Our facility is fortunate to be located inside a hockey rink. This means I get to work with all the teams of our local club team that calls my rink home. As I was talking to one of the coaches who was observing his team train before practice, he started asking questions about what we were doing and why. He wondered why we were not doing things that looked more like “hockey exercises.” That’s because good training does not always look like the sport you are training for.


The goal of our off-ice program is to build strong and healthy athletes who can play hockey. As the season has begun, we use exercises such as squat patterns, lunges, pushing, and pulling to keep the hockey players’ strength up that they built all summer long. Core strengthening and balance training are included as part of a corrective exercise routine to promote injury prevention. For younger athletes, body weight exercises are used to learn proper movement patterns so that they will know the proper mechanics for lifting weights in the future. On-ice practice is now at a premium for sport skill acquisition. We do not just try to use a fancy exercise or device that looks like a slapshot to train for a harder slapshot. Especially as they will be repeating this movement pattern 100’s of times on the ice right after the workouts!


This early in-season program should help the hockey athlete maintain the strength built in the off-season. Injury prevention and mobility days should be included to help promote self-care and overall health. Communication between the on-ice coaches and the strength coaches will play a large role in maintaining an age-appropriate workload for the hockey players. Keep the process simple and keep the athletes healthy. And most important – make sure they are having fun on and off the ice for a successful season.


Mike Hannegan is an Athletic Trainer and Strength Coach with ten years of experience in the NHL with the Anaheim Ducks and St. Louis Blues.  He is currently the Director of the Compete Sports Performance and Rehabilitation facility inside The Rinks Yorba Linda Ice in beautiful Orange County, CA.  He can be reached at mike@competeperformance.com.