul Stastny and Bobby Ryan as all American veterans from various international tournaments and Stastny and Ryan will be returning for their second Olympic games. Stastny was going to be off my list until his stunning play at the Worlds changed my mind. Putting him with two battleships like Pacioretty and Ryan should allow him to serve as playmaker to the two snipers.

Lastly comes the grind line. The Americans succeeded in Vancouver thanks to their goaltending, physical play and plenty of gutty leadership. Veterans like Chris Drury and Jamie Langenbrunner weren’t expected to be major contributors but the pair brought more to the table than was expected. A trio of 2010 vets should bring the same attitude to the table in Sochi.

Ryan Kesler, Ryan Callahan and David Backes are all first or second line players for their respective NHL squads and they all happen to be world class defensive forwards. Playing an overly physical game on the big ice in Russia is going to be a risk/reward game plan and these three are talented enough to find a healthy balance. When it comes to shutting down the countless superstar lines from Canada and Russia, these three will likely earn the toughest task. I don’t know if I could think of a better set of forwards to handle such a task.

Derek Stepan is my extra forward and he makes my team based on the fact that he can play center. The US is so thin at center that they need all the help they can get. Stepan is a shifty, dangerous forward who can step in as a pivot and produce if necessary. If he makes the team, most of his minutes will come on the wing. But when needed, he can slide inside.

This roster is contingent on a couple of factors. First; the staff needs to feel confident that one of those top three lines is capable of playing a little bit of defense. The Backes, Kesler, Callahan line is a shutdown dream but the rest of the forwards are more of the one-way variety. Second, the health of certain players (Kesler to be precise) will weigh heavily on how the roster comes together. Bearing that in mind, here are a few watch list players to keep an eye on:

TJ Oshie – A dynamic winger who has some strong two-way ability. Oshie is young but has shown great promise in St. Louis’ defensive system. He was may final “cut” but could easily find his way on the roster.

Brandon Dubinsky – Think of Dubinsky as Kesler Light. He’s a solid two-way player who can fill a shut down role. If defensive responsibility is at a premium, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him.

Alex Galchenyuk – A darkhorse, but someone to keep in mind. He’s incredibly talented and there’s no reason to think that he wouldn’t have a place on this roster. I doubt that he’d see time as a center, but if he has a big start to the season, he could be a possibility.

Up next, the defensemen and goalies

Vaughn takes a new direction with Ventus line

Vaughn takes a new direction with Ventus line

Vaughn takes a new direction with Ventus line

Vaughn has served as an industry leader in goal pad design and production for a long time. In fact, the Velocity line helped to revolutionize the position in the early 2000s when the butterfly style was enhanced with the Velocity’s ability to sit flush against the ice.

Since the Velocity was released goaltending manufacturers have engaged in an arms race to introduce new and revolutionary designs with each set of goal pads they build. All the while, Vaughn has played the role of the tortoise; slow and steady wins the race.

While the new Velocity 5 continues the tradition of the now legendary line, Vaughn has once again thrown their hat in the ring with a slightly different pad design. The Ventus goal pad is built with a closer resemblance to the thin, low-profile, flat-front pads that have been released by Bauer, Reebok, Warrior and other manufacturers in recent years. Vaughn offered a model a couple of years back that, while well received, didn’t have the same legs as the traditional Velocity line. However, the Ventus should change all of that.

While the Velocity line remains in it’s original form, the Ventus picks up where the reintroduced Vision line left off not more than a year ago.

The Ventus is a full flat-faced pad with a single-break outer roll designed to promote a solid, firm shape and construction. The overall construction is made to remain rigid even after being broken in so the gradual S-bend maintains its form at all times. Vaughn accomplishes this by utilizing a lightweight inner core with rigid properties to maintain a consistent pad shape. This is a pad construction that is gaining popularity throughout the NHL as goaltenders like Carey Price and Antti Niemi opt for longer, stiffer pads which maintain their shape at all times.

For those goaltenders – like myself – who prefer a more flexible bend towards the top of the pad, the Ventus does have a flexible knee option available.

The interior of the pad is not all that much different from the Velocity construction. The Ventus design provides a greater anatomical fit in various locations to promote greater contact with the ice, added extension in the butterfly and reduced stress to the knees and hips.

The landing gear at the knee and calf area are wide and provide ample coverage while dispersing direct impact. In addition, the calf wrap provides full wrap-around protection while also covering gaps by promoting flush contact when leaning against the posts. The knee and calf wrap system is designed to work in unison so that the goaltender receives improved responsiveness from the pad during games.

As for graphics, the Ventus looks good. The sleek vertical lines give the pads a tall presence in a similar fashion to the way that the Premier 4 graphic is designed. Vaughn’s graphics allow for up to five areas with different colors but work best with a three-color scheme.

If you’re a goaltender in the market for a flat-faced, low-profile pad, don’t rule out Vaughn as a candidate. The Ventus series is a strong entry into a corner of the market that has been previously controlled by a limited selection.

Hockey Fitness: Agility training

Last month’s Hockey Fitness post focused on building explosiveness. Hockey is all about stops and starts and quick, explosive movements. The plyometric inspired exercises illustrated last month should paint a picture of where to begin with that side of your training.

That explosion training will not only build strength but also help with footspeed on the ice. Adding agility drills to your off-ice workouts are another great way to strengthen your skating skills. Agility training is something that forwards, defensemen and goaltenders can all benefit from.

There are a number of fantastic resources on the internet talking about different types of agility drills and training that specifically impact hockey players and the muscle groups they need to target. Below are four drills which might be strong additions to your offseason program.

20-yard Shuttle

20-yard Shuttle

If you happen to tune into the NFL Combine you will see this drill done quite a bit. It is a great speed and agility drill that can be adapted and altered as you see fit. Start off by setting up three cones, or markers five yards apart. If you happen to have access to a football field you can go by the yard lines.

Start at the middle cone, sprint forward five yards to the next cone, change direction and sprint ten yards in the opposite direction before finishing back at the middle cone. This is a great drill for explosiveness and change of direction. As you improve with the drill you can expect your first three steps on the ice to improve as well.

One wrinkle that is interesting to throw in is switching sprinting for backpedaling or shuffling. This is particularly effective for goaltenders and defensemen to institute along with the traditional sprint.

30-yard T-drill

30-yard T-drill

This is a drill that takes some of the 20-yard shuttle but combines it with other agile movements. The main focus of this drill is not only the explosive first step but developing fluid hip movements and improving change of direction.

Starting at the back cone, a player will sprint forward and rapidly change direction into a five-yard shuffle. Upon reaching the third cone, you will shuffle the ten yards across before shuffling five yards back to the middle. To finish, backpedal to the starting cone.

In a similar manner to the 20-yard shuttle, this keeps you moving at all times but combines, sprinting, backpedaling and lateral movement. One wrinkle you can add would be to substitute karaoke or crossovers for shuffling. In fact, that is something you can do with each of these drills.

20-yard box

20-yard box

This is yet another drill which draws from the 20-yard shuttle above. It also has some similarities to the 30-yard T above but has more of a focus on short movements than the endurance used in the T-drill.

This drill can be started at any of the four locations, but it is typically best to start by sprinting forward, changing direction into a shuffle (or crossover), backpedaling and finishing with another shuffle. Like the T-drill this uses all three movements and focuses on explosive, fluid movements and agility through the change of direction.

Zig-Zag Drill

Zig-Zag Drill

This particular drill can be adapted in a number of different ways. Depending on what kind of focus you wish to have, the cones can be kept in close proximity to one another or spaced further apart. Adding more cones is also recommended, as it will allow you to lengthen the drill beyond 15 or 20 yards.

Starting with the cones five yards apart is a good trial approach and can serve as your base set-up. Determining shorter or longer distances will allow you to focus more on straight-line speed, or tight agile movements. This drill can also be adapted to use a shuffle or backpedal instead of sprinting.

The Zig-Zag drill really hones in on keeping fluid hips (particularly if you’re backpedaling) and tight cuts. To start, sprint from cone-to-cone in a zig-zag pattern making sure to cut your turns as tight as possible at each cone. You should always cut to the outside of each cone as you reach that point.

These four drills offer a good mix of different approaches you can take to agility training. Using speed ladder drills (as mentioned last month) and other advice from your coaches and around the internet will allow you to build a well-rounded off-ice speed and agility training regimen.

Hockey Fitness: Build explosiveness

Hockey is a special game that combines just about every aspect of an individual’s athleticism. Hand-eye coordination, stamina, balance, strength and speed are all valuable traits for a player to possess. While it is incredibly important to have the endurance to give the same effort with three minutes left in the third period as you did on your first shift, having the explosiveness to burst past an opponent, rip a wrist shot top corner or make a clutch save is equally important. In fact, hockey is just as much about quick explosive movements as it is about endurance.

Developing and training the muscle groups that will make you a more explosive player is an important portion of any off-ice training regimen. Using traditional weight training like squats, lunges and other lower body exercises will aid in building the necessary strength in muscle groups used in skating but there are other exercises you may not be using already.

Plyometrics and speed ladder training can be supplemented as additional training tools to not only build and stimulate growth in certain muscle groups, but they will also help to increase foot speed, agility and explosiveness in a player.

Speed ladder training is particularly effective for building foot speed and agility as you can mix-and-match various movements to create a workout that is fully customized to your strengths and weaknesses. A few personal favorite speed ladder exercises include one and two-foot hops through the ladder and side-to-side, quick shuffles side-to-side through the ladder and explosive front steps and backpedals up and down the ladder. Additional hockey specific speed ladder drills can be found from Livestrong and this link.

  • One and two-foot hops: This can be done in a straight line or side-to-side with a speed ladder. As you gain more comfort and balance with the drill you will be able to increase the speed in which you do the drill. The motion is simple: hop on one or both feet in a straight line making sure to step in every box on the ladder. For side-to-side hop in and out of each box as you make your way down the length of the ladder.
  • Side-to-side shuffles: This is a slightly more advanced drill, but is particularly effective for goaltenders and building foot speed. For this drill begin on one side of the ladder and quickly shuffle across each box, making sure to touch both toes in the box as you make your way across. Move up and down the ladder in a zig-zag pattern moving in both directions. Increase your speed as you gain comfort with the drill.
  • Forward and backwards explosion: This is a terrific explosion drill that should help build strength and speed for that first step towards a loose puck. Begin on the side of the ladder and move to your left or right, one box at a time, taking hard steps backwards and forwards ensuring that you touch both feet in each box as you go.

Plyometric exercises are another great wrinkle to add to an off-ice workout that will not only focus on lower body but the upper body as well. With the focus on quick movements and building strength, plyometrics are a great thing to add to your offseason regimen.

Simple box jumps – as highlighted by this Livestrong article – are my personal favorite and can be done on steps or any firm object. The higher the object, the more energy needed to reach the top, thus, you will literally see your progress as you build more strength. Adding weight to this drill is a great challenge as even 10-pound dumbells will make the exercise that much more strenuous. Plyometric pushups – also noted in the article – are another interesting exercise. I have used a medicine ball in the past to balance myself and add a wrinkle to the exercise. Here are ten more plyometric exercises to build into your workout.

Hockey Fitness will be a running feature on the Great Skate blog that will feature different techniques and workouts to help you become a better player. Stay tuned for further installments of this series.