• Kyle Kokotailo

4 things Hockey Players Should Avoid in the Off-season

Updated: May 22, 2020

We all want to have that big off-season where take our game to the next level and turn heads next season.

Hopefully you’ve read our article on starting your off-season right to get some insights onto how approach your training to set yourself up for the best off-season possible. This article is less about things to avoid in the gym (we have another one coming on that!), but more so looking at the macro picture of the off-season lifestyle.

Hopefully this adds value and at least lets you think about your approach to the off-season.

1) Too much hockey

Our European Pros and University Players play the least amount of games these days, with a 30-50 game schedule. Our Juniors typically 60-80 games, and our minor players anywhere between 70-100+ (we had one player with over 120 games last season).

You AND your body need a break from hockey.

A lot of the pros I speak with typically take 1-2 months (or longer) off skating, and I love it. Too often today with our minor players we’re seeing coaches push them into joining their spring tournament teams, and seeing players in 3-4 tournaments in the spring and off-season.

Most of these come with a big price tag and very little development benefits. Very (VERY) few of these tournaments deliver on their promises to be “big exposure events” for college coaches, while 5 games in a weekend isn’t the ideal opportunity for skill development and then we get rundown players with pulls & strains on Monday.

Aside from this, your summer ice should serve two purposes: a) keeping your legs, timing, etc. over the off-season; and/or b) enhancing your game through skill development. The quantity of skates is way less valuable than the quality of skates. You don’t need skate 5 days a week in the summer.

You don't need to get crushed with 4-5 skates a week or intense off-season bag skates.

The amount of skates is obviously dependent on the development needs of the player, but I typically try to suggest:

  • May: 1 skate per week (unless needing glaring power skating work)

  • June: 1 skate per week

  • July: 1-2 skates per week (maybe 3 for older players if they’re good development-based skates), ideally a scrimmage/game style session & a development session

  • August: 2-3 skates per week, increasing in intensity towards training camp.

Without taking some time off before May or skating too much in off-season, you don’t give your body the opportunity to heal from repetitive stress on the hips and other structures. Getting out of hockey for a bit and letting your body recover will be far more beneficial long-term. Plus, the opportunity to get a mental break will let you refocus when you’re ready to get back to the hustle.

2) Adding too much beef

So just because we have less hockey, doesn’t mean we’re on vacation.

Developing into an elite player is a year-round commitment, and that means you have the responsibility to take of care your body.

Anyone that’s been around a fall training camp has heard “I couldn’t get much ice in the summer, so I kinda just lifted” - the guy who’s added 25 big ones to his frame.

Obviously this guy's built a strong & powerful body, but probably not the ideal frame for a quick and mobile hockey player.

Maybe you intentionally want to throw on some weight this off-season, that’s cool (actually – we have an entire article on that here). But it’s your responsibility to come to training camp in shape and without a spare tire on your belly – fat is counterproductive weight. This means a couple things:

  1. Watch your eating. You can’t go from a competitive hockey schedule with 4-6 skates per week (plus dryland), to semi-occasional “chest & tris” workouts at Goodlife and not change your eating. A good practice can burn upwards of 500-1000 calories1, so without hockey, your calorie expenditure has radically changed. Failing to adjust your calories consumption will mean you’re going to throw on the lbs fast. You don’t have to obsess with calories, just be mindful.

  2. Don’t get into lazy meathead workouts. I’ll often see players that want to do their own thing in the early off-season – that’s cool. But if you’re going to train on your own (especially if you’re at a Goodlife/LA Fitness) you can’t fall into the trap of lifting like a bodybuilder or “bro” workouts that consist of hitting chest and arms (maybe occasionally squats) and wheeling out.

Eat mindfully. Train like an athlete. Stay active.

3) Toxic friends

This is a tough one.

Junior/University players are often gone all season, and reunite with the boys in the summer, while younger minor players typically have grown up with a core group of friends. Either way – many of your friends won’t make it to the next level of their sport and will shift their priorities, and likely want you to come with.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s more fun to get into a “couple” pops with the guys on a Tuesday than doing wind sprints or plyo work after a full day of work.

I’ll tell you that for free.

But if you have the audacity to want to be a pro hockey player, or earn that university scholarship – it’s going to come with some sacrifices.

I’m not trying to be the fun police (see my next point), but it’s important to make sure your friends are bringing you up instead of dragging you down. That doesn’t mean you need to cut them out completely, just accept that maybe you need to spend less time with 12 beer Johnny because you do different things than him that support your goals. A true buddy will get this.

Saying that - It’s super underrated to have friends that are pursuing their own goals and on a similar path, so even just connecting with other athletes/training partners in your hometown who are serious about their training is insanely valuable.

4) Only being found in the rink/gym (not enough fun)

Trust me, most guys don’t need this reminder – hockey players aren’t scared of a good time.

But every off-season there seems to be a couple guys/girls that let training dominate their entire lives. This is a tough issue. Obviously, I love the hungry players looking to really take their game to the next level next season, and that are willing to put in the hard hours into their craft with extra workouts, sprints, and skates over the off-season, but sometimes this creates its own issue.

Physiologically, without proper structure and scheduled recovery, the extra skates, workouts, runs, etc. can wreak havoc on the body. But there's also an enormous amount that be gained psychologically from getting away from the gym and letting loose with the boys.

I’m less interested in hours your work than the work you put into your hours. If you’re going all in every gym session, working your face off at skates, and getting in extra conditioning/mobility work, there’s no reason you can’t let loose on the weekend. (Note: this doesn’t imply overly aggressive alcohol consumption). The season is meant to be a time of intense focus and grind, and while the A-type focused athlete will often bring this into the off-season, “mental recovery” should be a valued by high performers.

This means work hard all week, but take the weekend to head to the cottage or hangout with the boys, do whatever you want to do to unwind and enjoy life – and then get back to work and bring your hustle on Monday.

In conclusion: Do your work. Stay focused on your goals. Enjoy the off-season.

While taking making yourself better in the offseason is your responsibility, working out like a psychopath 7 hours a day is not. The work will never be undervalued, occasionally letting it rip and enjoying life & people outside the gym/rink is encouraged.


Kyle Kokotailo, B.Kin - Performance Coach & Founder of Relentless Hockey

Kyle is a Hockey Performance Specialist who’s worked with hundreds of hockey players from Peewee to Pro. A former elite hockey player, Kyle earned his degree in Kinesiology before becoming a Strength Coach that specializes in hockey performance. Today, he runs Relentless Hockey where he works with players across the world, including pros in over 20+ leagues including the NHL, KHL, and OHL.

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