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The good old days --- a time when hard work, commitment, discipline and positive attitude were expected, not rewarded.  Failure was not final and earning meant sacrifice. These lessons have stood the test of time.  Growing up in Canada, I never played AAA hockey, I got cut from most of the teams I tried out for.  I knew at an early age that hard work, desire, determination and discipline were the keys to success.  My father never responded by formulating a new league, moving across town, getting involved in “politics” or buying me something to ease my self pitied state. By doing so, he taught me a very valuable lesson that would pay off later in life:  In the real world NOT EVERYONE GETS A TROPHY. 

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Maximize “Free Time”:

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My father was born in Belgrade, Yugoslavia and spent three and a half years living in a refugee camp before a church sponsored his family to come by boat to Northern Canada.  He was twelve at the time, could not speak a word of English, and his family had nothing except the clothes on their backs, and a few minor items they traveled with.  At an early age, my father learned valuable lessons that would help shape his life, and many years later, the lives of his sons.  Earning things meant sacrifice; priorities and obligations overshadowed privileges and hard work, discipline, determination and desire were expected, not asked for.  Survival meant scratching, clawing, working, learning and listening in order to learn a new language, adjust to a new culture, and make an honest living.  These experiences molded my father into the man he was: a survivor, a hard worker, and a highly educated professional never forgetting what it took to reach places that, at many times, may have seemed unreachable. I am certain that these experiences have shaped my father’s life in ways that I may never fully understand, but I know deep in my heart he has used these life events to raise his sons into the men they have become today.

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In my opinion, it’s extremely important to understand the tools of the trade for various sports and their requisite performance underpinnings.  In the world of hockey, perhaps no tool is as important as a player’s choice in both skates and sticks.  The hockey skate consists of a hard-outer shell, a rigid toe box to withstand the velocity of flying pucks/sticks, a padded tongue, which may, or may not be manipulated for increased range of motion, an Achilles guard, heel counter and skate blade.  Players traditionally choose a skate that provides the most comfort while ensuring performance needs.  The balance of this so called “performance teeter-totter” typically resides in a personal choice between rigidity and range of motion (frontal plane stiffness and sagittal plane mobility).  For example, defensemen may choose a stiffer boot due to the fact that backward skating (C-Cut) does not have a swing phase only a stance (foot is on the ice the whole time).  In addition the trunk segmental angle (relative to the horizontal axis) in forward skating is significantly less than backward skating which indicates that players lean their bodies significantly forward during forward skating and not nearly as much in skating backwards [1].  More can be found here.  This choice has direct impact on biomechanics, and foot contact within the skate [2]. 

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When it comes to programming for ice hockey we must ask ourselves…what qualities matter most in sport competition?  In other words, what qualities can we train off the ice, that make the most tangible differences on the ice?  What abilities make great players great?   In order to answer these questions, a good place to start is to look at some of the existing literature and attempt to see what correlates best with on-ice performance. 

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