How Does Work In Hockey? [Updated!]

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The NHL season is in full swing, which means that we at Cracked Ice are now fully entrenched in hockey fever. As the sport’s popularity continues to grow, so does the amount of questions surrounding it, particularly regarding how the players’ work day goes and what they do during the game’s intermissions.

Here, we’ll explore the daily routine of a hockey player and what exactly they do to prepare for and throughout the game.

The Pre-Game Routine

Whether you follow the NHL closely or just watch the highlights on TV, you’ll undoubtedly have heard of the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Lightning are currently reigning over the NHL as the league’s best team, possessing an incredible 23-4-2 record (including playoffs) heading into the new year. Their prolific scoring offense—which features four players with over 50 points—is responsible for much of their success. Their captain, Steven Stamkos, leads the league in goals with 55 and has registered 14 points in 14 playoff games this year alone.

However, much like any professional sports team, the Tampa Bay Lightning have to practice and prepare for games just like the rest of us. The difference is that they do this in addition to their everyday routine, carrying out a rigorous pre-game routine that revolves around four areas:

1. Conditioning

The Lightning’s pre-game routine begins several hours before the puck is even dropped. One of their main goals is to get the players prepared physically for the game, teaching them how to maintain their fitness levels while also increasing their skillsets. For this reason, they spend a lot of time working out and exercising.

Hockey players are some of the hardest workers in sports. They have to be in top physical condition in order to compete at the highest level, and they do this through an array of conditioning drills and workouts that prepare them physically for any occasion. Several players on Tampa Bay’s roster participate in an annual hockey classic, the NHL Winter Classic, which was introduced in 2016 as part of the league’s ongoing effort to make the sport more accessible to the public. The two teams that take part in the game —usually the Chicago Blackhawks and the Philadelphia Flyers—practise together prior to the game, performing drills and scrimmages for the benefit of TV cameras and fans. These Winter Classics have become a popular feature of the NHL season, drawing large and often-capacity crowds to the ballpark.

2. Skill Development

Another important aspect of the Lightning’s pre-game routine is the development of their skillsets. The team takes pride in their individual talents and looks to improve on a daily basis through intensive training and drills. In addition, much like any professional sports team, they have a sports psychology team that works with the players to develop their mental toughness. This year alone, the Lightning will compete in three straight games that span over ten hours of total gameplay time, including back-to-back contests in New York and in Boston. This is in addition to the standard 82-game schedule that other teams must follow in order to keep up with the standings.

3. Mental Preparation

Finally, the Lightning also look to prepare their minds for game day, implementing specific and intensive mental training regimens. When dealing with such a highly specialized and mentally-demanding sport, it’s important to ensure that your thoughts are as structured and efficient as your actions on the ice. In addition to this, the Lightning try to stay positive and confident wherever they go. Despite their 23-4-2 record, they’ve encountered significant success barriers along the way, including an eight-game losing streak in March and a 12-game winless streak in October. Mental preparation is as important for hockey players as it is for golfers, dart players, or coin tossers—we’re sure you know which one of those sports you belong to.

What Are The Main Goals Of The Pre-Game Routine?

While the physical aspects of the game may be scored, the ultimate goal of the pre-game routine is to prepare the player to achieve peak performance during the game itself. This begins with getting the body in top shape and continuing the mental training by getting the mind prepared to process all the information it will receive during the game.

The body’s main goal is to obtain full fitness, which allows it to function at its optimum level. However, the brain’s goal is to process all the information that its body receives—therefore, it must be ready and prepared for anything. For this reason, the Lightning spend an inordinate amount of time preparing for each game, going through a precise and methodical routine that involves intense physical conditioning, intensive mental workouts, and an unwavering commitment to continuing to get fitter and better.

The Game Day Routine

Once the puck is dropped and the game begins, all pretense of the pre-game routine is gone. Full tilt and intensity are the only things that matter now. Like any other professional sports team, the Lightning have to deal with the same rigors and demands from practice and preparation all the way through to the post-game handshake and team photo op.

Even before the puck is dropped, the work begins. Immediately, each player’s hands are full of activity, as they put in some extra drills and scrimmages to get their game legs. While in the middle of the ice, the players are split into two groups: the forwards and the defensemen. Once the groups are set, one of the coaches will give the signal to start skating.

From there, the action just keeps getting faster and more manicuring, as the players work hard to maintain their excellent pace. One of the most noticeable differences between a game and a practice is how the players react to the puck. During a game, they must keep their eyes open for the puck at all times, directing their attention to the ice surface while simultaneously scanning the sky for potential threats. When the puck is dropped during a scrimmage or practice, however, the players just have to focus on the task at hand—be it offense or defense—and ignore everything around them.

What Do The Lightning Do In The Intermissions?

The Tampa Bay Lightning don’t sit idly by when the game is not going their way. In the middle of each period, they have a routine to follow that helps them win the next period’s score. This involves a lot of time in the locker room, working on their stickhandling, passing, and shooting. After the teams have exchanged three-strikes for three-strikes-and-out during the middle frame, the Lightning will take a short break before beginning another furious round of action. This is when they do their prepping, getting rid of the kinks in their game plan and making sure they are sharp for the next shift.

While the game continues to unfold, the coaches and players work tirelessly to improve their craft. After all, one mistake or bad play can cost them the game. As a result, they are not afraid to spend a lot of time in the locker room during the intermissions—often working on one drill or exercise until very late in the third period, when the ice will start to grow a little cold and the puck will just fly around aimlessly again.

Thanks for reading. We hope this hub gives you a good overview of how the Tampa Bay team works and how exactly they stay cool under pressure.

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