There aren’t too many sports that require participants to have the agility and balance of a gymnast, the strength and power of a rugby player, and the hand eye coordination of a marksman. However, ice hockey is one of them. Ice hockey is a fast and furious game in which two teams of six aim to shoot a rubber puck into the opponent’s goal.
Hockey has been around for a long time. Although hockey on ice can be traced back to Montreal in 1875, where the first organised game was held at the Victoria Skating Rink. The first games in Europe were held in Knighstbridge in London in 1902, some 27 years after the first game in North America.
Since then ice hockey has gone from strength to strength and today it is one of the most televised sports in North America. It has featured at every Winter Olympics since 1920. The Canadians are the most successful Olympic team and have the most gold medal wins, with a total of 15 medals altogether.
However there are plenty of good European contenders. Sweden and Finland are currently the silver and bronze Olympic medal holders respectively, with Canada winning gold at the 2014 in Sochi, Russia, so there is an abundance of talent outside of North America.
The top league in the world is known as the NHL (National Hockey League), which is made up of 30 professional teams based in North America. However, players from all over the world come to play in it. Swedish players make up for 9.1% of the league and Russians make up for 4.5% of it. Although, there are plenty of leagues outside of North America, and most are found in Russia, Scandinavia and the Czech Republic.
Basics of Ice Hockey
Ice hockey is played with six players, comprising of five skaters and a goaltender. The objective is simple: score more goals than your opponent does in three 20-minute periods. It is an incredibly physical game, and high-speed collisions and fighting are commonplace.
To play ice hockey you will need; skates, a helmet with a visor, a mouthguard, shoulder pads, elbow pads, special hockey gloves, shin pads, socks, and of course a stick, with which to control or hit the puck with the ultimate goal of shooting at goal (and scoring).
If you are keen to try out ice hockey or perhaps dream of one day representing your country at the Winter Olympics, then there is no better time to step on the ice than now. If you have never been ice skating before it might be worth getting up to speed with that sport (see our article on ice skating, here) before you try to complicate things with a stick and a puck too!
Train like an Ice Hockey Pro
Ice hockey is a demanding, fast-paced and extremely physical sport in which injures are frequent. So if you dare step onto the rink without being in top shape your chances of injury will increase.
Here are three tips to help you condition and prepare your body for ice hockey so you can improve your performance and abilities, while also helping prevent injury.
- Stamina and endurance: Cardiovascular strength is a “must-have” with ice hockey. Although, so is having total body strength. It can burn between 400-700 calories in an hour. Games can often last nearly 2.5 hours, so that is a lot of calories you’re going to burn! Therefore having a good fitness base will really help. Try out our SkillMill Athletic Trainer, which will allow you to increase your total body strength by working against a resistance, which you do whilst running or sprinting at the same time. Try quick bursts of high intensity 30-second sprints, against as high a resistance as you can manage, followed by a 2-minute rest. Repeat ten times for maximum results.
- Power Lifting: As mentioned, ice hockey is a very physical game and body checking is legal defensive move, which can often leave players dazed on the ice due to wind being knocked out of them. So having good upper strength will allow you to withstand such hits. Try out powerlifting, such as performing a squat, a bench-press, and a dead lift. A major benefit of powerlifting is that is works out nearly every skeletal muscle as well as increasing your overall athletic ability. To find out more about powerlifting read this article, Powerlifting - the mother of all weight training.
- Core strength and stability: Despite high demands on physicality and speed, ice hockey requires a degree of finesse to it as it requires skaters to stay balanced whilst traveling at high speeds, while also twisting and turning. There are a number of exercises ranging in difficulty that you can do on the Technogym Wellness Ball to improve your overall balance and core strength. A good place to start is to sit upright on the ball and lift your arms up so that they are stretched out like wings. Slowly lift one leg off the ground so you have only one leg left supporting you on the ground. Hold for 10 seconds and then repeat 10 times, making sure you alternate your legs.
The above should provide you with a good level of fitness and strength before you step onto the ice.