By Derek M. Hansen, CSCS @derekmhansen RunningMechanics.com SprintCoach.com

I have been working as a coach and consultant for speed and sprint-based athletes for over 30 years beginning in the sport of Track and Field.  As an athlete, I was always competing in sprinting and jumping events from a very young age and was also very capable in a multitude of sports.  As such, I have always used sprinting as a foundational element in all of my training programs, regardless of the sport.  For the most part, athletes continued to improve as long as we were making them sprint maximally a few sessions per week in their off-season preparation. 

It was not until I started to work with Olympic level speed skaters that I realized that the same could be said for athletes who wanted to skate at high velocities.  Much of the off-season preparation for these skaters was sprint-based on a conventional rubberized track surface using track spikes.  The faster skaters were also fast sprinters.  And many of the tendencies – good and bad – they demonstrated in dry-land scenarios, also came out when they were on the ice.  When I started to use the same approach with ice hockey players, we had similar outcomes and the players enjoyed the change from all of the conventional on-ice and gym work they were accustomed to during the off-season.  As we made the transition to a more comprehensive sprint-based program, in some cases eliminating on-ice work for a significant period of the off-season, we experienced even better results.

We know that over-training a specific movement or activity can quickly lead to a training plateau and diminishing returns, as well as a whole array of over-use problems, particularly in the hip and groin area of the ice hockey athlete.  This article reviews an extremely productive alternative to developing on-ice speed without all of the negative side effects of excessive on-ice work.

Distinguishing Between Specific and General Adaptations

Most sport coaches want more of what happens during games and competition.  If the game is played on ice, the practice will take place on the ice and any supportive skill work or drills will also occur on the ice.  It only makes sense.  However, there are many good reasons to consider dry-land solutions to on-ice demands.  There are specific aspects of dry-land sprinting that mirror the actions of skating acceleration as we will identify in this article.  Additionally, there are a whole host of systemic, general adaptations that occur in maximal sprinting that can contribute to improved on-ice performance.  Shorter ground contact times, more profound elastic responses and greater central nervous system demands are just a few of the reasons to sprint maximally at specific times of the year to build a faster and more resilient ice hockey athlete.  Chasing specificity can have immediate positive effects, but coaches and trainers must support this work with general activities that bolster physical resiliency, improve overall fitness and performance, and minimize both physical and mental burnout in ice hockey athletes of all ages and levels of ability.

The Myth of ‘First-Step’ Quickness

Many a physical preparation coach have staked their reputation on the importance of ‘first-step’ quickness.  It makes sense!  Going back to Neil Armstrong’s first ground contact on the moon back in 1969, we were inundated with the “One small step for man… one giant leap for mankind!” and we were hooked.  Strength coaches have promoted their weight room routines or plyometric exercises as part of their ‘first-step quickness’ program, rather than placing equal importance on every step and every contributing training element.  But even though a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step, the quality of all of those steps is critically important.  I’ve seen amazing first movements and initial steps decimated by horrible execution of steps 2, 3 and 4.  In fact, if an athlete is encouraged to do something sensational with their first step, chances are they will over-commit to that acyclical effort and ruin the smooth execution of the cyclical action of sprinting or skating.

Because both sprint and skating acceleration are cyclical activities, the distribution of effort must be balanced between each stride.  Too much emphasis on one stride can rob the other strides of proper position, frequency, range and, ultimately, power.  Finding the optimal cadence for any cyclical activity is critical for acceleration performance whether you are on a track or on ice.  In ice hockey scenarios, it is more common to initiate three to five strides before gliding on two skates, so it may be unnecessary to sprint far in dry land scenarios.  There are a few good reasons to sprint to maximum velocity that we will address later in the article.

The Biomechanics of Sprinting and Acceleration

Sprint – and in particular – acceleration mechanics can be simplified in a manner that divides up the action of the upper and lower extremities into front-side and back-side contributions.  Movement along the sagittal plane by the arms and legs about the frontal axis will involve the rapid flexion and extension of joints.  While many athletes are initially taught to ‘push’ out back to create propulsion, most of the top sprint athletes understand the importance of attaining range on the front-side of the body.  While some coaches may refer to a lifting of the knees, ideally the athlete is bringing their foot to the front side of the body at a height that allows them to accelerate the leg downward forcefully toward the ground to create both vertical and horizontal propulsion.  Any extension to the backside of the body is simply a byproduct of front side intent, ground preparation and overall force production.  When combined with a stride frequency of approximately 4.5 steps per second (in sprinters) good things can happen.

Some basic statistics on sprinting will help to illustrate what is clearly happening ‘on the ground’ and how this data can support a sprint-based approach to on-ice performance both specifically and generally.  Credit is provided to Dr. Ralph Mann and his research work with elite sprinters, documented in his book, “The Mechanics of Sprinting and Hurdling.”


Figure 1 – Horizontal sprint velocity in world-class male sprinters (Source: Ralph Mann)

It doesn’t take many steps for an athlete to approach top-speed as illustrated in Figure 1.  Horizontal speed is achieved not by first-step quickness, but a well-coordinated array of successive steps.  Over-striding, stumbling or standing up too quickly can all significantly impact acceleration rate.  This information does allow us to understand that short sprints and accelerations of even three to seven steps can contribute toward overall speed abilities of an athlete.  In ice-hockey players, this plays an even more significant role, as more than three to five skating strides are required in game-specific scenarios before a bilateral glide phase is employed.  While ice-hockey athletes do not accelerate at the same rate as sprinters in the early phase of a sprint – primarily due to the ice surface itself – a steady rate of acceleration is similarly experience by on-ice athletes.

Examination of athlete ground contact times during a maximal acceleration in an elite sprinter reveals that the amount of time on the ground quickly diminishes as velocity is increased.  Figure 2 illustrates the fact that world-class sprinters can quickly achieve ground contact times of no more than 1/10th of a second.  While ice-hockey players do not utilize the stretch-reflex in the lower leg complex as much as a dry-land sprinter, the initial steps in an on-ice acceleration will display similarly short ground contact times until the athlete begins to enter a unilateral glide phase.  As mentioned previously, this may happen as quickly as the fourth or fifth skating stride.


Figure 2 – Ground contact times in world-class male sprinters (Source: Ralph Mann)

Once we start to look at the stride/step frequency element of sprinting, we see that consistency is imperative.  There are no sweeping variations in stride frequency.  Sprint athletes quickly achieve their optimal stride frequency from step one and continue that pattern for their entire race.  This is important to realize for dry-land sprinting applications, as athletes must be taught to relax and maintain fast and consistent strides.  Athletes that can rapidly cycle through strides will often have better acceleration abilities whether on the track or on the ice.  While excessive stride frequency can diminish power, much like a car spinning its wheels without moving, it is recommended that training sessions focus on attaining maximal frequency with a measured amount of relaxation to allow for optimal stride length.  Once again, the ice skating athlete will peak in stride frequency much earlier than the sprinting athlete due to the nature of skating mechanics.   However, hitting a high frequency as soon as possible should still remain one of the goals of acceleration training regardless of the training environment.   Higher stride frequencies also allows for more accessible direction change abilities due to the fact that a step is always ready for force application on the ice.


Figure 3 – Stride frequency in world-class male sprinters (Source: Ralph Mann)

We have always been taught that good sprinting is the result of the optimal combination of stride frequency and stride length.  This is no different for the skating athlete.  The only difference is in how the stride length is attained in sprinting versus skating.  In sprinting, athletes drive more force into the ground for shorter instances of time to take advantage of elasticity so that the athlete is vaulted further and faster forward on each stride as shown in Figure 4.  In skating, athletes modify their stride mechanics to push laterally to essentially move up to larger ‘gears’ to create higher velocities of movement.  While stride frequency remains constant in sprinters over a six to seven second duration, stride frequency is skaters will actually slow down to accommodate a modified and more efficient stride mechanic.  Pushing laterally and crossing-over substitute bigger gears for high stride frequencies as proven by both science and practice.


Figure 4 – Stride length in world-class male sprinters (Source: Ralph Mann)

Application

So how do we modify sprinting to fit the parameters of ice skating?  Fortunately we don’t have to answer that question.  When on solid ground, sprint!  When on the ice, skate!  This may sound all too easy, but it works perfectly.  When athletes enter the initial start and early acceleration phase, they assume the same positions.  Figures 5a and 5b are of former Canadian Olympic speed skaters (500m distance) in their initial acceleration for both dry-land (inset) and on-ice scenarios.


Figure 5a:  Canadian Olympic Speed Skater – Jamie Gregg

In both cases, the off-ice posture and limb placements closely resemble the on-ice positions.  While these similarities may only last for three to four strides, sprinting still represents a more than suitable means of simulating the positions and stresses of on-ice early acceleration from a pure specificity point of view.  Skating will typically have a lower heel recovery position – during the swing phase of the stride – due to a lower elastic contribution from the foot at toe-off and the weight of the skate versus a sprint spike or running shoe.  As was mentioned previously, off-ice errors will typically manifest themselves as on-ice errors.  This reinforces the concept of ‘fixing’ mechanical errors in dry-land training sessions where more reps are possible, less equipment is required and facility accessibility is not an issue.  If you can fix it on dry land, you may not have to fix it once you hit the ice.  I believe this is one of the more compelling specificity arguments for dry-land sprinting.  And, I would argue that the stretch-reflex throughout all musculo-tendo structures in the lower extremities play a larger role in skating speed than most people would like to admit.

Figure 5b:  Canadian Olympic Speed Skater – Mike Ireland

For those of you that are not speed skating aficionados, fortunately, this tendency can also be seen in some of the faster ice hockey players.  Fast skaters have to produce adequate force into the ice at a high enough frequency to produce fast locomotion in a limited amount of space in game scenarios.  Figure 6 depicts one of the faster NHL players executing a powerful acceleration at an All-Star event competition that looks very similar to the positions of a dry-land sprinter.  I superimpose my proprietary “Be the Hashtag” symbol on sprinters and skater videos and photos to show how the posture and limbs should line up during acceleration and maximum velocity sprinting.  All good sprinters and accelerating skaters exhibit this posture, and it is a very simple way to convey optimal positions to athletes – particularly younger athletes – with a simple smartphone camera and app such as Dartfish Express.

Figure 6:  Connor McDavid accelerating in an All-Star speed competition

Figures 7 and 8 show examples of former NHL athletes accelerating maximally on a rubberized track.   In both cases, their off-season dry-land preparation was comprised of no less than two sessions per week on the track focusing on starts, accelerations and – in some instances – maximum velocity sprinting.  It is also important to note that both athletes readily enjoyed the training sessions, as it was a significant departure from the higher volumes of on-ice work that they were accustomed to during the off-season period.  There were no instances of muscle strains or other injuries during the course of the training periods and, if anything, the athletes exhibited a much lower incidence of injury once they resumed their on-ice activities and regular season commitments.


Figure 7:  Jason Garrison accelerating over 20 meters

Figure 8:  Manny Malhotra sprinting out of starting blocks

While maximal upright sprinting may not specifically address the requirements of ice skating, hitting higher velocities beyond 20 meters of sprint distance allows athletes to benefit from the greater forces required to run fast.  In Figure 9, you can see this former NHL player hitting top speed with maximal velocity mechanics over 40 meters with relatively good technique.  This approach is supported by the research of Nagahara et al. in Figure 10 demonstrating that ground reaction forces increase dramatically as athletes hit higher running speeds.


Figure 9:  Manny Malhotra sprinting maximally over a 40-meter distance
Figure 10: “Step-to-step spatiotemporal variables and ground reaction forces of
intra-individual fastest sprinting in a single session”  Nagahara et al.  2018. 

Return-to-Play Protocols

Another one of the benefits of employing a dry-land, sprint-based approach to training is that you also create another means of strengthening the athletes should they have the misfortune of getting injured.  Most of my lower body rehabilitation protocols involve the significant integration of sprint drills and accelerations on a daily basis.   I have presented on two occasions in the last five years at the NFL Combine for PFATS on the subject of a sprint-based approach to hamstring injury prevention and rehabilitation, and my methods have been adopted by a majority of teams. 

The same approach can easily be adopted for ice hockey players as part of a transitional ‘step’ between the clinical rehabilitation phase and return to on-ice activities.  Sprint drills and dry-land acceleration work will safely strengthen the muscles and connective tissues to the demands of on-ice locomotion.  We even use sprint accelerations for upper extremity injuries to maintain the strength of the upper body, as many athletes comment on how sore they are in the shoulders, biceps, traps and upper back, with some even commenting on hypertrophy gains after as little as three weeks of sprint work.

Concluding Remarks

One of the symptoms of presenting this type of information is that you will get the hecklers from the back row chiming in with, “Well, you can’t take a sprinter and put him in skates expecting him to be an NHL level player!”  I would never assert that this is the case, just as I wouldn’t suggest that sprinters would make great basketball, football or tennis players.  We all understand that sport specific skill is critical to success in every sport.  However, integrating some of the valuable qualities that dry-land sprinting brings to the table for most athletes in various sports – without creating significant over-use issues – is a compelling option for players and teams looking for easy-to-implement solutions for off-season preparation, in-season maintenance and year round return-to-play protocols. 

I am not proposing a massive shift towards excessive dry-land training, but simply a subtle re-orientation to some very effective off-ice solutions that don’t require significant equipment or training to implement on a consistent basis.  Once all professionals attain a level of comfort and competence around this modality, significant benefits can be made available to all players from the development levels all the way up to the elite performers.


Derek M. Hansen is an International Sport Performance Consultant that has been working with athletes all ages and abilities in speed, strength and power sports since 1988.  He has worked closely with some of the top performers in the world as a coach and a consultant – including Olympic medalists, world record holders, Canadian National team athletes, and professional athletes from numerous sports. Most recently, he worked progressively over the last five years on speed development and sprint integration with the Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs.  He worked as the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach for Simon Fraser University for 14 years, the first non-US member of the NCAA.  He also serves as a performance consultant to numerous professional teams in the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL and MLS, as well as NCAA Division 1 programs throughout North America, specializing in speed development, strategic performance planning, return-to-competition protocols and neuromuscular electrical stimulation programming.  Derek also offers continuing education courses around sprint-based solutions via his Running Mechanics Professional curriculum at RunningMechanics.com.

Rich Stinziano, Head Athletic Trainer, Buffalo Sabres

PHATS: What made you want a career in the athletic training profession and how did you get your start?

RS: My parents had season tickets for Syracuse University football at the Carrier Dome back in my hometown of Syracuse NY. Watching the athletic trainers take care of the athletes on the sidelines was interesting to me- I said I’m going to do that one day.

While I was working as a physical therapist/athletic trainer for a clinic in Buffalo, I also took care of a Jr B ice hockey team- the Wheatfield Blades.  The GM for the Blades, Greg DeSantis at the time was the son-in-law of the goaltending coach for the NJ Devils, Jacques Caron.  The Devils were looking for an athletic trainer.  I met with Jacques who introduced me to Lou Lamoriello. I went through their interview process & was hired soon after.  Many thanks to Greg, Jacques & Lou for giving me the chance!

PHATS: Can you speak to returning to Buffalo in 2016 after 10 seasons with the New Jersey Devils?   What was that transition like?

RS: It was an unexpected & interesting opportunity to return to my “roots”-since I went to college at the University at Buffalo for undergrad in athletic training & graduate school for physical therapy.  I had a network of family, friends & colleagues established in Buffalo.

The GM for New Jersey at the time was Ray Shero. He pulled me aside and told me that the GM for the Buffalo Sabres (at the time was Tim Murray) called to ask if I’d be interested in getting back to Buffalo to work with the Sabres organization.  I told Ray, it doesn’t cost anything to talk.  The rest is history.

The transition was with mixed emotions.  Sad to leave an organization that had treated me well for 10 seasons but excited to be closer to family, friends and the chance to work with old colleagues again.

PHATS:  Having been a part of two NHL Clubs, what advice can you give to a Member who might one-day make that transition?  

RS: Each day is a transition and EVERYTHING can and will change.  Do not fear the challenges that come with change.  You will adapt and overcome these challenges.   Use them as a learning experience. Lastly, never burn bridges- you never know if you will have to cross them again.

PHATS:  You reached 1,000 games earlier this season, congratulations!  What does this accomplishment mean to you?   

RS: I guess I’m becoming one of the old dogs.   I am not one to count games but I realize how very fortunate I am to get to work with great people and top athletes with the support of my family.

PHATS:  Even though you don’t often get a lot of time in the cities you travel to, what is one of your favorite hockey cities to visit and why?

RS:  Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning as I get to visit with family.

PHATS:   As we are gearing up for the 2020 Conference, what is one course you took that you felt changed how you work the most, and why?

RS: Every year there are courses that change how I work. We as professionals must continue to change and adapt to new ideas and technology.  We must continue to grow as practitioners in our profession.

PHATS: What advances in your profession have been the most beneficial to you?

RS:   From player data collection of workloads etc. and how we use it for mental health, nutritional and rehabilitative aspects.  There are advances all the time in the evolution of technology and science and its ever changing.

PHATS:  Do you have a professional mentor or Athletic Trainer/Therapist you admire?

RS: Mike Adesso was my mentor and boss through my college clinical years as an athletic trainer & physical therapist.  I got the chance to work with him again when I made the move to Buffalo.

PHATS:  What is one thing other Members would be surprised to know about you?

RS: I’ve never played ice hockey.

Tell us a little bit about yourself…

I enjoy spending time with family and friends and traveling with my wife Jen, our daughter Olivia and Bailey, our Boxer/Labrador. I enjoy golfing in the off-season.

All photos courtesy of Rich Stinziano

Hope this finds everyone doing well during this unprecedented time of the suspension and cancellation of our seasons. We hope that everyone is using this time to take care of their families and themselves. 

As we all know, the Covid-19 virus is a very fluid situation and, in our case, the PHATS/SPHEM Annual Meeting is a little under three months away.  At this time the meeting has not been officially cancelled, however we are in a holding pattern.  We know the personal strain this time has put on everyone and we are aware of the financial ramifications this has put on our valuable sponsors, vendors, members and teams.  We would encourage you to wait to register for the meeting, book flights or make hotel reservations until we can make final decisions in regards to our meeting in Orlando.We are continually monitoring the situation and relying on the information provided by the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Infection) and WHO (World Health Organization) to monitor the status of Coronavirus itself as well as the response and best practices of our industry (exhibitions, meetings and events). 

We understand there are many questions and concerns. We assure you that we are considering all options, and nothing is more important than everyone’s health and safety. 

We look forward to honoring Peter Millar as the next PHATS/SPHEM Hockey Hall of Fame inductee.

Peter spent 11 years with the Edmonton Oilers as their Head Athletic Therapist winning four Stanley Cups.  After leaving Edmonton, he landed in Los Angeles as the Head Equipment Manager for the Los Angeles Kings Hockey Club. Peter spent the next 17 years in that position before moving on to his current position with Warrior Hockey. All in all, Peter has dedicated the last 42 years of his life to the world of professional hockey.Thank you all for your patience and be well.

 Darren and Chris

By Hayley Wickenheiser, Assistant Director, Player Development, Toronto Maple Leafs

A year prior to the 2014 Sochi Olympics, I took a slap shot off my foot in practice with the national team. My foot was sore, and it ached for a while, so I went to see a sports medical doctor. They did an x-ray and it was negative. The advice I was given was to not load the foot, there may be a small crack and let it heal with no impact but playing should be ok. The injury kept nagging me and finally I went back to a different doctor, who did a CT only to find I had a crack in my navicular. First lesson here, suspected Navicular Fx needs a CT not a X Ray!! Don?t mess around with the feet. 

There?s currently no set standard of care for whether a board or scoop should be used to remove a player from the ice. The method used for SMR is usually determined by the City, State, Provence, Fire Department, Ambulance Company or a local Authority. As healthcare providers in sports we can still pre-plan for injuries and have what we need ready to treat them. We can also take advantage of some of the differences between treating patients in the field and treating our players on the ice.

By this point, the crack was not going to approximate, and my frustration was through the roof. I played through the Sochi 2014 Olympics in a lot of pain, modifying my training and surviving thanks to the Incredible medical staff on the national team. After the Olympics finished, I went to see renowned foot surgeon Dr. John Lau at Toronto Western Hospital. Dr. Lau decided I needed a screw in my foot to try to pull the bone back together. 3 months later and doing everything I was told to do and I returned to the ice. Two games back, I remember taking a sharp tight turn and my foot literally crumbling under the screw. I went from one crack to a navicular that was in 4 pieces and my career in jeopardy. I don?t think anyone realized the amount of torque a foot undergoes, even in a hockey skate. 

Back to Dr. Lau I went, who had to do a complete fixation using a bone graft from my hip, with a plate and 8 screws. He also gave me strict orders that if I touched my foot to the ground for even a moment before 4 months, I may never walk right again let alone skate. I took his advice to heart and went back to Calgary to begin my rehab. 

I started rehab on day 10 post-surgery with a plan led by my amazing friend, and trainer Dr. Syl Corbett. Syl devised a plan that would see me work backwards from the day we projected me to skate again. Day one for me started with a garbage bag taped around my giant cast I had on, so I could start swimming. Ever seen a hockey player swim? It is not pretty, let alone with a cast on. That is where I lived for the first 2 months, in the pool! Fast forward to 4 months later and 10 months before I was playing again, I came back with personal bests in almost every area of my fitness testing and with more drive and appreciation of being a pro-athlete and what my health meant to me. To this day, it has been a long road to say the least, but without Dr. Lau?s great hands and Dr. Corbett working 5 hours every day with me, I?m not sure I would have ever played again. Dr. Lau would tell me it was one of the top 3 worst breaks of the navicular he had ever seen. Great!! 

Today I am happy to say he saved my career, I am back to running and training normally and I am able to stay on the ice, this time in my role with the Toronto Maple Leafs. There were countless days I wasn?t sure I?d be able to do either. Here is what I know from that experience that may help all of you when working with any athlete, whether it be a pro or weekend warrior: 

  1. Every athlete is an individual case: there is no box or timeline for certainty in recovery and athletes will do remarkable things in healing and recovery that defy all ?normal people? rules. In saying that, your job more often than not, is to pull the reigns back, but keep in mind how driven athletes really are. 
  2. Start with a goal of return to play and work BACKWARDS from that date to formulate a plan. I always felt better when I knew where I was going and the plan to get there. Yes, swimming sucked but I knew I would be fit and strong and keep progressing for when I hit land. I slept better, had less anxiety and felt calm knowing my team had a plan and believed in it. 
  3. It?s about who can keep their head on: much of injury rehab is physical yes, but once the physical rehab is over, the mental rehab of return to play is more crucial. Even though I couldn?t play hockey, I could watch it, visualize it, and continue to work on my game when not on the ice. Within my rehab I incorporated game simulations as much as I could so when I stepped back on the ice, I felt less behind. Athletes will often want to stay close to their sport. 
  4. There will be THOSE DAYS…when either you or your athlete want to choke each other out! Stay Positive. Rehabbing injuries, especially big ones are very scary and uncertain for maybe both of you. Be honest with them, talk about the valleys and plateaus they will hit, let them vent and don?t fall into the dark black hole when they do. Remember, it?s not about you, it?s the fear and uncertainty that grips so many and makes us all crazy at times. 
  5. Find the silver linings in every day: there is always something that can be worked on ?always a way forwards. Stay creative and be prepared when your athlete comes to work with you. The best way to keep athletes following your plan and on side with you is to show you are as committed and invested in their rehab as they are. 
  6. Ask for help if you need it. I always had tremendous respect and I do to this day studying medicine, when I work with health professionals who admit it when they don?t know something. We can?t know everything there is to know in rehab, research or the latest and greatest training. If you don?t know, say so! Your athletes will trust and respect you more in the end. This is not a sign of weakness but strength in knowing your limitations. I will be forever grateful to those doctors and therapists who kept me on the ice relatively injury free through my career. My navicular injury was the worst I have ever experienced, but with a great team of folks on my side, I was able to return to the ice and more importantly, feel that I can have a long life after hockey with a relatively healthy foot to live an active life.

Hayley Wickenheiser is the Assistant Director of Player Development with the Toronto Maple Leafs, a second-year medical student at the University of Calgary and a four-time Olympic Gold Medalist with Canada?s Women?s Hockey Team.  She has partnered with Dr. Syl Corbett to create an athletic balm, Rock on Clay*.   She?s pleased to offer our readers 10% off until Dec 15. with the code: navicular.  You can purchase the balm by visiting her site here, http://www.rockonclay.com/

Photos courtesy of Jon Sanderson & Hayley Wickenheiser

* The appearance of advertisements or promotions is not a warranty, endorsement, or approval of the products or services advertised or of their effectiveness, quality, or safety by PHATS/SPHEM.

By Brian Papineau, Head Equipment Manager, Toronto Maple Leafs

Why did the organization choose Newfoundland for their training camp location?

With our ECHL team (Newfoundland Growlers) based in St. John?s and the older AHL affiliation (St. John?s Maple Leafs from 1991-2005), the organization decided it was best to hold training camp there.

Is this the first time your team has held their training camp off-site?

Every year, the Maple Leafs like to hold training camp off-site to give the many fans from all over a chance to watch up close as the team prepares for another season. We have traveled to Halifax, NS twice and to Niagara Falls, ON as well. It also allows the players a chance to get away from our normal surroundings that we spend so much time at during the season and allows them to interact with the community as well as take in the sites and do some team bonding.

How much time did you have to prepare?

Originally, two members of our organization traveled to St. John?s 10 months prior to see the possibilities of holding training camp there. They viewed arena options and hotels and then about 6 or 7 of our staff from different departments went for a site visit around August 1st and that was a chance to meet some of the key contacts at the arenas, hotels, restaurants as well as the head of all the volunteers. We went through logistics and what our needs would be when we arrived in St. John?s.

What was the biggest challenge?

The biggest challenge was getting everything out there and making sure that we had enough room on the two chartered planes that we flew on. We pre-shipped many supplies like Gatorade and medical supplies early to free up space on the aircraft. We also ordered some of our supplies (water, tape and pucks) to be shipped directly to St. John?s so that we didn?t have to worry about taking it with us. The day we left, we had our Media Day in Toronto at our practice facility, so we had players wear their practice gear for the Media portion so that we had all the game gear packed ahead of time so that we could pre-load the planes and allow for a timely departure.

Would you do anything different having gone thru it?

I think everything went smooth for the most part as we spent the first three days at the practice facility in Paradise, NL and then moved into Mile One Stadium for three days and an exhibition game against the Ottawa Senators. Our day to day schedule is pretty much the same the past five years, so we kind of know what to expect and that makes planning easier while away.

What surprised you most about Newfoundland?

We have been to Newfoundland a few times over the years and we held a small portion of our training camp there back in 2001 during 9/11. You hear how wonderful and friendly the people are and how much they love their hockey and that was shown daily. The hockey office staff and trainers (Neil Davidson and Andrew Koch) from the Growlers were great hosts and took care of many details leading up to training camp. It also never hurts to have David Roper from Mount Pearl, NL on staff with the Maple Leafs. It didn?t matter what was needed, Ropes got it done.

Did you have a chance to tour Newfoundland? 

As I mentioned earlier, we did a site visit previously so I was able to tour around the area and I didn?t realize how beautiful St. John?s is and the many attractions it has to offer. The people, the food and the sites were outstanding.

What advice would you give to an Equipment Manager who?s team is holding their training camp off-site for the first time? 

I think the biggest thing is go out ahead of time and check out the arena and hotel and meet the people that you will be dealing with. They along with volunteers will help you in so many ways. Take pictures of your locker rooms and working environment and think about the electrical requirements, the heat and drying of equipment, laundry facilities and more that will be needed to ensure that camp runs smoothly.

Photos courtesy of Brian Papineau.

Jon Sanderson, Head Athletic Therapist, Vancouver Canucks

PHATS: What made you want a career in the athletic training profession and how did you get your start?

JS: It was a way to combine sports medicine and stay involved as part of a team. Like a lot of us I started out by volunteering and helping out wherever I could to get experience.

PHATS: You were previously with the BC Lions of the Canadian Football League.  What is something you learned while working in Football that you?ve brought to the hockey world that you may not have seen without that experience?   

JS: The staff then was Billy, Kato, Red, me and Bob Park, who was the strength guy. 5 people to look after a football team and coaching staff, if one of the 5 of us didn?t do it then it didn?t get done. You learn to work hard and be part of a group. We had a great time though, Red and I still laugh about it.

PHATS: How do you see the role of the athletic trainer in professional hockey changing in the next 5-10 years?

JS: It?s so specialized now that day to day treatment, long term rehab, movement screening/correctives, dealing with each players individual ?team?, monitoring other players in the organization, dealing with doctors, specialists, insurance? these and others will be individual areas that the Head Athletic Trainer manages and coordinates under the umbrella of the Medical Department. That and on ice emergency care during games.

PHATS:  You?ll reach 1,500 games this year, congratulations!  What does this accomplishment mean to you?   

JS: That I?ve been fortunate to work with great people, the best part about this job is we do it together.

PHATS:  Travel is such a huge part of this profession.  What is one of your favorite hockey cities to visit and why?

JS:  Chicago, you can walk to all the shopping and restaurants downtown.  The United Center is great to work in and the atmosphere is like no other city. And Pippens.

PHATS:   Can you recommend any type of schooling, courses, or training that would benefit a young athletic trainer trying to break into this field given the way sports has changed so much over the years?

JS: Some sort of people managing skills and customer service. We?re now in the people business/service industry, athletic training is just the medium that we use.

PHATS: You are a regular at our conferences, besides the educational component, what would you say you benefit from most by attending year after year?

JS: The informal conversations with other Trainers. We all have similar jobs but it?s always interesting to hear how other teams problem solve and adapt to their particular situation. I always learn something that can make our staff better.

PHATS:  Do you have a professional mentor or Athletic Trainer/Therapist you admire?

JS: When I was going to school at Sheridan for Athletic Therapy I came home every summer to work.  My first summer back I called Billy with the Lions because I knew he was a Sheridan grad and asked if I could help out to get some experience. Every summer he let me do everything from treatments to taping, while I was there I watched how he ran the training room, how he interacted with coaches and players and how he handled difficult situations, he taught me what it takes to be a trainer in pro sports. I was lucky he took time for me, he?s not just a great trainer, he?s a special person.

PHATS:  What is one thing other Members would be surprised to know about you?

JS: I?m an open book.

Tell us about yourself, your family and your hobbies.

Married to my wife Catherine, we have 2 kids, Kate and Cooper and a dog named Bob.  I grew up in Vancouver and enjoy playing golf in the summer.

Photos courtesy of Jon Sanderson.

Welcome to the 2019-20 Season!

We would first like to thank everyone for making our 2019 Annual Meeting in Austin Texas a huge success. We continue to have amazing support from our vendors and record attendance.

Plans are well underway for our 2020 meeting in Orlando Florida. Please mark your calendars for June 15-20 as we are back at the Orlando World Center Marriott. Please register early as we expect another ?sold out? conference. We are always looking for educational content, articles, news, tricks and tips from the field. Please reach out to the PHATS/SPHEM office or any members of the Executive Committees if you would like to help or have any interesting ideas.

Special thanks to Anita Ramsay and Natalie Grant and their staff for all their hard work and commitment to our groups. We are very fortunate to have them taking care of all the details for us to be able to put on a conference of this size. Speaking of all their hard work, please be sure to check out our brand-new website with many new features and information. www.phatssphem.com

We also could not have this conference without the continued support of our sponsors. We would like to thank the NHL and the NHLPA for their continued support and involvement at our meetings. We look forward to building on our partnerships with all of our sponsors and vendors.

We are very pleased to announce that our 2020 PHATS SPHEM Hall of Fame inductee will be Peter Millar. A man who has literally done it all in our business, Peter has spent 28 seasons in the National Hockey League, 17 seasons as Head Equipment Manager of the LA Kings and 11 seasons as the Head Athletic Trainer of the Edmonton Oilers. Peter was a member of 4 Stanley Cup Champion Oilers teams and is currently working his 14th season as a Pro Rep for Warrior Hockey. We look forward to celebrating Peter?s illustrious career with his family and friends.

We would also like to announce that PHATS has officially endorsed the NATA statement of recommendations to reduce the risk of injury related to sport specialization for adolescent and young athletes. PHATS was joined in this endorsement by PFATS, PBATS, the NBATA and the PSATS.

In closing congratulations to Scott Boggs of the New York Islanders and Jim McCrossin of the Philadelphia Flyers on their selections to join Ray Barile, Joel Farnsworth and the St. Louis Blues staff as they host the 2020 NHL All Star Game.

Best of luck to all of our members and supporters this season. May everyone stay healthy and safe. We look forward to seeing all of you in Orlando in June.

Darren & Chris

I wish all of you a very Happy Spring.  With the change of season comes the end of the 2018-2019 regular season and the push for playoff positions for some of us, and for the rest of us we are making plans for exit physicals and doing the dreaded end of year inventory and reports.  I wish all of you the best of luck down the stretch. The playoffs will bring much excitement I?m sure and I wish you all good health.

Plans are well under way for our annual conference this year as we are headed to Austin, TX.  Please make your plans to join your colleagues June 18-23 at the beautiful JW Marriott Austin.  We are expecting another tremendous turnout so please be sure to register and secure your hotel reservations.

I want to thank the NHL, NHLPA and all our vendors and sponsors for the continued support. As we continue to grow as societies you all have been there every step of the way.  We look forward to our continued collaboration in the years to come.

Congratulations to Kenny Lowe as this year?s inductee into the PHATS/SPHEM Hall of Fame.  Kenny is deserving of this recognition for his many years of service in the Edmonton Oilers organization. For over twenty years Kenny served as the Head Athletic Therapist for the Oilers.  He was part of the 1990 Stanley Cup Champions.

Please plan to attend the Awards dinner as we celebrate the outstanding career of Kenny with his friends and family. Kevin Lowe will be our guest speaker and I?m sure he has many good stories about Kenny.  We look forward to a great evening.

A special thanks goes to the Edmonton Oilers and the Edmonton Oilers Alumni for sponsoring the Hall of Fame Award dinner. We truly appreciate your support.

I would also like to congratulate Wayne Smith as our Frank and Vi Rowe Award recipient.  Wayne has been a tremendous supporter of ours for over 20 years. 

As always, I must give special thanks to Anita Ramsay and Natalie Grant.  The work they do is remarkable!  Their continued dedication and commitment to our societies is awesome.  They are truly the driving force behind all we do.  Thank you Anita and Natalie.

I would also like to thank the PHATS Executive board members. I value and respect your opinions regarding the many challenges we face.  We all have the best interests of PHATS in mind at all times.

As I end this message, I want to thank Darren Granger for all his efforts as President of SPHEM over the past year.  I truly enjoy working with you on a daily basis as we strive to make our societies even stronger.  I look forward to our future challenges.

Please register for this year?s meeting and I look forward to seeing all of you.  Please feel free to reach out with any concerns.

Thanks,

Chris

Chris Kingsley
Head Athletic Trainer 
Los Angeles Kings 
PHATS President

Mike Vogt, Head Athletic Trainer, Columbus Blue Jackets

PHATS: What made you want a career in the athletic training profession and how did you get your start?

MV: I originally wanted to become a PT, but after working in a clinic and hospital through college, I realized I needed to be involved with sports and a team.  I had played sports my whole life and really missed being a part of a team.  I felt athletic training was perfect for me.

PHATS: Tell us about your transition from being an Assistant Athletic Trainer with Minnesota to becoming the Head Trainer with the Columbus Blue Jackets

MV: It was an easier transition for me because I had worked with, and knew well, the team physicians for CBJ.  I also had experience as a head athletic trainer in the WNBA and an athletic trainer with the University of Minnesota Men?s Hockey Team, which meant I had to handle all aspects, like a head athletic trainer, for the team.

PHATS:  You bring experience from not only the NHL, but the NCAA and the WNBA.    How has experience in other leagues and sports enriched your career?

MV: I have been very fortunate in my career and am very thankful to have had many opportunities to learn and grow as a person and professional.  My experiences from other leagues has enabled me to take a wide range of learning experiences in many different environments and use them in a positive way to become better, not only an athletic trainer, but as a person.

PHATS:  For those just starting out as athletic trainers, what is the best piece of advice you were given when you began your career?  

MV: You never know what will happen?what will lead to something else.  You should always do the best job you can no matter what position you have. Never stop trying to learn and improve.  I feel very lucky; but learned that luck is when preparation meets opportunity, so make the most of every opportunity afforded you.

PHATS: How has being involved with PHATS and the annual meeting helped you professionally? 

MV: I feel open discussion with other health care providers, practicing known techniques, and learning new things from others is very important.  Being involved with PHATS has helped me in those areas.  It is also an opportunity for me to share my experiences and knowledge.

PHATS:  What is your biggest satisfaction of the job?

MV: Helping athletes achieve their goals while being a part of a team.

PHATS: What is your biggest challenge of the job?

MV: Time?it?s very valuable and it?s hard to control.  Athletic trainers have to be very good planners so they can maximize their time between family, job, and self.

PHATS:  How do you balance the demands of this job with your family life? 

MV:  I do my best to plan ahead but most importantly, I am so unbelievably blessed to have a wonderful wife who understands the demands of the job.  She runs the whole household, while working full time herself, without me.  I couldn?t do this job without her!

PHATS:  What other Athletic Trainers do you admire? Why?

MV: Don Fuller?he showed me the way early on and is my mentor.  If it wasn?t for him, I wouldn?t be here.

PHATS:  What do you look forward to in the off-season?

MV: Family, plain and simple.  It is a time for me to recharge the batteries and get back to my life, my family.

PHATS: Tell us a little bit more about yourself?

MV: I’m from Canton, Ohio.  I am married to Monica and have two children, Cole (11) and Olivia (9).  Both kids are very active with sports and school activities.  A lot of our time, especially my wife, is spent driving kids to sporting events.  In the summer, we try to travel and be as active outside as possible.  I like to fish, hike, and travel with my family.

As we are well underway in the 2018- 2019 season, I would like to thank everyone for making our annual meetings in Orlando, FL a tremendous success. It was our largest meeting to date in terms of attendance and vendors. We had 200 vendors this year! It?s truly amazing to see the interaction amongst all our peers and various groups.

Plans are already underway for our 2019 meeting in Austin, TX. Please plan on joining us June 18-23 at the beautiful JW Marriott Austin. Please contact any Executive Committee members with any of your suggestions or concerns.

A very special thanks is in order for Anita Ramsay and Natalie Grant. Their commitment to our groups is greatly appreciated and never taken for granted. Our respective groups are very fortunate to have the two of them leading us!

I would like to thank the NHL and NHLPA for their continued involvement and support of our meetings. Our continued collaborative partnerships grow stronger each year. We look forward to working with each other in the future.

Thanks to the Buffalo Sabres and the Buffalo Sabres Alumni for supporting Robert ?Rip? Simonick in his induction in the PHATS- SPHEM Hall of Fame. It was a great honor to have Pat LaFontaine, Rob Ray and Rick Jeanerette in attendance to share so many memorable stories about Rip. The attendance at the dinner was outstanding and everyone had a great time.

I would like to congratulate Piet Van Zant of the Detroit Red Wings for his selection to represent the Eastern Conference at the 2019 NHL All-Star game in San Jose, CA. This will be Piet?s first All-Star appearance. Piet is in his 17th season as the Head Athletic Trainer for the Red Wings. Piet will join Ray Tufts and Wes Howard of the San Jose Sharks as they are hosting this year?s event.

I look forward to my continued representation of our membership, working with Darren Granger of SPHEM and Anita Ramsay as we navigate through the 2018-2019 season. Please let any of us know if you have any concerns or want to get involved.

It is a unique situation for Darren and I to represent our respective societies and work down the hall from each other. We are always available.

I wish everyone the best of luck and health during the season.

Best Regards,
Kinger

Chris Kingsley
Head Athletic Trainer
Los Angeles Kings
PHATS President