Pro Hockey Players Use Summer to Get in Top Shape
Offseason is Actually Short as Players Prepare
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For today’s hockey player there’s no such thing as an offseason.
“It’s probably two, three weeks a year off a year, that’s it,” says professional hockey player Zack Fitzgerald.
Even high schools host summer tournaments these days, but for professionals, summer may be the most important season.
“Nowadays everyone is getting bigger, stronger and faster,” says Travis Oleksuk. “If you’re not doing the same thing, you’re kinda falling behind.”
Oleksuk used to play for the University of Minnesota Duluth, and was part of the 2011 National Championship team. Now about to start his 4th season as a pro, Oleksuk spends his summer mornings with other local players trying to keep up.
“(We’ve) got a group of us that come in here every week,” said Oleksuk. “Five days a week to put the time in, put the effort in to keep up with those guys that keep pushing, trying to take your job.”
“You want to build your body back up to it’s full strength,” adds Fitzgerald. “(We) train offseason for injury prevention as well.”
A Duluth native Fitzgerald’s 10 year career includes one game in the National Hockey League. Now playing overseas, Fitzgerald has seen how important offseason conditioning is.
“Basically, our body is our business,” said Fitzgerald. “When I go to camp, I’m promoting my business and I’m trying to make the team. Best way I can is to train in the summer and be prepared.”
Dr. John Watkins of St. Luke’s Orthopedics and Sports Medicine agrees that summer training is important.
“Offseason is where you can make of improvements in your core strength, you flexibility, balance,” he says. However Dr. Watkins warns about over-doing it.
“When you ask the body to do the same thing over and over and over, we do increase the risk of overuse injuries,” he says.
For guys paid to play like Oleksuk and Fitzgerald, the key is finding balance.
“This time of year, I’ll work out five days a week, Monday through Friday,” said Oleksuk. “Then I try to get on the ice two or three times just to sharpen up the game.”
And it’s not just pros. All advanced level players need to stay active or risk falling behind.