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Returning to hockey


by Christina Neville, MS, LAT, ATC and Beth Clute, MA, LAT, ATC

As hockey players during the pandemic, we all missed that feeling of stepping into the rink and hearing our skates dig into the ice. You may be eager to get back out there, but an extended break from the ice means your body might not be used to the demands of skating. It’s important to gradually return to skating in order to prevent any injuries and improve your performance.

Below are a few tips for on and off the ice to make the transition back to hockey fun – and hopefully pain-free.

Off-Ice Training

During periods where you’re not able to train on the ice, make sure you incorporate physical activity into your routine, such as:

  • Running
  • Rollerblading
  • Swimming
  • Biking
  • Strength exercises and stretching

Ease back into it

Gradually return to your game-ready fitness by following these guidelines:

  • Proper warm up
  • Aerobic Exercise
  • Cross Training
  • Correct workload – including rest days
  • Cool down and stretch

These elements will help ensure a safe and successful return to hockey. Read a detailed breakdown of these tips and tricks at our blog post titled “How to safely resume your sports and activities.” 

Off-ice exercise to get ready for hockey

Off-ice training is crucial to preparing your body for the ice. Try these off-ice ideas:

  • Warm Up: Walking Quad/ hamstring stretch, high knees, butt kicks, walking front lunge, walking side lunge, side shuffle, grapevine, inch worm walkouts, high skips, open/close gate hip swings, Jog 25 ft, ¾ sprint 25 ft.
  • Dry land
    • Foot Work Ladder Drills
    • Agility Cone Drills
    • Interval jogging and sprints
    • Plyometric Drills such as Russian Box Jumps, jump squats and lunges, jump roping
    • Stick Handling Drills
    • Pass/Shooting Drills
  • Strength Exercises
    • Squats
    • Lunges (forward, side, backward)
    • Pushups (diamond, sumo, wide arm)
    • Planks and side planks
    • Triceps Chair Dips
    • Core exercises (Russian twists, reverse sit ups, glute bridges, leg raises)
    • Burpees

On-Ice Training

When you’re finally able to lace up those skates, make sure you continue to gradually increase your level of intensity. Follow these tips on how to safely return to full participation:

  • Start without a stick and focus on your skating stride and form
  • Complete off-ice and on-ice warmups. On-ice warm ups should include:
    • Forward/Backward skating, cross under (skating backwards with cross overs while increase speed), transitions skating around the circles, outside edge turns, inside edge turns
  • Start at 50% of your maximum speed and then increase the intensity/speed and duration of your skating each session.
  • Start and stop drills, as well as quick acceleration drills should be completed toward the end of your skating session.

Hockey injuries and medical care

By following these guidelines and easing your way back into a successful hockey season, you will have a greater chance of returning to the sport you love without any injuries.

However, if you do need some extra help with aches, pains or injuries, we’re seeing patients in Bloomington, Burnsville, Maple Grove, St. Louis Park and Woodbury. Our orthopedic experts are also available for video visits.

About Christina Neville
Christina Neville is an athletic trainer at TRIA and Johnson High School. She has expertise in hockey and hockey injuries, and she loves the variety of work that comes from being an athletic trainer, from educating individuals on injury prevention to helping with rehabilitation of an injury.

About Bethany Clute
Bethany Clute is an athletic trainer at TRIA and Dakota County Technical College. She has expertise in hockey and hockey injuries, and she loves helping athletes recover from injuries physically as well as mentally.

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