It is June, and what that means to a surprisingly small number of people (including myself) is that it is Stanley Cup finals time. I love Hockey. Growing up in Detroit (which is not only known as the “Motor City”, but also “Hockeytown”), I have played hockey as long as I can remember.
Why am I writing about hockey?
Hockey is great
There are a few fundamentals of hockey that I have found applicable to triathlon
Let's start with the basics of hockey. There are six players per team on the ice at one time, 5 skaters and 1 goalie, though a team may pull their goalie and have six skaters. The skaters consist of three Forwards (which are the Center, Left Wing and Right Wing), as well as two Defensemen. There are also situations when a team has fewer than six players on the ice but no less than four, mainly during penalties. The objective in hockey is to score more goals than the opposing team. A goal is scored when the puck crosses the goal line and enters the net when struck by a player’s stick, meaning a goal does not count if the puck is thrown or kicked into the net. (If you have any questions, I am more than happy to talk hockey with you.)
What can hockey possible have to do with triathlon?
A few things: Balance, hip mobility, proper foot strike, running coordination/swimming coordination.
Balance - Hockey is played on a sheet of ice (I have actually played hockey and competed in a triathlon on/in the same piece of water, which is kind of strange now that I think of it) which requires a high level of balance. Understanding how your center of mass moves through space is huge not only for skating, but for running. Skating is great for learning balance quickly. One of the very first drills a person learns in hockey is “warming up the edges”. This is where one skates forward and backward on both the inner and outer edges of the skate.
Hip Mobility - Hip Mobility may be the most important factor for efficiency and injury prevention in running and cycling. The better the mobility in the hip, the better tracking of the lower kinetic chain throughout the pedal stroke and running stride. Another beginner drill that Hockey players learn is “skating circles”, which is wonderful for hip mobility. When skating circles, a person skates around one of the face off circles with his/her shoulders pointing in one direction. This requires the skater to quickly switch between skating forward and backward by means of a “t-turn”. A “t-turn” is when a skater makes a “T” with his/her skates then flip the hips from forward to backward, requiring a great deal of hip mobility.
Foot strike - Folks that have not played hockey may not know that the blade of a skate is not flat from front to back, it has a gentle curve. That little curve, when used properly, allows a skater to pivot and put power to the ice very effectively. However, if a skater has too much weight on the back of the blade (similar to a foot strike too far in front of a runner’s center of mass) that individual does not go forward and usually ends up with his/her butt on the ice
Running / swimming coordination - Hockey is great for coordination in running and swimming because an individual must be able to move along the body’s longitudinal axis (the imaginary line that runs straight down through the top of the head to the ground, when standing) in a twisting and non-twisting manner. While skating the body upper body moves opposite of the lower body, just like in running, twisting along the longitudinal axis. But, when shooting or catching a pass, the upper and lower body must move in the same direction to produce power in the shot, or dissipate power when catching a pass.
Hockey is fun and I recommend that everyone should give it a tri (ha). A great deal can be learned about the body by sliding around some ice with a stick and puck.