Hockey player A: “When does your season start?”
Hockey player B: “Mine starts on 15th of September.”
That is a conversation that you could hear between hockey players across the globe for the next couple of weeks.
Players usually answer it by giving the date of our first game, but the truth is, the season started much, much earlier.
Sure the first game is the first time the fans might see the team in proper competition and in a game that actually matters, but for a player the season doesn’t start there (or it shouldn’t start there).
“When does your season start?”
The more appropriate question would be “When did your season start?” Well mine started in late March after physio’s had confirmed I was fit enough to train after my car accident in January (sustained a small tear in my rotator cuff, suffered from whiplash and concussion). I remember having started my off-season workouts the week before our official season ending party.
Since then it has been constant work, trying to figure out ways to make myself a faster, stronger and better player and executing those plans to the best of my ability. This might sound corny, but the start to the hockey season has been fun. For the first time in four years I have been able to train hard and stay healthy throughout. I have not had to heal too many injuries carried on from the end of the season (apart from the car accident) and I did not pick up any new ones during the training. Also a good sign was that neurologists gave me a clean bill of health.
It may sound cliché, but in many ways, getting to game play and playing is the easy part of the sport. It is everything else that is demanding. I’m not saying that the games are a breeze, because they’re not, but in many ways the work that has been done makes them easier. Playing and being on the ice is the fun part of hockey, but to be able to play at a competitive level and ensure you can outskate the opponent, you need to put in the work that is not as fun. As a coach once told me “hockey is similar to an (office) career. You want to get ahead in your career and you work hard to achieve those objectives. Hockey is no different.”
The off season has asked a lot, but it has given a lot back. I feel fitter, healthier and mentally stronger. There’s just something in running on a cold April morning in the rain that gives you a certain amount of grit. Or the fact that despite being on the verge of throwing up and deciding that another 100m sprint with a speed chute is “not a big deal”.
Now on the ice, it’s been a bit different. It’s been getting used to proper drills again from summer league shinny. It’s been about finding your feet and sorting out how all the work you did translates to the ice and to your skating. One thing I have noticed is that no matter how much you do off the ice in terms of strength and other conditioning exercises, there’s nothing quite like skating. The motion is different, and the muscles are used in a different way.
But at least there’s time till the first game to work all that out and get game-ready.
For a fan it’s a bit different. There’s the anticipation of news of player signings, what the team is going to look like, discussions around the water cooler about who will win the championship this year, who are the teams and players to look out for and sorting out the social life around the hockey schedule (Though the last applies to players as well).
When did your season start?