This past Thursday was the hottest day in Toronto history, well….it was the hottest day in MY Toronto history. Apparently it was hotter back in 1948 but that’s before my time so that’s all hearsay to me.
I usually take great pride in the rugged “manliness” of my gym. I don’t have fancy cardio machines, T.V.’s, mirrors, air conditioning or even windows. I like to compare it to Apollo Creeds “tough gym” from Rocky III and explain to all of my pro athletes that training there will help them find that “eye of the tiger”. This Thursday I was eating my words. In addition to being 39 degrees and extremely humid, the power went out at my gym meaning no fans, no radio and no lights! We were able to crack the doors open and get a little sunlight in….just enough to make sure you didn’t walk right into a moving barbell or flying medicine ball. I was a little worried about how the guys would react or if anybody would suggest a change of venues. I am very impressed to say that not only was there ZERO complaining, a number of the guys actually said it was “COOL”! At one point I just stood back and watched in my gym as one guy was exploding through a set of cleans, another was doing heavy log presses and a third was grinding out an excruciating set of single leg squats….it was AWESOME!! Guys just came in like any other day, warmed up, crushed weights and got ‘er done. No excuses, no complaining.
I think that both the athletes out there and their coaches (myself included) sometimes get too caught up in what is the “optimal” way of doing things. Unfortunately, in most sports the competition is rarely under optimal conditions. In my years working in the NHL I can remember numerous occasions where team busses or flights were delayed and while we arrived in time for the game the players did not have time for their normal pre-game routines. On almost every road trip there is at least one player who forgets something that they normally would “need” to play but somehow they manage to get by. I remember playing the New York Rangers at Madison Square Gardens in a 7:30pm game when there was a circus held right on top of the ice surface only hours earlier. The guys had to modify their pre-game soccer playing to avoid kicking the ball into the herd of elephants chained to the wall. The ice conditions were less than ideal (there were still pieces of straw and sawdust on the ice at game time!) Needless to say those playing conditions were not “optimal”. Somehow we managed to win the game.
I remember when I worked for the San Francisco 49ers there was a fire alarm in our hotel the night before our pre-season game against the Denver Broncos. Everyone had to clear out of the hotel and stand around in various states of undress in the parking lot for about a half an hour. Not exactly the “optimal” way to spend your time the night before the first game of the year. The point is this. If you want to be an elite athlete in a team sport, you need to be mentally strong enough to adapt to changing conditions.
TAKE EVERY ADVANTAGE
On Thursday afternoon I was a part of a great event put on by Nike called “Take Every Advantage”. This event brought together myself, Steve Stamkos and Tessa Bonhomme in a roundtable discussion on how to take your game to the next level through training. The discussion was hosted by James Duthie who is a true master of his craft and makes it so easy to be a part of these things.
The event was used to promote the Nike Off-Season Hockey Training program that designed along with my good friend and NHL legend Gary Roberts. Steve and Tessa shared some great personal stories about how they got to where they are today and some tips and tricks that young up and coming players out there can use to help to elevate their game as well.
Some of the highlights from this day included:
- No limits! She always wanted to be the best at her sport. Since there was no Olympic Hockey for Women until 1998, her goal as a kid was to play in the NHL. She was playing boys hockey anyway so if she could be an impact player against boys now, why couldn’t she continue to do that in the NHL. I love that attitude!
- Young athletes should play a variety of sports. Tessa played a wide variety of sports up until her late high school years – this will be discussed in an article to come on this site soon!
- Variety in training. Tessa partakes in a wide variety of off-ice training activities (weight training, yoga, kick-boxing, prowler pushes)
- Be explosive! Tessa realized long ago that hockey is not a slow endurance sport and all of the conditioning that she does is short and hard, mimicking the demands of a shift. You can be a girl and be a hockey player too. Tessa is as pretty in person as she is in all of her pictures and it was a very cool message to the female athletes out there who feel pressure to conform to societal demands that girls be, well…girly….she told those girls that you can be both! Just because you are a serious athlete doesn't mean you can’t have a feminine side or like to dress in something other than baggy sweats. Tessa is just as comfortable rocking a dress as she is in set of shoulder pads and a helmet.
- Keep it Real. I have known Steve for about 4 years and can honestly say that he is one of the nicest, most humble and down to earth guys you would ever want to meet. I knew him when he was an 18 year old kid, before he had ever made a dime playing hockey and last week he just signed a $37.5 million dollar deal and he has not changed a bit (ok…except for the busted nose and the extra 20lbs of muscle courtesy of Gary Roberts). It is refreshing to see a pro athlete with that kind of character. His parents should be very proud.
- Play a variety of sports. Just like Tessa, Steve talked about the importance of playing a variety of sports. In addition to being a hockey star, Steve was also a standout soccer player and rumour has it was just as good at baseball as he was at hockey. Stay tuned for my article about this HUGELY important concept.
- Nutrition. Steve hammered home the importance of nutrition in the off-season training program. Steve has been training with Gary Roberts for the last two years and anyone who knows Gary knows that he is fanatical about healthy nutrition. Steve’s message was great for kids to hear because he wasn’t preaching. He understood where the young players of today are coming from but encouraged them to do their best to make healthier choices.
- Lift heavy, Run fast. Steve talked about his off-season program which has become famous now thanks to his on-ice success and it was pretty simple. They lift weights, sprint and do some plyos/agilities. No gimmicks. Perhaps my favourite quote of the day was when Steve was asked about what they do for aerobic conditioning…..”I don’t know….we don’t even have a bike in our gym”……classic!
Needless to say, Thursday was a great day!!