Warm Up Do’s and Don’ts
Labor Day is now behind us, which means that most of you have or will soon be starting a new season. In fact, mine just started last night. So this seems like the perfect time to talk about your pre-game warm up. And no, I don’t mean the beers that some of you consume (shudder) prior to taking the ice. Save them for after the game, where they will be more refreshing and less guilt inducing. And let’s face it, they don’t elevate your level of play… just perhaps your perception of it. What I’m talking about is what you do to prepare your body for your game. I have broken it down into two categories: Do’s and Don’ts.
Let’s Start with the Don’ts, if for no other reason than they are more fun for me to write about. First and foremost, don’t be that guy that goes out on the ice, put’s his spare stick and water bottle on the bench, and then immediately throws his leg up on the boards and tries to stretch it? There is at least one guy like that on every beer league team. I’ve never seen a woman do this, so maybe they are smart enough to know that you should never try to stretch a cold muscle. If you feel the need to stretch a particular muscle, be sure to do so after your body is sufficiently warmed up. After this knucklehead tries to stretch his cold muscle, what does he do next? Clappers off the glass, of course. After all, there are bound to be countless hot women in the stands just waiting to be impressed by the thunderous sound of your booming slapshot, right? I mean I can’t think of a better place to meet a hot woman than a cold ice rink at 10:00 on a Tuesday night. That’s where they all hang out!
OK, so I’ve had enough fun with our not so fictitious Knucklehead Warrior. Truth is, that most of us, yours truly included, have used some of these methods to get ourselves prepared for a game. So if we are to avoid the aforementioned in our warm up routine, what should we do?
Well the first consideration should be time. In my current league, we get 5 minutes of warm-up time on the ice before we are signaled by the refs to start the game. And 5 minutes is pretty generous. Most leagues only give about 3 minutes. So if that’s all the time we have, then how should we use it?
Step 1 – Warm Up Our Muscles
None of us are getting any younger, and the older our bodies get, the more important it is that we get properly warmed up so as to avoid injury. So skate some laps to get your muscles warmed up. While skating around, try to activate as many muscles as possible, including those of your upper body. For those of you that have been to camp, you know this is the “active warm-up” that we do at the beginning of each ice session. We skate around, and do things such as: Raise our hands above our head, then down to our toes, bring our knees up and then out (one leg at a time of course) as we skate, and more.
But given that we only have a few minutes of free ice time before a game, why not warm up before we take the ice? We don’t need to use valuable ice time to get our muscles warm. Why not try doing this Dynamic Warm-Up from ex-pro Gary Roberts. It only takes about 4 minutes. You can do this in the locker room just before getting dressed, or even while partially dressed. Your teammates might think it a little odd at first, but they’ll get over it. And some might even join you. Then when you take the ice, you can use the entire 3 or 5 minutes to practice your mad skills.
Step 2 – Practice Our Skills
Once we are warmed up, then what skills should we work on? Well that’s entirely up to you. But choose carefully, as you only have a precious few minutes. I see some beer league teams try to mimic the pros and do some kind of drill where you have a line of guys in each corner of their team’s end of the ice, and they skate, pass and end with a shot on the goalie. It may look cool to the 3 adoring fans in the stands, but I’m not a big proponent of these drills, mostly because you are wasting valuable warm-up time in line waiting for your turn. Same goes for when guys make a semi-circular arc in front of the goalie, and then take turns shooting the puck. Great for the goalie, not so much for the players. Let one or two guys warm up the goalie. And remember, when you’re warming up the goalie, the object is not to practice your bar down snipe, it’s just to warm up the goalie.
Here are some suggestions for skills to practice in your warm-up:
Shooting: I made fun of those of us that like to take clappers off the glass, but there is nothing wrong with practicing your shot. But if you want to do so, rather than seeing how hard you can hit the glass, why not work for a combination of speed and accuracy. Most rinks have dasher board ads, so pick out a particular letter on one of those ads and try to hit it. You can also work on your release, focusing on being quicker and/or more deceptive.
Passing: Why not get a teammate and work on your passing, both forehand and backhand. Got that down? Try a little saucer pass.
Skating: I like to work on my skating. And there are so many little skating skills you can practice: Inside edges, outside edges, tight turns, starts, stops with a crossover start for quick change of direction, pivots and transitions. All of these can add to your agility on the ice during the game, and can make you a more effective player. I am surprised by how many of these skating agility exercises I can get through in the few minutes before a game. Just remember to work both sides of whatever skating maneuver you are trying. Everyone has a strong side and a weak side for their stops, crossovers, pivots, transitions, etc. Spend at least as much time, if not more, on your weak side as you do on your strong side. Why? Because in a game, you want to face the play, and make yourself available for passes from your teammates. If you turn your back to your teammate because you can only pivot in one direction, and he makes a pass to you when your back is turned, the puck goes sailing past and it’s most likely a turnover.
Stick Handling: Practice it stationary and/or while on the move. Incorporate it with your skating agility practice.
These are just some of the many things you can work on. If you’ve been to camp, think of all of the drills that you went through over the course of your 12 hours on the ice. This should give you a plethora of skills to work on during your warm-up. The main principles to keep in mind are to properly warm up your body and to use your limited warm up time wisely.
Good luck and have a great season!
– Rick Parisi, CEW