Say these words to a hockey player and their entire bodies will quiver, the hairs on their forearms will extend, and their heart rate will begin to rise.
But like the air in your tires, off-rink conditioning plays a crucial role in developing a player—and also is instrumental in creating team chemistry.
“It kills you because you’ve got like a month-and-a-half to wait and then once you finally get on the ice, it’s nice. But it’s tough to wait, it really is,” said Shaun Egan, who is entering his first season as a Muskie.
Still, he understands that dryland conditioning, although difficult, is key to the team’s development.
“When it comes to the third period, there are some teams that come out and they haven’t done the dryland as much, and you’ve got that extra stride to go and just give her the whole way,” he remarked.
“You can’t always do it, but it’s always in your head, ‘Okay let’s go, let’s give it a 110 per cent.’
“Sometimes you get into those runs and you just want to give up, but you just keep going and that’s all you can do, and that’s have the drive for it,” Egan added.
The Muskies open the NorWOSSA season Nov. 12 here against the Red Lake Rams. And until then, they must run the hills, finish the drills, and perform a variety of plyometrics, three times a week after school, with each session lasting close to 90 minutes.
The sessions aren’t easy, but they must be done. And after being knocked around by the opposition at last year’s all-Ontario showdown, the returning players realize it is a necessity.
“We went to OFSSA last year for the first time in a couple of years and we got the feel of what it was like,” said Tyler Miller, in his second year with the black-and-gold.
“[Teams] were much stronger down there, and this year we want go down there and be as strong as them and take a gold-medal home,” he vowed.
“Last year, we just got cranked,” admitted Mitchell Green, another returnee from last season’s squad. “Those guys were huge over there and we had a small team last year, and this year we’ve got to get bigger and stronger.”
“Last year, every guy who you went up against was 20 or 30 pounds heavier than you and we just got beaten down every game,” echoed David Pierce, entering his third season with the Muskies.
“It’s really important,” he said of dryland training. “We didn’t do a whole lot last season and this season we needed it really bad, because last season when we put on our skates we weren’t in shape, and we had to kind of start from scratch on the ice.
“But this year, we hopefully won’t have to start from scratch again,” Pierce added.
The sessions (held every Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday) consist of a variety of drills with the emphasis placed on speed and conditioning. Running, stretching, and plyometrics are practised by way of a variety of drills that are briefly outlined in the pre-season training schedule:
•Drills with motion—high step sprints, bear crawl, hawk fights, chicken fights, stairs, hills, parachute sprints, bungee sprints, and resistance training.
•Stationary drills—crossovers, side to sides, lunge hops, star jumps, knees to chest, heels to butt, stationary bear crawl sprints, hey drill, twist jumps, depth jumps, and box jumps.
•Resistance training for strength and increased balance—kick drill, can drill, superset, partner sets, squats on destabilizing drill, one-legged knee bends, and wall squats.
“I think it’s important to do dryland to set up for the season because it obviously does work on your conditioning,” said Muskie head coach Shane Bliss.
“It’s also a good thing to do as a team,” he added. “Having them work together, doing things together, and just getting them together because it’s a long time from the tryouts until the season starts.
“And it’s nice to get all the boys out and working on the same goal.”
The dryland sessions also give the players and coaches an outlook on possible candidates for the always sought after captaincy.
It’s a fact that with any team you find, possible captains start making their presence known before the start of the season—and always are one of the more active participants during conditioning sessions.
“It’s not everything we base our captaincy on, but it does come into consideration when voting for captains,” said Bliss.
“The players do vote first and they are the ones that see it and they know who is working and the attitudes of the different guys, and who’s trying to motivate them to work harder.
“The guy that kind of drags in dryland is probably not the guy you want representing your team,” Bliss remarked. “Your leaders have to not only lead on the ice, but they have to lead off the ice and everywhere we go.”
“I’d say that all of us would like to have it [the captaincy],” said Pierce, who was an alternate captain last season. “There are a lot of things motivating us to try harder with the dryland and that is one of them.”
While the dryland sessions may not seem effective once you lace up the skates, Bliss said in the end, the players eventually will start feeling their hard work pay off.
“I have to admit that once you put the skates on and start skating that first day, it’ll feel they haven’t done anything,” said Bliss. “But then again, where are you going to be if you don’t?”