From Humble Beginnings to Highly Respected NHL Shooting Coach – A Sit-down with Tim Turk

From Humble Beginnings to Highly Respected NHL Shooting Coach – A Sit-down with Tim Turk

Tim Turk has been working as a skills and shooting coach at the NHL level since 2001. Throughout his career, he has been instrumental in the development of some of the game’s brightest stars, including the likes of Steven Stamkos and PK Subban. Turk has worked for several NHL organizations, including the Montreal Canadiens, Tampa Bay Lightning, and Carolina Hurricanes as well as various prospect development camps, and for International Federations. From humble beginnings as a goalie coach shooter to establishing Tim Turk Hockey, Turk has carved his niche as a highly recognized, respected, and sought after shooting and passing specialist. He has the innate ability to dissect and break down the entire shooting process, helping players make the necessary tweaks to enhance their performance.

Turk teaches every facet of the shooting process from shot preparation, body configuration, release, and follow through.  He works with coaches and players of all ages and levels, offering valuable insight for any level of hockey player ranging from youth to pro.

Hockey Background & Beginning Phases of Tim Turk Hockey

Tim Turk Hockey all began when I was 15-20.  At the time I was working as a shooter for a goalie school. A couple of years passed and the owner of the goalie school suggested my partner and I teach shooting as we were really precise. Back then, (25-26 years ago) there were no shooting schools. My partner and I were youngsters at the time and we were looking at each other and thinking we know nothing about business. At the time we kind of wrote the idea off.

Some more time passed and unbelievably, the owner of the school said, ‘I will open up a shooting school, one of you guys can shoot on the goalies and the other can teach shooting’.  The idea was really cool but the first thing we thought of was, how we are going to get people in here because we knew nothing about business, promotion, or marketing. The owner said that he would take care of it as, ‘every goalie knows more than two players’. So, he had a really high number of clients that knew a lot of players. He just put a sign on the wall that said ‘if anyone brings a player that signs up for our shooting classes then you will get a free session’. That is how it all started and took off from there.”

Tim Turk Hockey Growing Over the Years

“Initially, we were from the Mississauga, Ontario area. A lot of good players came out of the Greater Toronto Area who made it to high levels of hockey. Some of those players includedSteven Stamkos, Jason Spezza and Manny Malhotra. At that time they were young, but as they got older and more established, the players we had helped spread the word by talking about us with their peers. That in itself was excellent advertising and it helped expand our business.”

Different Services Provided

“Everything in hockey ends in a shot.  Now we can begin to explain the process of how we developed our methods. It all stemmed back to that original goalie coach my partner and I worked for. He was so technical in his teaching and we learned a lot from him. One of the things he would utilize is, not only what motion you are going to be using to do things but how do you connect your mind to the action so that you feel comfortable when you learn how to enhance it. At that point my partner and I knew shooting would be our number one focus. However, to be able to shoot the puck you have got to be able to control the puck. It is the same as passing.  The technique between passing and shooting is very similar. If you can’t protect the puck or you can’t prepare the puck to be shot, passed, or dumped in, then the foundation is not there to execute those actions at a high level. That is where we come in. To ensure the player can execute the technical components of those actions at a high level. For example, to protect the puck is a different body motion than preparing to receive the puck to take a one timer. Another example, the body motion is also different if you are stopping and doing a two-touch shot. That is where you receive the puck quick and shoot it right away. So as you can see, there is a lot of technical things we had to expand on.

Service wise, I teach the art of shooting and passing, the types of passes you can do, how to protect the puck and control it, and what’s more, the preparation to those actions which are so vital. You can work 10, 20, 30 sessions on simply learning how to protect the puck so that you can shoot the puck quicker. Then there is adding power to the shot and so on and so forth. I am expanding to the services I provide. I created a new course on Hockey Shooting that provides online video training to people I would otherwise not be able to teach in person. People can sign up for my online courses and get the same thorough step-by-step instruction as I teach the pros. I also work with Federations in Europe and do a lot of seminars to coaches on individual skill development and what to look for in players and how to deliver messages to players to help them become more successful when they are using those individual skills such as shooting and passing.”

How Tim Turk Developed his Methods

“What we would do is video record each other and go over the motions and movements we were doing in the type of shots we were taking. Because that original goalie coach was such an innovator and a highly technical individual, learning from him helped us to dissect the motions we were doing and helped us understand how the actual stick worked. With me, I always believed, you can’t teach every person the same type of technique because everyone is configured different, their body size differs and their ability to create speed and power in a certain distance or area is different. It is based on how that individual trains and what their body motions allow them to do, what their restrictions are, if there are injuries, etc.  There are so many different variables that need to be addressed. I think to further on that, most players that have been doing things for so long have a hard time making tweaks or are reluctant to make big changes. For instance, I am a righty and say I am the best shooter in the world. So should I ask you to shoot right if you are left handed? Rather, I should see what the best way is to enhance your type of shot because you are a lefty, without making you feel too uncomfortable and that makes you say ‘hey Turk, that doesn’t feel good so I am not doing it’.

Working on your shot is a never-ending process because the game always evolves and with that the player has to make changes. These changes can be so subtle.  For example, changing where the puck is on the blade while you are doing a certain action or how far you load the stick before you shoot it. Shooting changes all the time depending on the situation. I can create an endless variety of game situations to help enhance the player’s shot in all those scenarios.”

Road to the NHL:

“Initially, I started in Montreal with the Canadiens. For me, it is a great success story and I feel blessed to be able to be a part of it.  This was back in the 2007-08 season. One of the skills and development coaches, Trevor Timmins, who is still with the organization, wanted to meet me. Trevor had a good friend, a skating coach by the name of Paul Lawson. At one time, Paul, who knew me because I was training his son, came to me and said ‘Trevor Timmins could not make it to the Canadiens development camp and I mentioned your name to him and now Trevor wants to meet you’. That year, I met Trevor at the NHL combine held in Toronto. Trevor said to me, ‘I’ve never heard of you before but ever since I started asking about you, people are bringing everything about you to my attention, saying that you are a pretty good shooting coach. We would like to try you out at our development camp. We are reluctant because we have never seen you in action’ to which I replied, here are some players you can call. I guess they did their homework because they brought me in. When I got into the development camp, one of the coaches of the time was Kirk Muller. Kirk actually gravitated towards me for a few different reasons.  Number one, I was technical and Kirk said to me ‘Oh man, if I had met you when I was playing, I think I would be able to play a few extra years and maybe score some more goals. I really like what you are doing’. Combining technical development with the types of drills that I do was very successful. At the time the coach of the Canadiens was Guy Carbonneau.  He would come up to me and say “we are really happy to have you on board, can you take the team and run some practices?”  The players really liked some of the drills I did and it just flowed from there.

A couple years later the Canadiens organization hired Guy Boucher to coach their American League team and that’s when the Hamilton Bulldogs found a lot of success. Boucher was a huge supporter of individual skill development. Hence, I spent some time developing players on the Bulldogs team. I would attend their practices once every other week and the players there also really liked my methods. The players that we worked with were really successful in developing their game.

A while later, Guy Boucher went on to be the Head Coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Kirk Muller went on to be the Head Coach of the Carolina Hurricanes.  It was pretty unique where it just worked out that Carolina at the time called me and asked if I could come work at their camp at the same time Steve Yzerman, through Guy Boucher, called me and also asked if I could work the Tampa Bay Camp. I went from Montreal’s initial rookie combine camp to Tampa Bay’s development camp and right from Tampa to Carolina all in the same year.”

Tracking and Measuring Progress

“To track and measure progress of students, I use an application called the Coaches Eye. It allows a coach like me who does technical training to take a video of a player doing an action.  It provides different focal points, super slow motion replays, spot lights, and angle tools. For example, with someone who is very compact, when you try to push power to a side, your spine starts to turn a little bit. As your spine starts to turn, the harder it is to generate power in your shot. What we try to do is keep the spine as straight as possible and get your shoulders to bend a little so you can torque your body with more power to create downward pressure. That would keep you in an uncompromised, balanced, and ready position for you to react faster and have more power and strength in your shot while being able to release the puck quicker.”

Creating Power in the Shot:

“The only way to enhance power in your shot is to get downward pressure through the puck.  This means when you shoot you are kind of pushing down and flexing your stick to make it bend as you are taking your shot.  For example, if you are a lefty, your bottom hand is your left hand. That is where the power comes from. You want to make sure your elbow locks in a downward trajectory. A lot of guys will shoot and their elbow will unlock causing the puck to not get the proper spin.”

Ability to Shoot While Stick Handling

“A lot of players feel that if their lower body (legs and feet) is doing a certain action then the upper body has to be doing the same action. That is the furthest thing from the truth. If you separate lower body from upper body it doesn’t matter what the body does, the top can do anything while the feet are moving. For shooting while stickhandling, players need to get used to the timing of what their feet are doing to be more deceptive in their action and their moves. So instead of lifting the foot off the ice to take a shot, we try to get the player to shoot the puck as the stride is going.  We are synchronizing that motion and deceiving the goalie because the shot is happening while the player is taking their stride.”

Importance of Adding Different Body Configurations While Shooting in a Variety of Situations

“There are 10 different ways to shoot a puck because your feet can do so many different things while you are in motion. There is a reason goalies develop a book on shooters. For example, if you stop your feet from moving, take a shot and then start them again, that is telegraphing to the goalie that something is going to happen.  Or when you are skating and you lift the foot up and take your shot then put your foot back down. These are tendencies that can be picked up by observers and make your shot predictable. We tell players, as soon as your foot comes up start shooting the puck right away and get the foot down before the puck hits the target. That way you have reaction time going forward. Then there is adding different types of body configuration to all the different types shots which is what helps you deceive the goalie.

Some of the problems with players is that they are doing the same things over and over. This is because it is their comfort zone. Again, goalies can pick up on this. That is what the films do as well. You can shoot the puck with the same type of shot five different ways but if you don’t have the ability to change configurations or you don’t know that there are other ways to shoot a puck because that’s the way you have been doing it so long and it feels natural and comfortable; then you make yourself predictable. That is why my service is in such high in demand because I am showing players, management, and coaches that there are different ways to shoot pucks. The only way to get better though is through practice and repetition.”

Advice for Where to Position your Stick When You Skate

“Regardless of the level you are playing, I try and challenge players to think about having one thought process.  If you are a righty, keep the stick at 2:00 o’clock instead of between 12 and 1. If you are a lefty, try and keep it at 10 o’clock instead of 11 and 12. It works if you have a purpose when you are training and you can think about it, but you have to understand that when you are forced and pressured into situations and you have to change direction, sometimes it doesn’t stay where you want and you revert back to your comfort level which is OK too. It’s all about repetition and consistency.”

Fundamentals of Choosing a Stick

“When it comes to choosing a stick, the stick has to be an extension of your body. When you are releasing a puck, you shouldn’t have to force it to spin really tight. The action and the timing that you have in your wrist shot or your snap shot really dictates what the puck should do. However, if the flex is off or the angle of the lie is off, if curvature pattern in the pocket of the curve doesn’t support the type of timing that your shot requires, it can affect your shot.  Maybe your wrists open up really quickly in the beginning of your pushing motion, while for some players their wrists open up at the end of their shooting motion and the puck goes over the blade quicker. That would mean the stick would need more blade for the puck to travel on for that kind of shooter because that speed in their wrist gets the puck to go over their blade and it doesn’t spin properly. The stick has to match the person.

Firstly, the rule of thumb I have is for the height of the stick with the person’s skates on should be somewhere between their bottom lip and bridge of the nose. Secondly, each individual, no matter what their age is, needs to be able to bend the stick at least one inch. I tell people the number of the flex is related to the pounds of pressure they can exert on the stick to make it move that amount of space. So if the stick is a 60 flex for a 12-year old and that kid can flex the stick easily one inch then they can easily put 60 pounds of pressure into that shaft. If they bend it two inches or three inches they are doubling or tripling the pounds of pressure into the stick respectively. Three inch flex is really good, because that is where the kick points of the stick are engaged. Choosing a stick is also technical depending on variables like how the shooter moves their wrist or how much strength they have. Getting the right stick is vitally important. I also believe in getting the highest lie possible. The reason I say that is because it brings the puck closer to the body. The closer it is the more power you can generate when you are shooting and you can get the puck off quicker. It brings me back to ‘everything in hockey ends in a shot.’ So make your stick the best possible tool to shoot better, and worry about control and reach or your protection afterwards.”

Tip for Choosing Gloves

“Most gloves only have two sets of knuckles which could fatigue the player’s hands and restrict the player when they need to open their hand when they are getting ready to shoot for instance.  A secret I have is to get gloves with three sets of knuckles. This helps with range of motion, causing less fatigue and creates a better feel for the puck.”

Working with PK. Subban. You Will Be Able to See Tim Turks Work When you Watch Subban on TV.

“When I first met PK Subban in 2007 or 2008, he was using a stick that was in the middle of his chest. One of the things I needed to do to develop his shot into the one he has today (and that he still enhances) is to get that stick extended.  Now it has been almost seven years, his stick has gone from middle of the chest to about his forehead. We are talking almost a full 10 or 12 inches he has added in a seven year period. That is like enhancing it a couple millimeters at a time so it’s not making him feel uncomfortable. Making minor changes to the curve or the pocket he had, giving him a huge heel curve that opened up at the toe of the blade so he could quickly get it up when he needed to.

We also worked on the power side of his shot and the timing of his one timer.  When he loaded up his arm and he took it back to wind up, his arm was kind of bent in the elbow. If you can visualize, his elbow was bent in that wound up loaded ready to shoot situation. What I mentioned for him to do and if you watch him play now, you will see that he tries to get that arm as straight as possible when he is loading for the heavy shot. It works like a pendulum. So when you load up to execute a slap shot or a one timer, keep your elbow completely locked and your arm completely straight. That way you generate the most power and velocity. After hitting the puck in your follow through, keep the elbow locked and the follow through goes a little bit to the target afterwards. That is one thing that Subban did really well and it looks like it is working.”

Explaining Technique behind Followthrough of the Shot

“If I am pointing my stick to my target after my shot, then the stick is pointing one way but my power side of my body would end up across my body jeopardizing spin and power of my shot. Instead, I like to adjust my arm to the target so that my blade is still facing the target, but this way the spin process of the shot is unaffected in the follow through. The only way to get as close to the target as possible is being able to find your target. You have to keep your head up and see it to find it.”

Journey into Strength and Conditioning with NHL athletes to everyday people with Ryan Van Asten: Two time Stanley Cup Champion and Current Calgary Flames Strength and Conditioning Coach

Journey into Strength and Conditioning with NHL athletes to everyday people with Ryan Van Asten: Two time Stanley Cup Champion and Current Calgary Flames Strength and Conditioning Coach

Calgary Flames Strength and Conditioning Coach, Ryan Van Asten knows what it takes to develop athletes to reach their pinnacle of performance. His previous tenure with the Los Angeles Kings includes two Stanley Cups in three seasons. Ryan brings a wealth of knowledge, experience and expertise to the young and developing Flames. Already in his second season with the Flames we can see development and improvement in Flames athletes. In addition to his winning pedigree, Ryan possesses an exceptional educational background. He holds two degrees from Queen’s University in Kingston Ontario, a Bachelor of Science degree in Life Sciences and a Bachelor of Physical and Health Education degree. He also possesses a Master of Science in Exercise Physiology from the University of Calgary. This article chronicles Ryan’s career up to present day and provides insight into the work he is currently doing with the Calgary Flames. This article also offers insights and guidance for both athletes and non- athletes that can be implemented on a daily basis.

Background

Ryan shares with us how he started his career as a trainer. “It was an interesting path gained the experience necessary to begin as a young professional. I was actually a hockey player myself. As a player, I was never the biggest player or the fastest, but I had a tremendous work ethic. While playing hockey and studying at Queen’s University, one of the guys I was playing with, Anthony Slater, started working at Athletes' Performance which is now known as EXOS. He helped me design a structured program that helped me immensely on my growth as an athlete. He got me interested in improving my knowledge about strength and conditioning. Later on when I was already in Grad School in Calgary, I ran into a group from Athletes’ Performance at the Human Performance Lab at the UofC, and after meeting with them and talking to Anthony I was able to land an internship at one of their facilities. That internship was my first exposure to working with professional athletes. It was a really good learning experience. In fact, I think that was the turning point in my career.”

Ryan reflects that “before the internship I was working as a trainer and going to school. I would train people in a very ordinary way. Beginning with a warm up for 10-15 minutes, then we would lift weights and then we would do conditioning. The internship changed my perspective on training and showed me a movement based approach. ” Ryan elaborates, “I began to think about movement differently. The internship helped me realize that strength and conditioning is partly about making athletes move more efficiently, which is beneficial for non-athletes as well.”

Movement Based Training for the Every Day Person

Ryan adds “it is really difficult to start learning about movement based training on your own. Ideally, you need to find a trainer who is knowledgeable in this area and knows what training program will best suit you. To put it into perspective, I’ve had professional athletes, some of the best players in the world that have difficulty performing simple movements on dry land when they are out of their element. It takes a little bit of coaching to help them get better. For the regular person being able to move without discomfort or pain requires just a bit of guidance.”

Individuals who influenced Ryan

Ryan comments, “There are many people that I came across in the past who have helped me.” Anthony Slater who was mentioned earlier in this article and who is currently the Vice President of strategic accounts at EXOS “really got me excited about Strength and Conditioning”. Then there is, David Frost who is now a PhD researcher at University of Toronto. Ryan explains, “Dave and I were in school together at Queens University. His knowledge on the topic of Strength and Conditioning was superior to mine. I tried to learn from him as much as possible. There are other individuals who influenced me like the great group of strength and conditioning coaches at the Canadian Sport Institute in Calgary, including Matt Jordan, Scott Maw, Mac Reid, and Jeremiah Barnert. Another guy that I should mention is Andy O'Brien. He is Crosby's coach and now works for the Pittsburgh Penguins. Andy has helped me a lot over my career and we still communicate regularly.”

Ryan continues, “Having done grad school in Calgary under the tutelage of the two brightest physiologists on the planet, Dr. Dave Smith and Dr. Steve Norris, has helped me immensely with my physiological knowledge. Honestly, learning physiology from them, one can't learn better from anyone.”

Launch of Career

After completion of the internship, a position opened up at the Canadian Sport Institute in Calgary where Olympic athletes train to reach the Olympic podium. He was able to land a job with the Women’s Olympic Hockey team for the 2010 Olympics. Ryan explains at the Institute, “I was lucky enough to be contracted to Hockey Canada which resulted in being a part of the World Championships and ultimately being selected by Hockey Canada to be the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach of the women’s hockey team. It was an awesome experience coaching the women’s team at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver and winning the Gold Medal.”

NHL Career with LA Kings

It was in 2011 that the opportunity knocked to work in the NHL. Ryan was selected to be the Strength and Conditioning Coach for the LA Kings. In his first season (2011-2012) with the team he won a Stanley Cup. This feat was again achieved in 2014 when the Kings won the cup a second time in three years.

Ryan comments on his remarkable achievement. “That was the most amazing thing in my career. Winning Stanley Cup is a lot different than Olympic championship. To win both Stanley Cups is really impressive. It is such a hard accomplishment. I was so fortunate to be part of that, twice! I would like to think that my work with those players helped the athletes perform through the grueling games and rounds of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Ultimately, winning the cup is something you dream of as a kid. I never won a Stanley cup as a player, but to be a part of it feels amazing! I don't think you can ever repeat the road to the cup the Kings took in 2014 where the team became only the 4th team in NHL history to come back from a 3- 0 deficit in a series to win it. Not many things in the game are more difficult than that. Going through those dramatic and intense moments with the group of athletes in that locker room was just really phenomenal.”

The Role of Strength and Conditioning in the Play Offs

Ryan explains that during the Playoffs Strength and Conditioning is kept relatively simple. At that point in the season “I don't want to introduce all kinds of new things into my program. Things that change during the play offs in terms of Strength and Conditioning typically are the volume and intensity of the work. In the playoffs you are essentially playing every other night, it all boils down to how the athletes recovered from game to game. In 2012 we got relatively lucky, as we finished all the rounds sooner. There were series where we got almost a week in between and everyone was able to recover in that time.”

Coming Home to Calgary to be the Strength and Conditioning Coach of the Flames

For the 2014/2015 season Ryan decided to return home to Calgary to become the Strength and Conditioning Coach of the Flames. Currently, Ryan is in his second year with the Flames. Ryan comments on his decision to come back to Calgary, trading in the sandals he can wear to the beach in LA for snow shoes to wear in Calgary, “The biggest reason for the move back was a family decision. My wife was in Calgary pretty much the whole time I was in LA. She is a doctor, so we found out it was very difficult for her to come to LA to work. Also, Calgary is my home. And, working in Canadian city, in a Canadian Market with unbelievably passionate Fans is something to behold. So far it has been unbelievable.”

When I asked Ryan what kind/type of work he has been doing with the Flames and how different it was from working with the Kings, he responded: Ryan responded, “It's a similar approach, but I’d like to think I made some changes that have made my program better. Hockey players are a relatively homogeneous group, so there are lots of similarities within this group and how you structure the training and nutrition. The gyms are a bit different in terms lay out and availability and often, I have to structure things around because of that.”

Ryan comments on what we are seeing this year with the Flames and what are his plans for the team for the rest of the year. “Building off of last year’s success, I think you can expect the same. I don't think there are many teams that work harder than we do in terms of training and practice. In my opinion, we are one of the fittest teams in the league. One of our young players, Sam Bennet, who is 19 years old, had a really great off season training. He is bigger and stronger than before due to the hard work he has been doing to improve his body composition and performance. And I would expect this to continue. Overall, you can expect Calgary Flames to show lots of progress this year.”

Behind the Scenes

Ryan takes us behind the scenes tour of how Hockey Strength and Conditioning programs are developed. “When the players come to Calgary in September, we do a full battery of physical testing on them. This encompasses strength and power to energy systems and functional movement. From there you can start building individual programs. There are younger and older players that we work with. For younger players, their potential is broader as they have not accumulated the same type of training volume over the years. So, for them, mastering the basic movements is essential. For older guys, in terms of their physical maturity, most of the time they need to work on different things. They might not necessarily need to build more general strength, although often they need to work on mobility and movement. We still do lifting as they are trying to get stronger and faster. If we take Mark Giordano as an example, he is the fittest guy on the team, by far. His strength and power is impeccable and he is really easy to work with. He might need to work on his mobility and flexibility, little things like that, while maintaining everything else and trying to get better each time. Another example would be Johnny Gaudreau, who is a smaller athlete and doesn't have as much strength and power. However, he is a relatively strong guy from the stand point of the gym. Like other young players, he needs to accumulate some good quality training over time and just continue to improve.”

Ryan gives as a typical training scenario, “The way I would break down a workout session is when guys come in, they would do their own soft tissue work, like foam rolling or using a softball. After that we work on lengthening of the tissue through just basic stretching types of movements and mobilizing joints. From there, they need to re-introduce good pattern. If you shut down the soft tissue to lengthen it, you want to re-activate then and integrate them into the appropriate sequencing and patter. Then I would start increasing the intensity in terms of the dynamic movement. That is essentially the main body of the warmup. Then we go to all the skill work. We would include things like linear and later skill, resisted movement patterns, complexed with free movement patterns for example. All that would take from 45 minutes to an hour. After that, guys would go into the weight room and do the lifts assigned for that day. And then we would do some conditioning. A typical training in the off-season could be up to two to two and a half hours long. Plus, if they are going on the ice, it could be another 45 minutes.

Tracking a Player’s Progress throughout the Year

Ryan outlines how to track and measure the progress of a player. “In the summer, with the athletes in Calgary, we do weekly tracking on bilateral force plates. A force plate is designed to measure the forces and moments applied to its top surface as a subject stands, steps, or jumps on it. We measure force and asymmetries of vertical jumps. One of the neat things is that if you are doing such jumps, you can see how athlete decelerates and if one leg is taking more load than the other. We are tracking things like that. Also, we track body weight, body fat, body composition, various strength, power, core and speed measurements. Throughout the year we do monthly body composition measurements. There are quite a number of things we do to track the athletes, such as sleeping hours, readiness to train, performance, resting and fatigue levels.”

Important Components as Part of Strength and Conditioning

Blood Analysis

Ryan explains, “One of the biggest things for athletes is their recovery and their sleep. With the Flames we do blood work with our athletes and customize nutrition plans and supplementation.”

Nutrition

“From the nutrition stand point, in my opinion nothing beats real food. So we always have high quality foods available to our athletes. We also have a nutritionist on our team that works with athletes and builds a personal diet for each one of them. I don't think supplements are always necessary. However, we do have supplementation available, such as amino-acids, whey protein isolate, recovery supplement and a carbohydrate supplement.”

The Role of Proper Footwear and Even No Footwear While Training

Another aspect to training is proper footwear. Ryan explains, “The shoes that every team in the NHL gets are the same type of Reeboks. We are using CrossFit shoes at the moment. I like them as they are flat and have pretty solid sole. They are good for sprinting and lifting in the weight room.

Most of the players gravitate towards more of minimalist types of footwear. New Balance also has these. Actually, there are many things that I would want to do without shoes. You have a different type of connection with ground; it changes your proprioceptive feedback that can help you with your balance and your movement. It's teaching your feet to work differently using different muscles and sequencing, which will in turn increase strength, conditioning, coordination, and balance, which will make an enormous difference when on ice.”

Building Speed and Agility

Ryan explains, “In most cases, especially with young players, lack of speed is typically lack of strength. Strength is often overlooked when talking about speed and agility: if you don't have adequate strength and aren’t putting enough force into the gorund, then you simply aren't going to be fast. There are many ways in which you can train to improve your strength, some main exercises and most common ones would be squats, lunges, and deadlifts. Sled pushing is also an excellent exercise in strength building. It can get you in a low, almost acceleration type position and you can use it in many different ways. You can use it in speed work and conditioning. You can do resistant movements with a band and have a partner help you. The partner could put the band around your waist and add resistance while you march, skip and do high kneed drills. Also, there are all kinds of exercises with medicine balls.”

Ryan adds, “Another way to build speed is sprinting in a straight line or with changing directions. At the same time the quality of the movement has to be really good. Everyone has to learn the mechanics of the body to even run properly. Otherwise you might not get all the benefits that you want from it.”

Building Stamina and Endurance

Ryan explains, “For our athletes, it's a systematic approach to building stamina and endurance. What you need to look at is what is going on in one shift, how many shifts the person has during the game, how many games have been played in a year and so on. Also, we need to look at the aerobic system and the anaerobic system particularly in the summer because it is difficult to do off-ice in season with the rigorous schedule.

Some of the athletes don't need to do so much pure speed work, but they are lacking lactate capacity. Let’s say the athlete is trapped in their own zone. The longer the shift goes and the more intense it is, the athlete gets more fatigued and their lactic acid builds up which in turn drops their performance. When they stop skating or moving, that is when penalties are taken, goals are scored on you or you are forced to ice the puck. Increasing the tolerance to lactic acid in an athlete will make them attenuate exhaustion in their muscles and that could be the difference from getting scored on during an extended shift or getting the puck out of the zone. Overall, building stamina and endurance is a very complex approach that needs individual assessment.”

Building Mental Toughness in Athletes

Ryan explains, “Some guys innately have mental toughness. They don't need to work on it. Some guys can work on it a little bit. From my stand point, to work on that, means to surround them with people who already have the mental toughness in them. That is a huge motivator. In addition, we do have sports psychology available for players if they need it.”

Strength and Conditioning for Everyday People in Everyday Life

Ryan offers everyday people advice to improving their quality of life through strength and conditioning. “In terms of strength and conditioning, the biggest piece of a puzzle would be your nutrition. That would have the biggest effect on your health and body composition. My philosophy for an average person would be: make sure that you are eating whole and real foods, mostly vegetables, basically as many as you want. Drink lots of water and don't eat anything processed.”

When it comes to the training stand point, the biggest thing is to do something that you like to do. People who live the longest and have the most fulfilling lives, are not the ones who go to CrossFit gyms and work at their 110% intensity on a regular basis. Rather, they walk a lot; they stand a lot, etc. These people are just living a long fulfilling life being happy and healthy. Essentially, be moving all the time. You don't have to go to the gym every day and set world records. If someone says that you are just weak and don't want to work hard that is not true.”

When asked what great moves are to begin with, Ryan answered, “Simple movements like split squats. If you are able to go nice and low and able to have control in that low position and stand up with a weight that would be the simple drill to complete. Then you can progress to reverse lunging, side lunging, etc. Doing these exercises will reduce and eliminate pain such as lower back pain. Lower back pain usually is the result of really weak glute muscles and as a result people’s hips don't move and extend properly. As a result lower back takes the hit. This is why some people can’t bend over to tie their shoes, lift groceries or stand up from a chair!”

Combat the Effects Sitting All Day

Most people spend their days sitting all day for work. Ryan explains “sitting all day is detrimental to your health. Some progressive companies have “stand up” desks. I think that is the best thing. While sitting for the whole day, your shoulders fall forward, your arms are internally rotated, your head is forward all the time, and the front of your hips are in a shortened position. Deadlifts are a great exercise to train hip extension and the posterior muscles of your body, rowing for upper part of your back and any type of shoulder work. The work for the posterior musculature can be done daily.”

How you can work on Balance, Core Strength, Stamina and Endurance

Ryan explains, “In terms of core strength, I think you need to think about functionality. It boils down to stability of the lumbo-pelvic complex. Simple movements such as front and side planks are a great start. During rotational exercises, the movement should be coming from hip rotation and not from the spine. The lumbar spine should be relatively stable throughout the exercises. An important thing to remember is that there are so many different variations of exercises and you must start from the simplest and slowly build up to the most complex exercises.

When it comes to the everyday person’s life, most people sit all day and don’t really know how to take control of their pelvis. People don't know how to rotate their pelvis with their own power; they have no control of it. Therefore, part of the core training is teaching athletes and people in general to control their pelvis to keep strong in the glutes and in the lower abdominal muscles.”

Future of Strength and Conditioning

Ryan believes “Strength and Conditioning will progress in the technology side. It is exponentially growing in its applications and what it can potentially add is unbelievable. One thing I am cautious about is that you have to make sure that your philosophy and program are sound before you start messing around with the technological novelties. They are useless if your training philosophy is not set. The training is increasingly becoming more based on movement rather than old-style lifting and running.”

Ryan’s Immediate and Long Term Goals

Ryan explains his “immediate goal is to win a Stanley Cup in Calgary. It's been a while since the Flames won the cup dating back to 1989. For me, just seeing all the fans at the play offs last season was unbelievable! Last year, when Calgary won the first round against Vancouver, I could barely drive home, because people were celebrating on the streets and having a great time! What I love about Calgary is that the fans are so passionate.”

Secondary, “I started an internship program with Calgary Flames. Every summer I am taking one or two undergrad or graduate students and I share with them my philosophy and show them how I train hockey players. My legacy and long term objective is to help these young people reach their goals. Also, I would like to continue to keep myself in great health, eat well, and exercise frequently. There are other things I am interested in, such as doing research for/about hockey.”