Archive for the ‘ice hockey’ Category


One of Finland’s biggest hockey stars, Saku Koivu has called it a career today. Koivu, during his NHL career was a huge inspiration for me as a player and that I wanted to model myself after. I wanted to be a reliable two-way player, just like Koivu. The reason why Saku Koivu became such an inspiration to me was because we were both the same size and stature. Koivu proved that he could play like a big player, night in, night out, sometimes at a high cost, which lead to his injury history.

 

Koivu’s stature made him an extremely hard worker off the ice, which is how I wanted to model myself as a player. His dedication for the sport, despite battling difficult injuries or cancer, was immense and it was largely thanks to Koivu’s return from cancer that inspired me to take up the sport again, after I had fallen out of love with it. I remember thinking to myself: “If he comes back from cancer, what’s stopping me from coming back from a knee injury.”

 

As the Captain of the Canadiens, Koivu taught me a lot about leadership. Watching him in press scrums during the Canadiens’ woeful years, he conducted himself with class, despite carrying the hopes of an entire province on his back. Koivu always lead with example on the ice, whether it was for the Habs or for the Finnish national team, which I always aspired to do for my own team. It was leaving your heart out on to the ice after every game you played.

 

Where Koivu may not have reached the heights of the NHL’s scoring charts, he was a widely respected player across the entire league. One of those players that no-one had nothing but good things to say. Koivu was never a big fan of being in the spotlight, despite shouldering the C for the Canadiens for the better part of a decade.

 

There was a story about the Koivu brothers in the Finnish media which said that they absolutely hate losing and the reporter – whose name escapes me – said that Saku and Mikko are the types of players that hate losing so much, that the loss will eat at them for months and will fuel their desire to succeed. It is exactly what a great leader should be all about. Hating losing so much, you push yourself and your team to the limit so that you can win again. And again. And again.

 

Whilst Saku may not read this, I wanted to – in some way – acknowledge and thank him for the inspiration he provided me with for my own career, how you need to prepare as an athlete of a smaller stature and how to be a leader.

 

Kiitos, Saku


SuccessisbuiltFans always expect that their teams perform well – and ideally win every game – and fans have the absolute right to want success. There are expectations that teams and players need to meet, week in and week out. There are the expectations for the entire team from the fans and on an individual level, the expectations from the coaching staff.

 

Success is something that every player wants. For their team and for themselves. Otherwise, why play the game if you don’t want to succeed and not feel the elation of winning a game. Success is something that doesn’t magically happen on a game night. It is a long, drawn-out process throughout countless hours of work, sweat and pain. Success is built when there are no eyes on you. It happens at the gym, it happens on the roads, it happens on the bike. It even happens on the trainers table or with the physiotherapist. Success is built when you are on the ice with your team. It is built in bag skates, flow drills, set plays. It is built by countless and countless of repetitions of weights, drills, shots, jumps and miles pedalled on a bike.

 

Success is not something that is achieved overnight. Players can’t expect to be successful just by turning up to training and have the expectation that their effort on the ice will guarantee them success in the long run. The hockey season is a gruelling ride, with all its bumps and bruises and frustrations. What the fans see, is the culmination of all the work that has been taking place out of sight.

 

Success requires commitment. It requires hard work. It requires sacrifice. It requires discipline. It requires a goal, something that unifies a group of individuals to come together and work for that goal. It means leaving personal differences aside and playing for the logo on the front of your jersey and for the goal of becoming a champion.

 

The commitment fuels motivation and success, that success will player through a rock when it comes to crunch time. But all this underpinned by the work that each player does on and off the ice when the stands are empty and when no one is watching you.

 

The signs of success, are not seen on the ice in a 60 minute game. It is seen in the sweat dripping on to the gym floor and on to the ice.  

Review: CCM Resistance Helmet

Posted: September 1, 2014 in hockey, ice hockey, Sports

CCMRES1The CCM Resistance is the first major helmet re-design since CCM introduced its Vector line of helmets a few years ago. While the shell of the helmet still bears a resemblance to the old V-line of helmets, it is a completely new helmet and a first for CCM in many ways.

 

The helmet has a one-piece shell design and a single point of adjustment at the back of the helmet. In a lot of ways this helmet is directly comparable to Bauer’s IMS range (the old Messier project helmet) and Bauer’s RE-AKT (though RE-AKT uses a two piece shell).  The news of CCM’s helmet redesign came in 2012 Forbes article, where the company said that it would be taking direct aim at its competitors and with its unique selling point being the reduction of concussions caused by rotational impact forces. Rotational impacts occur during hockey game, not only from direct impacts to the head. These forces create a spinning effect that can be devastating to a player. Bauer first introduced reduction system in its RE-AKT helmet and some of the features from the RE-AKT can be found in the top of the range IMS helmet.

 

Where CCM claims it has made significant strides in research towards reducing these impact forces, it is still worth bearing in mind that – like with any helmet – they do not protect you 100% from a concussion. Like the IMS range from Bauer, the emphasis is on the reduction of the risk of a concussion.

 

The inside:

What’sCCMRES2 new about the helmet is its Rotational Energy Dampening (R.E.D) system. This is a series of red gel pods that are placed between the shell and the liner of the helmet. The R.E.D system is complemented by an impact pod that sits on top of it, similar to the Seven Technology developed by Cascade sport for the Messier Project helmet (now Bauer’s IMS range). The way that the two technologies differ is that the IMS helmet’s Seven Technology pods have been designed to return to their original form after multiple impacts, which reduces some of the rotational forces and follow on impacts, such as hitting your head on a plexi and then on the ice. In the Resistance helmet from CCM, the R.E.D system with the impact pods have been designed to slow down the rotational forces, as well as spread the impact energy throughout the helmet, as opposed to the head absorbing the full force of an impact (both rotational and linear impacts).

 

The impact pods and R.E.D system is covered by CCM’s traditional EPP foam that it has used across the Vector line of helmets and other protective pieces of equipment.  The EPP foam is used to bring an added level of comfort and to help shape the helmet to suit on player’s head shape to further improve fit.

 

Fit:CCMRES3

As with the M11 helmet that we reviewed few years ago, one of the big benefits of the helmet was its fit. The same goes for the CCM Resistance helmet. Thanks to its single point tool free adjustment, you can get the helmet to fit comfortably on your head and ensure that the helmet doesn’t move away from its place.

 

CCM has achieved this, similar to the RE-AKT and IMS helmets, by placing the adjustment tool by the occipital bone. Similar to the M11, this reduces the pressure that you sometimes get with helmets where the adjustment is done on the sides as the adjustment is done by tightening the helmet around the forehead. Another positive from the single tool adjustment at the back of the helmet is that it reduces some of the weak points seen in helmets where adjustments are made on the side.

 

You can quite comfortably shake your head with the CCM Resistance helmet on and it will not move out of place. This is so key in the modern game as many concussions and head injuries happen when the head makes contact with the ice and/or boards whilst it is out of place. By keeping the helmet securely on the head, it will do a better job at absorbing the impact forces.

 

However, it is important to note that it will take a few times to wear it to achieve the perfect fit and the first couple of times that we wore the helmet, it felt awkward on the head, but it finds its fit quickly. (To be fair, the tester has a funnily shaped head to begin with so every helmet takes a bit longer to break in).

 

Once the helmet has been broken in, it is almost un-noticeable on the head. There is no compression or discomfort and the degree of airflow the helmet provides is superior to some of the other helmets on the market.

 

However, the biggest thing for us – like with the M11 – is the fit. Once you have adjusted the helmet to sit on your head, it will not move from its place with ease. You would have to be rocked pretty hard, or

 

Fitting visor/cage:

The slight downside we noticed with the helmet was when it came down to fitting a visor on the helmet. It was a fairly fiddly process, thanks to the EPP foam padding that sits just in front of the mounts for the visor. Also, we prefer to wear our helmets without the ear guards and these were particularly tricky to remove as they are glued into the foam. We understand that they are there to protect the ears from any direct impacts, but like a lot of pro-players, we prefer to wear the helmet without the guards.

We fitted the Hejduk H700 Pro-line visor to it. We had to do a fair bit of tweaking around the visor as part of it wouldn’t sit on the helmet properly thanks to the curved design of the helmet. The visor fit eventually, but it wasn’t the most straight forward of tasks we’ve undertaken on a helmet. We also tested it with the Hejduk MHX visor and Oakley’s Pro Cut visor, both of which were easy to adjust.

It is therefore worth speaking to your retailer about the best fitting visor as some visor designs might make it a bit tricky to fit.

 

We are not sure whether removing the ear guards will void the warranty of the helmet, so it is something that you might want to check with your retailer when purchasing the helmet. Removing the ear guards hasn’t changed the fit of the helmet or damaged the liner or pods so the helmet is still safe and secure to wear.

 

The CCM Resistance helmet (and other helmets in the range) can be purchased with a cage combo, so if it’s your thing to wear a cage, you might want to go for the combo helmet to avoid some of the fiddling around.

 

Overall

CCM has invested a lot of time into the design of the helmet, and in the process it has designed a helmet that is comfortable and is housed with great technologies. Admittedly – and this goes for every helmet on the market – it won’t prevent concussion from happening, but like its competitors (RE-AKT and IMS series) it has been designed to reduce the risk of sustaining one. One of the big things for us has been the fit of the helmet as it won’t move from its place once adjusted appropriately. The Resistance helmet is a major improvement on the V-10 helmet and definitely one of the industry leading helmets, both in design and protection.

We would thoroughly recommend the CCM Resistance helmet to any player who wants to ensure that they have the best possible protection for their head. However, our recommendation would be to tryout as many helmets as possible to find the most suitable one for your head and for your playing purposes.

 

Pros:

  • Lightweight
  • Significant improvement from the V-10
  • Excellent fit. Does not move out of place
  • Easy to adjust
  • Good ventilation throughout

Cons:

  • Fiddly to remove ear protectors (Check with your retailer if this voids warranty)
  • Check with retailer which visor makes are most suitable

 

The frustration mounts

Posted: August 1, 2014 in fitness, hockey, ice hockey

I haven’t been updating people much on the shoulder operation recovery in the past few months, but that’s mainly because there hasn’t been much to update on. I saw my consultant a week ago and I was allowed to return to weight training, which I felt was great news, and to be fair it is great news. It beats doing just body weight exercises, but the return to the free weight area hasn’t been as straight forward as I had hoped.

 

I posted a picture on Instagram of what I can bench at the moment.  Lifting just the bar is far from ideal at this stage, but I sort of understand it. I have had three months off and not loading the right arm with any weight. What is still more frustrating is that I can’t seem to get the full range of motion into the lifts. I guess those are the anchors that are holding the joint back.

 

It has been fairly frustrating as I haven’t been able to complete some of the exercises thanks to the joint not having full range of motion with a weight load on it, or that the joint is still sore when trying to do something like a power clean or a clean w/jerk.

 

I was never the biggest of guys in the gym, but I’ve gone to the guy in the weights area that is using a 2kg weight to do flyes and deadlifting 20 kg, I’m trying to understand that it is all part of the recovery process. I think the reason why it is so frustrating is because I had expected that I would just waltz right on in and start lifting the amounts that I had been before the operation.

 

Maybe it has only now dawned on me, that the injury that I carried was a rather big deal, if it required this amount of fixing.

 

What I’m now focussing on in physio therapy is to strengthen the muscles around the shoulder, which is fine and I actually quite enjoy it, as I can see some progress. The least enjoyable part of the whole recovery process is the stretches that I have to do.

 

What I’m doing at the moment is laying on my right hand side on a bed/couch with my arm bent in a 90 degree angle. I then need to use either my left hand or a stick to push my right arm down. The pain is excruciating, almost to the point that I almost want to throw up, but it is essential that I do it, or otherwise it will affect life on and off the rink. Permanently. The first few are painful, but after two or three stretches I can get my arm below the line of the mattress. But I’d need to get it to bend good 20 degrees more. In terms of pain, that is the single most painful thing about this whole process, apart from waking up right after the operation.

 

But as the old Finnish proverb goes: “Onwards, said grandma while stuck in the snow.”


The summer is a great time of year. Time for BBQs, hanging out with your family, making a trip back home for a few weeks and then there is the off season. What has been particularly pleasing about the last two summers is that it has been hot, which in turn allows me to do a lot of off season work outside – in the name of resistance chute sprints and plyo ladder work.

What has been a continuing trend from last summer is the number of people that come and talk to me about my chute sprints. It’s a strange concept to people, but at the same time it intrigues them. I generally do the sprints at the park right by my place (hooray for suburbia).

Usually I have to answer the following questions:

What is that?
What are you doing?
What are you training for?

I get these questions from kids and adults alike and sometimes have people standing and watching me do the sprints. No pressure there then. I really do not have a problem in talking to people about the training and they are usually really surprised when I tell them I train for hockey. Their usual reaction is “oh but you just beat people up,” which I try and nervously laugh off. Usually I can get a good conversation going with people about it and the benefits of doing it.

What is surprising to me though is that there are kids and teenagers who play football. I admit I don’t know what level they play to, but I would like to think that this type of training would be something that professionals do as well. It may be an alien concept of training around the area where I live, but it’s a heck of a way to get into shape.

Speed chute sprints have become one of my favorite exercises during the past two off seasons, and even more so now with recovering from the shoulder surgery and all. What’s so appealing in the exercise to me is that in that sprint you literally give everything and continually tell yourself that you can go faster.

But all in all. I think I am the only weirdo in the neighborhood as most other people go to the park to play football, cricket or frisbee. You should see the looks we get when we break out the Finnish game Molkky. It’s good to be a bit weird though. Always push the boundaries with your training, whilst keeping your own goals in mind, regardless of how many eyeballs are looking at you and looking at you all confused.


The brand:

The Winnwell brand is a bit of a new one to us, having not really seen much of the equipment in the European hockey stores or featured much in trade shows. In the NHL, Winnwell is perhaps more known for its gloves than other visible equipment. It does manufacture shoulder pads, sticks and shin pads.

Having done a bit of research into the company, they have been around the game since forever it seems. Winnwell has a strong pedigree in manufacturing protective equipment that has been built with the pros in mind and to pro-spec. Further research shows that some of the games’ greats have worn Winnwell equipment so the brand certainly has the pedigree behind it. However, Winnwell might not have the marketing budget of some of the other big brands, but does that hinder the quality of equipment? That’s what we are going to find out.

The equipment features:

Side profile of the Winnwell Pro-Stock Elbow Pads

Side profile of the Winnwell Pro-Stock Elbow Pads

What we have been testing is the Winnwell Pro Stock elbow pads. The elbow pads, the company says, have been built to the specifications and demands of the professional player. When you look at the gear out of the box (or bag in this instance), the elbow pads definitely have an ‘old-school’ feel to them and a look and profile that is akin to the days of the good old Jofa protective. In fact if you Google Jofa 9144 Pro Stock Elbow pads, you’ll see a striking resemblance between the two.

Where most elbow pads have gone towards a more low profile look, Winnwell has provided a protective that calls back to the good old days of hockey. The shoulder cups are actually quite deep in comparison to many other elbow pads in the market. This design ensures good strong fit for the pads. However, it can be a bit of a shock depending on what you are used to wearing. If you have been wearing some of the lower profile elbow pads, the first time you wear the Winnwell product you’ll feel a bit out of sorts to begin with, but even towards the end of our first session with these pads they felt really comfortable towards the end.

The elbow pads come with Winnwell’s clean hockey technology which is designed to keep its equipment smelling fresh. After 2 months of use on the pads, there is hardly any “hockey” scent on the elbow pads.

Breaking in and fit:

Breaking the elbow pads in was a bit of a strange experience. Out of the bag the elbow pads do feel a bit stiff, which is to be expected with any new piece of equipment. On first use the pads felt extremely comfortable, but for the first 20-30 minutes of training the elbow pads felt a bit stiff which did affect shooting and puck handling a little bit. This trend lasts probably about 3-4 training sessions before you are fully accustomed to the elbow pad. But like said above, towards the end of each of the first few sessions the pads actually feel really comfortable and you hardly notice you are wearing new pads.

Sticky material on the wrist guard helps keep the pad in place

Sticky material on the wrist guard helps keep the pad in place

As mentioned the elbow cups are a bit deeper than other elbow pads, which can take a bit longer to get used to. However, what the deeper cup has resulted in is comfort and great fit. The elbow pads come with a sticky liner on the wrist that has been designed to keep the pad in place against the compression layer. Having used both T-shirt and compression long sleeve, the elbow pads do stay in place, which is a rare feat in elbow pads. Often during a game you have to fix and alter the position of your elbow pads, but the Winnwell Pro-Stock does actually stay in place relatively well.

However, the only criticism that there is to the Winnwell Pro-Stock elbow pads is that the Velcro attachment areas could be a bit bigger to ensure a tighter fit. Despite wearing the right size, there is still a little bit of slack on the bicep area of the elbow pad.

Value for money

What the Winnwell Pro-Stock elbow pad scores big on is value for money. The elbow pad provides protection that is equal to the top of the range CCM, Reebok, Bauer or Warrior gear, but at a fraction of the cost. The graphical design isn’t something that will set the world on fire, but then again the elbow pads are under your jersey, so it doesn’t matter what they look like. The main point is that they protect your elbows and bicep.

For £45 for elbow pads you cannot go wrong. Do not let the relatively low price tag of Winnwell’s equipment fool you. It does not mean that the product is bad quality or that there’s something wrong with it, far from it. We think that this piece of equipment is where price and quality meet. You are not paying over the odds for a top of the range elbow pad and it will not leave you hanging dry. The elbow pads do not rely on any gimmicks and we have been positively surprised by them.

Durability:

winnwell3As mentioned above, the Winnwell Pro-Stock elbow pad will not break the bank, but one thing that people will question is that whether a sub £50 elbow pad will actually last or if it is going to fall to pieces after a few months use. We have had these elbow pads for almost five months in active use, but during the time there have been no faults with the equipment. The straps are still where they’re supposed to be, the elastic straps have not lost any elasticity (though this will happen over time on any piece of protective).

Despite taking a few falls and purposefully elbowing plexi glass at the rink, there are no signs that the cover of the protective cup has worn.

Conclusion:

Once the elbow pads have been fully broken in, they perform really well and equally to other top of the range elbow pads. The Winnwell Pro-Stock elbow pads hark back to the era of the good Jofa equipment. The pads are relatively lightweight compared to others. In comparison, the Winnwell Pro-Stock weighs about the same as CCM U12 elbow pads, so that’s not too bad.

We’d recommend the elbow pads for both league players, as well as recreational players who are looking for good quality protection but don’t want to spend too much money. That’s not to say that this is a beer league level pad, far from it. It can cope with the demands of the professionals, but for those that want top of the range protection, why pay over the odds.

 

Pros:

  • Great value for money
  • Durable
  • Stays in place during play
  • Comfortable
  • Great ‘old school’ feel

Cons:

  • Can take a while longer to break in than others
  • Can feel a bit bulky at first few uses
  • The Velcro strap areas could be a bit longer for tighter fit in places

 

Midnight epiphanies

Posted: June 9, 2013 in fitness, hockey, ice hockey, Sports

As I woke up at 01:00 it wasn’t because of a noise outside or that I was not sleeping well. I woke up as I had an epiphany. I usually get these epiphanies every summer at different stages, but these epiphanies are what I use as my triggers and as the subconscious affirmations towards the game.

Where I have been working on off ice conditioning for over a month now, it has been out of habit and because I generally enjoy exercise and I like to stay in shape and to make sure that I’m ready for next season. But the epiphany is really the spark for everything. It is what re-lights that fire that was first discovered when a hockey player laced up the skates for the first time. That primitive calling of ‘this is MY thing’.

Well, as if I needs any more affirmations for it, but I love this game. I couldn’t imagine a life without the game and everything that comes with it. I even love the lengthy preparation for the season. This epiphany, like I said, happens every summer and usually acts as a trigger to say that my mind and body have rested enough from last season.

The only thing now is that I have an insatiable urge to be back on the ice and I’m itching for the opening face off already. I want to be on that roller coaster ride that takes you to incredible highs and through the lowest of lows. Hockey can be a cruel mistress.

I don’t think I’ll be catching much sleep tonight as I’m going to be pumped from this.