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Nate lewis
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StrengthCoach- A Comparison of Collegiate and Professional Ice Hockey

Published on 3/8/2019
For additional information  Click Here


Sean Skahan - Minnesota Wild Strength and Conditioning Coach

 As I reflect on my career as a Strength and Conditioning Coach, I realize that I have been very fortunate to be able to work in the sport of Ice Hockey.  When I was a college student and decided upon this profession, I never would have imagined that I would have had the opportunity to work in one sport for the majority of my career.  I have been able to work with 3 Division 1 men's college hockey programs and 2 professional teams.  In each situation, I have been able to work with several good teams which included outstanding players, coaches, athletic trainers, scouts, Athletic Directors, and management personnel. 

I think it is important to share my learning experiences because there are several coaches who may want to work with hockey teams at the collegiate and/or professional level. My goal for this piece is to share my observations and experiences.

There are many aspects that can be compared in both scenarios.  I want to highlight some of the major differences that I have seen over the years. 


Paid Professionals vs Students:

This is obvious but the major difference is that in the professional ranks, the players are paid professionals.  A professional player doesn't have to juggle the demands of being a student. Their hockey skills and their body is the avenue for providing for themselves and their family.  However, professionals also have to deal with the chance of them being traded, being put on waivers, or being sent to the minors. Although they get paid a substantial amount of money, these are stressful situations especially for those with families.

The collegiate player has many areas that they must juggle.  Attending class, attending study hall, communicating with professors, and attending summer school are all important  When you combine that with being a player on a highly competitive team, this can be stressful.



When it comes to strength and conditioning, the collegiate player is in a better situation to develop physically.  With the smaller amount of games played in college (college hockey will have less than half the amount of pro hockey regular season games), the collegiate player will have more time to get adequate strength and conditioning on a year-round basis.  For example, in the collegiate hockey environment, we would have 2-3 training sessions per week on a consistent basis in-season. As a team, we would train on Mondays and Wednesdays.  The players who don't dress in games would get 1 more session in during the weekend.  This allows the strength and conditioning coach to plan their training effectively. 

In the off-season, many division 1 hockey programs will have a period of time when the team is together for summer school and strength and conditioning.  They will also have the benefit of a 4-5 week pre-season period.  We would train 3 days per week during the post-season, 4 days per week during the off-season, and 5 days per week during the pre-season.

At the professional level, the Strength and Conditioning Coach will have an exit meeting at the end of the season and then sometimes not see some players again until a few days prior to training camp the following.  Players don't have to be around their team in the off-season.  My approach has always been to provide a program for them to follow and to be clear in what we will be conducting for physical testing at training camp for the next season.  

The reality is that most players at the professional level will have their own Strength and Conditioning Coach/Personal Trainer with them during the off-season.  In the past, I had a tough time accepting the fact that other trainers would be working with our players in the off-season.    It may have taken me a few years to not be upset and realize that 1- They will do whatever they want to do and work with whoever they want, and 2- I would rather have them be in a structured program with daily coaching versus being on their own.  That being said, I usually work with some players on our team during the off-season........... Join today to access this and more educational gems for only $1!

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