What is the best way to improve your child’s game off the ice? I get this question quite a bit. I think the answer is quite obvious: play street (or basement) hockey! Don’t waste your money on expensive skating treadmills, personal trainers or even online training programs like HockeyOT.com. Just turn off the Nintendo, pick up your stick and go outside or down to the basement and play.
When my brother, Ethan (17 year NHL career), and I were kids we couldn’t wait to get a game going in the basement. Sometimes we would play 1-on-1 with a tennis ball or have dad put on the shin pads and goalie mask (he would use a baseball glove to make sensational glove saves!). We would play for hours with different imaginary scenarios. If it was Saturday night, the basement game would be even more intense as we would watch the 1st period of the Hockey Night in Canada game, listen to Don Cherry’s ramblings and then our game was on! Most of the time our goalie (dad) would only stay for a game to 10 so that he could get back to the “real” game while Ethan and I would continue on, usually missing the 2nd period of the televised game because our game was way more exciting! We didn’t know that we were working on our stick handling skills, shooting mechanics, foot speed, body checking technique, poke check timing, cardiovascular fitness, explosive leg strength, balance, toughness, punching (and taking a punch) technique and overall athleticism. We were just having fun!
Maybe a problem now is that young players ( and their parents) are trying to perfectly emulate the pro players. They see the pros working out at the newest trendy gym and think “that is what my kid needs to become a pro.” What the young player, and their parent, doesn’t see is that same pro player having fun as a kid, probably playing multiple sports until he gets to age 13-15 and decides that hockey is his true passion. Usually at that age the player gets “serious” about hockey and starts to do extra off-ice work that includes an organized off-ice training program like HockeyOT.com. I would be willing to bet that the same pro player has spent countless hours “training” for hockey by shooting pucks (or balls) into a makeshift net, “dangling” an imaginary opponent and probably even competing against his friends in a friendly game of winner-take-all street hockey!
When parents of young hockey players ask me what their son or daughter needs to do to become a great hockey player, I always answer the same way: all your son/daughter needs is to have an unbreakable passion for the game of hockey. How can you tell if they have that passion? Do you have to call them inside for dinner because they are outside shooting pucks against the badly dented garage door? Do they work on their stick handling dangles on the slick kitchen floor? Do they set up a makeshift goalie out of your good couch pillows when they can’t find a friend to put on the goalie gear? Do they eat, sleep and breathe hockey? If you answer yes to these questions then you probably have a hockey player in your family. That reminds me, my son asked me to go shoot pucks in the driveway with him so email me with your ideas!
Dr. Chad Moreau is the President of HockeyOT.com, an online training site dedicated to improving the fitness level of hockey players of all levels. He was the former Strength & Conditioning/Nutrition Consultant for the Edmonton Oilers (NHL) and the Long Beach Ice Dogs (ECHL). For more information please visit hockeyot.com.