Building a Game Day Routine for Hockey Players
Building a quality game-day routine is important to help athletes dominate on the ice and play more consistently throughout the season. When it comes to a hockey game, being prepared physically, mentally, and emotionally is key in helping players perform at their best (no matter which league they’re in). A lack of preparation can lead to slower reaction times, careless plays, and an inability to catch up to a faster, more prepared team.
Every player has their own skill levels and tendencies, but it is important to establish a routine that is beneficial to performance, and not just something that is “easy” to do before a game. It takes some testing to find out what works for you, but through our experience, we’ve recognized that players who dedicate themselves to a specific routine have much more success than those who just “wing it” when they get to the rink. For some players, preparation begins days before the game and lasts right up until the time the puck drops.
There is no “one size fits all” routine that works for everyone but building a pre-game routine is all about fulfilling the principles of performance with the right combination of nutrition, rest, and exercise that will work for them. Continue reading for some tips on building a game day routine to help prepare hockey players for their big game.
Game day preparation usually starts the day before, or even a few days before depending on the importance of the game. As a team, training for games is exercised through practices and workout sessions, but what can players do to prepare themselves for games on an individual level?
Nutritionally speaking, it’s important for hockey players to consume plenty of vegetables, a high amount of protein and slow acting carbs the day before a big game. This combination helps the recovery process from any physical demands to be encountered and it also helps to keep the immune system strong. After mealtime, some players will choose to read or watch a movie if they like to go to bed with a clear head, while others will spend some time thinking about the looming competition and their strategy.
All players must do what makes them feel the most comfortable on pre-game day, but the main thing is to have the most restful sleep possible because sleep is crucial for recovery and performance.
Pro-Tip: The hours of sleep before midnight are better than those after, so get to bed early if possible.
On game day, players will want to wake up early(between 6-8am) and start their day off with a large breakfast packed with protein and carbs (limiting fast-acting carbs like bread, pasta, potatoes, and cereals), paired with a tall glass of water. Drinking lots of water and moving their bodies – whether it’s taking a walk, going on a light jog, or doing some off-ice stick handling and shooting drills – is so important for hockey players to do on game day. If all this gentle movement is making our players tired, it’s generally ok to take a 30-minute nap if it’s at least 3 hours prior to game time.
Before heading off to the rink (leaving with plenty of time), have a healthy pre-game meal with a sizeable protein option with slow acting carbs (rice) and of course, more water. Once at the rink, players should spend some time preparing themselves mentally, visualizing and doing some game situation skill drills, taping sticks, and any other rituals the player may have.
After their game, hockey players should immediately consume a source of fructose (pineapple or grape juice is great). Once ready to head home (15-20 minutes post-game), it’s time for one of the most important aspects of the routine – the post-game meal. Players should have a full meal that is high in protein, slow acting carbs, and different colors of vegetables.This meal replenishes energy, promotes muscle recovery and growth, and keeps the immune system high, all of which allows a hockey player to consistently compete the same way all season long.
Now it’s time to relax. Cooling-down properly is essential to reduce the risk of injury and to keep the player’s skating stride long. It is recommended to stretch out the muscle groups that get activated during the game (i.e., hip flexors, lower back) and pay extra attention to any body part that is excessively tight. Finish with a cold tub to get fresh blood/nutrients to the broken-down tissues accelerating the recovery process.
In the end, preparation and having a consistent game day routine are key in helping hockey players to reach their goals, fulfilling potential and, most importantly, giving their team the best possible chance of winning every night.