It’s game day.
You want nothing more than to step onto the ice and perform at your absolute best.
You’ve dreamed about scoring.
You’ve visualized blowing by the competition.
The idea of becoming the team’s hero for the night fills you up with so much excitement that you can’t wait to get out there and make it all happen.
This excitement, this anticipation, this passion, and this feeling of readiness is going to end in one of two ways after the third period buzzer sounds:
- you played to your potential and are happy with your performance, or
- you didn’t execute the way you envisioned and are leaving the rink upset.
In my business of coaching thousands of hockey players to maximize their performance and reach their true potential, I have identified the number one characteristic that predicts on-ice performance on game day. So let me ask you, what do you think makes the biggest difference between option “A” and option “B” above?
Is it genetics? Maybe a little bit.
Is it equipment? Nope.
Is it luck? Definitely not.
Instead, it’s their commitment to preparation that separates the good from the great on game day.
How you perform on the ice has everything to do with how you prepare off the ice. Preparation is the antidote to anxiety, because anxiety affects those who haven’t done everything in their power to prepare for the task ahead of them.
Just like you would be nervous to do a public speech you didn’t prepare for, you’re going to be nervous with the puck during a game you didn’t do everything in your power to prepare your body for.
Have you ever seen an NHL player’s face on the ice? Even during the wildest moments, they have an aura of calm in their demeanor because their training, nutrition, and mindset practice has earned them the right to let go of performance-diminishing self-talk patterns of nervousness and anxiety.
Those who are prepared, feel ready.
Those who feel ready, are confident.
Those who are confident, dominate the ice.
No other day is more important than game day with respect to your attention toward preparation. Below, I will outline the “Game Day Domination” system I have generated this year to bridge the gap between you and your full potential. So if you’re ready to prepare like a pro, keep reading, because the 4-Step Release, Stretch, Activate, and Execute sequence in combination with the Stickhandling Prep session is going to take your game to an entirely new level.
Step 1: Release
Release is the first step in the process, typically done through physical manipulation using foam rolling or lacrosse balls. This helps increase fluid to muscle tissue, but more importantly, it reduces what’s known as “neural tone.”
Basically, once you have completed the release, you’ve changed the conversation between your brain and muscles by relaxing the tissues and making them feel safer in an acute sense, allowing you to maintain this reduction in neural tone while you’re out on the ice.
This is absolutely key, because even though it might feel like it, muscles are never technically “tight;” they are attached to bone, which is a fixed length. They are the same length constantly, or else we would fall apart.
However, the nervous system can and will create tension where you’re unstable in an effort to protect you from injury.
The fix here is to bolster those vulnerable spots for improved mobility so they don’t feel unsafe and/or at risk to begin with. Reducing neural tone is what we kick the process off with so that we break up adhesions within that local musculature to send signals to the nervous system that it’s OK to release tension in this area, which in turn, offers you a greater range of motion to utilize out on the ice for better edge work and stride frequency.
Step 2: Stretch
Now that your brain and nervous system have let down their guard and changed the conversation they are having with the muscles with respect to tension, it’s the perfect time to stretch.
You’ve created temporary change within your physiology through release, which now allows you to follow up with a better and more thorough static stretch than you would have otherwise experienced due to reduced neural tone.
Think of it as your nervous system saying to your muscular system: OK, this is cool. I’m not going to create any artificial feelings of tightness within this area anymore because I am receiving no negative feedback loops of neural tension.
The “extra stretch” you can get now will help improve blood flow to these tissues and allow you a greater range of motion to work with on the ice. This greater range represents itself as stride length.
At this point, we are only two steps in and are already positively impacting blood flow, mobility, neural tone, stride frequency, stride length, and edge work. I think it’s safe to say we’re off to a good start, and we still have plenty more to go.
Step 3: Activate
Have you ever gotten out of bed and experienced a strange sensation of being unable to gain your balance for the first several steps? Or have you ever sat for so long at a desk that during the first few steps after standing up, you wonder if your legs are listening to what your brain is telling them to do?
These are just a couple examples of how the connections between our brains and our muscles sometimes don’t function properly due to periods of non-use.
In the world of hockey, it’s called neuromuscular activation. “Neuro” comes from the nervous system, which sends the signals from the brain to the “muscular” system, to activate the muscles.
Steps 1 and 2 gave us a mobilized and prepared muscle, which means you will now get a better response from your activate exercises that you will use to excite the nervous system to more effectively recruit muscle fibers within that localized area.
You can think about it like priming a mind-muscle connection between your nervous system and the hockey-specific muscles that you need to activate out on the ice to be the most explosive and efficient skater you can be.
This is beneficial because you don’t want any lag taking place out on the ice; you want the muscles to optimally respond to the neurological signals they are receiving to drive maximum stride length and stride frequency.
Our activate exercises eliminates this lag, and it does it in all of the muscles responsible for elite skating mechanics.
Step 4: Execute
Finally, you’re ready to execute.
The execution phase represents the hockey-specific warm-up that you perform within one hour of stepping on the ice.
A warm-up alone is very well demonstrated within the scientific literature to improve performance; however, a warm-up after the Release-Stretch-Activate sequence is on a totally different level and should be reserved for game days only, so you always have an ace in your sleeve to act as your bridge between your “everyday mindset” and your “high-performance mindset.”
A key component of any warm-up for a hockey player is that you keep it dynamic in design. A dynamic warm-up is “moving while you stretch,” or stretching through a joint’s full range of motion and preparing your musculature for more intense physical activity to come.
A well-structured hockey warm-up for maximum readiness and convenience should be bodyweight-only and contain a lunge with a twist, a knee to chest variation, leg swings/kicks, hip stretch with twist, and a T-spine rotation movement—all of which are trained in a rep and set frequency to increase core temperature but not fatigue the muscle and body in any way.
Stickhandling Preparation Session
The pre-game stickhandling preparation session is in place primarily to give you a good feel for the puck and your overall puck-handling technical ability before you get on the ice.
Similar to how “activate” exercises eliminate the lag time for efficiently recruiting muscle fibers within the hips and ankles to drive elite skating, stickhandling prep eliminates the lag time for executing your highest skill level out on the ice.
This is important to care about because most youth teams are only given five minutes or so to warm up prior to puck drop. To make matters worse, most coaches use this time to do the “J Drill.” Although these coaches mean well, each player gets less than a minute of actual puck handling during this sequence. This is hardly enough time to get a feel for the puck, let alone do the movements and sequences to optimize their skill expression out on the ice.
Pre-game stickhandling is a must, and when combined with the above 4-Step sequence, creates the ultimate physical and technical game day routine you need to bring your on-ice confidence to a totally new level.
While every other player is suffering from poor warm-ups, extended lag time, and needing to get to the second period to get a feel for the puck, you will be dominating right from the puck drop in every way that you visualized on the way to the rink.
Game Day Domination Integration
The four step formula above is how you will construct your game day domination routine and warm-up sequence. Here’s how it breaks down for your reference:
- Foam roll for pelvic region x 30secs/side → RELEASE
- Stretch for pelvic region x 30secs/side → STRETCH
- Activate for pelvic region x 5/side → ACTIVATE
- Foam roll for ankle region x 30secs/side → RELEASE
- Stretch for ankle region x 30secs/side → STRETCH
- Activate for ankle region x 5/side → ACTIVATE
The first sequence of Release-Stretch-Activate is completed twice within your edgework routine (the first three exercises benefiting the pelvic region of the body and exercises four to six covering the ankle region of the body).
Emphasizing the hips and ankles with these targeted tissue movements will lead to the greatest immediate returns on edgework and skating ability.
Once you have completed the game day domination edgework routine, the only thing that’s left is to EXECUTE with a hockey-specific warm-up:
- Lunge with a twist
- Knee to chest variation
- Leg swing variation
- Dynamic hip stretch with twist
- T-spine rotation movement
The entire warm-up is considered your execution sequence, because now that the previous movements have “primed” the most important muscles and coordination patterns responsible for elite skating, you’re ready to execute at a higher level and do the last thing that’s required of you before dominating out on the ice.
Example Game Day Schedule
The rules to the Game Day Domination system are simple:
Stickhandling Prep: anytime on game day
Release-Stretch-Activate Edgework Routine: at least an hour before game time
Execute Warm-Up: within one hour of game
Here’s an example for a 7:00pm game:
3:00 pm – Stickhandling Prep
5:00 pm – Edgework Routine
6:00 pm – Leave for Rink
6:30 pm – Warm-Up
7:00 pm – Game Time
How to Perform like a Beast on Game Day
Executing the above game day domination schedule is going to turn you into a hockey performance machine. Follow these instructions carefully and thoughtfully and you are going to have the best season of your life this year.
But, if you’d like to take the guesswork out of it, I can coach you directly myself.
If you’re serious about becoming a better hockey player this year and you want to take your abilities to the next level, then pay very close attention here, because starting today, you can be one step closer to making your hockey dream a reality by utilizing the FRESH FACTOR™ System.
You don’t have to be a “natural talent” to instantly up your game and have the best season of your life this year—because you can get instant access to the exact on-ice and off-ice training you need to be doing this year during the in-season, so you can train just like your favorite NHL player.
Sure, you could go through all the research studies I have read and slowly piece everything together and you’d probably do just fine, but if you want to take all of the guesswork out of it and get access to a completely “done for you” high-level program to get the best possible results, then head on over to our In-Season ’21 System page and let’s get started today.
Lean on my experience of working with thousands of hockey players (including NHL players) and use the FRESH FACTOR™ System to be your absolute best on the ice and shock all of your teammates and impress the fans in the crowd with your newfound ability.
Unstoppable speed, edgework, conditioning, and agility are all a reality for you this year; join the team here and let’s crush this thing.
It was my intention with this article to unpack the Game Day Domination System in an easy-to-understand way and explain why it is mandatory for serious hockey players to take this type of approach if they want to reach their potential in this sport.
Always remember that how you prepare off the ice will determine how you will perform on the ice. The Game Day Domination System puts you in the best possible position to win—and at the end of the day, that’s all we can do.
As a quick recap, here are those methods again:
- Stickhandling Prep
The FRESH FACTOR™ System encompasses all of the above Game Day Domination routines as well as an entire in-season training program in one easy-to-follow, synergistic system.
If you want to reach your potential and join the team, I’ll see you on the inside.