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Using Ergogenic Aids to Develop Ice Hockey Players

Joseph Cole provides examples of 'off-ice' skill development programmes for ice hockey players

The continuing problem that faces many ice hockey players, at all levels of development is the opportunity to improve on skills when ice time is not available. Like many winter sports, ice hockey athletes have traditionally needed to have a speciality environment, the ice, to improve or develop their 'game time' skills.

Over the years, I have improvised and customized skill programs from many other sports where many of the mechanics are similar. Here are some examples.

Skating Development

Skating skills can be broken down into three areas: speed, strength and backwards skating.

  • To develop speed, we work with support items such as speed ladders and skipping rope. We focus the athlete on getting the most explosiveness available out of every stride
  • A pre-practice skipping exercise, which requires the athlete to move around a 3-metre circle, or through a speed ladder, both forward and backwards, develop the athlete's core strength and the explosiveness that a skating stride requires
  • To develop strength, we spend a great deal of time using a reverse rowing harness, or a leg press with weight or even squat jumps with additional weight to increase resistance
  • Backwards skating is almost all balance and 'quick feet' and using the speed ladder, backwards is extremely beneficial in increasing the athlete's backward skating speed

Stick/Puck Control Development

The single most neglected skill by hockey development 'schools' and 'camps' who offer 'off-ice conditioning' is puck control. Too many hockey players, off the ice, are undertaking cardio work such as running or static exercises. Some coaches have tried to incorporate the use of tennis or street hockey balls or pucks. This invariably fails because the use of such equipment does not reinforce good skill technique.

  • Wooden Balls - With gloves on players must move through/over obstacles including mini hurdles, and other player traffic. The speed and degree of difficulty increases the 'feel' of the puck on the stick
  • Squash Balls - With gloves on players must bounce the squash ball off their hockey stick. This enhances eye-hand coordination as players train their eyes to find the small black dot, with the end of the stick
  • Mini-hurdles - Advanced training centres will incorporate the above puck control skills into combination skills such as running or jumping the hurdles while controlling a puck through the course

The lack of available and affordable ice, especially in Canada, has forced coaches to explore new ways of developing elite athletes. Although traditionalist often sees these off the ice/dry land sessions as fake or filler; the results speak for themselves.

Article Reference

This article first appeared in:

  • COLE, J. (2004) Using Ergogenic Aids to Develop Ice Hockey Players. Brian Mackenzie's Successful Coaching, (ISSN 1745-7513/ 12 / May), p. 7

Page Reference

If you quote information from this page in your work, then the reference for this page is:

  • COLE, J. (2004) Using Ergogenic Aids to Develop Ice Hockey Players [WWW] Available from: [Accessed

About the Author

Joseph Cole is an NCCP Advanced Level I Coach, with more than 20 years on the bench. For the past five years, Coach Cole has been developing player and coach programs throughout Canada's National Capital Region.