Ask the Coach is a bi-weekly feature in the Chilliwack Progress where Chilliwack Chiefs hockey boss Brian Maloney answers a question from a fan. Maloney’s team has played a league-high 24 games to this point in the BCHL season, which makes this query from Jack Ghandourawi particularly relevent. Jack asks, ‘How do you get teenage players to pay proper attention to conditioning and off-ice routines?’
First off, having myself and (associate head coach) Cam (Keith) play the game for such a long time, rarely do you get two coaches that have played the game as long as we have as the level we played at.
We have a good feel for how it feels when your legs are heavy and I know what it feels like to ride that bus.
Every player is different so you ask them, ‘What does your daily routine look like?
When do they take their little pre-game nap and when do they eat? We’re all creatures of habit who like to stick to the same routines, but maybe it needs to be adjusted sometimes.
When I played, I was always a guy who started slow and felt better as a game goes on. Some guys are the opposite where they start fast and fizzle out, and I think those types of player are typically out of shape.
So what I started doing was I’d get a full workout in before the game. I wouldn’t lift heavy weights, but I’d be drenched, and if you ask someone who works out regularly how they feel after a workout, they feel pretty darn good.
My teammates thought I was nuts. I’d get a good sweat, follow that with a nice cold shower to wake up, get my gear on and spend warmup working on my hands and stuff because my legs were already ready to go.
So maybe if we’ve got one of those guys who’s like I was, maybe you suggest they run some sprints in the hallway or go out in the arena and run up some stairs to get the legs going.
Everyone at this level is different and they’re all trying to figure it out.
When I played junior A I had no idea about any of this. I just showed up, put my skates on, hit guys and scored goals and didn’t care too much about my diet and sleep habits.
But the league and the game and athletes are better now, and today’s athletes take it more seriously.
But one of my big things at this level is preparing them as much as I can so they don’t walk onto a college campus next season or the season after that and say, ‘Wow! This is what a real athlete’s doing.’
I don’t want them playing catch up when they get to school because I was. When I got to Michigan State, I snapped into it right away and realized that what I’d been doing in the past had to change.
But some guys never did.
I knew NCAA guys were 100 point junior players and ended up playing three games over four years because they never figured it out.
I had this conversation with Jordan Kawaguchi when I started with the Chiefs a few years ago.
Everyone was always talking about how good he was and all the fantastic things he could do.
Not that I didn’t respect that, but I was hard on him about the things he wasn’t doing properly.
I knew conditioning was going to be a problem for him and he was going to have to clean up his diet and sleep habits, but how do you tell that to a kid who’s ripping up a junior league?
He kind of ya, ya, ya’ed me, in a respectful way, and kept doing his own thing.Well, he didn’t have a great start at North Dakota. He was a healthy scratch a few times early that season because he was a step behind and out of shape.
I remember him coming back at Christmas, and we were on the ice together and he had this big smile on his face and said, ‘I know what you were talking about now.’
I told him, ‘Jordan. I get it, because I was just like you. I walked onto campus and I was like, ‘Holy Smokes! There’s so much more to it. But now you realize what you need to do.’
He was all-in from that point on and we’ve kept in contact since and Jordan’s really bought in.
He is a completely different player now because he ‘gets it.’