Manchester Storm forward shines a light on ice hockey match preparation
Manchester Storm forward Wade MacLeod follows specific ice hockey training methods to ensure his body and mind are engaged during his time on the ice.
The left winger trains for 30 to 45 seconds of activity which he believes makes the most explosive sport with mixed martial arts.
The 34-year-old is on a diet with Finnish coach Kai Heinonen who started his first year as a varsity player at Northeastern University.
In addition to their drills, the two work together at Headway Hockey, a company founded by the Canadian player to coach and develop potential and current talent on the ice.
The experienced personal trainer works with the player with knowledge of commitment and inner strength. MacLeod had four brain surgeries between 2013 and 2018.
In the fight against cancer and healings, he cites the Finn as helping to bring him back to game prep every time, saying he will always find other equipment to push the player harder. Here, he shares some of the intricacies of ice hockey specific training and game preparation.
Mancunian questions: In sport, it is often said that the best players see “the first five meters” in their head. Considering the speed of hockey and the size of the rink, how important is it to practice to anticipate and hit the puck first, or to position yourself to be one step ahead of the game?
Wade Macleod: Meditation and visualization are so essential. And the best athletes don’t even know they are doing it. They instilled it into their brains, “Okay, you’re gonna be there, I’m gonna be two steps ahead of you.” Whether they know it or not, like meditation and visualization, it’s so huge and it’s something we are proud of.
MM: Who would you say in your hockey career best embodied this intrinsic ability to know where to be. Names ?
WM: Yeah, so a lot of goalies visualize and I played with Cam Atkinson, who is an amazing hockey player and he always knew where to be whether he visualized it or pondered it or not.
He knew exactly where to be. He was a prolific goalscorer and is still in the NHL, playing for the Philadelphia Flyers.
MM: Was he the benchmark for you?
WM: I was in the American Hockey League the same year and I admired him for his positioning and his goals. He seemed to have it all.
MM: What advice would you give to the family of a junior who is ready to take the first steps in his training program?
WM: That’s what we basically want in our program. If they are ready to step in and work hard, this training is for them. And if they’re not prepared to work hard, they tend to skip a day, or two days a week, or skate on a bad day. The most important thing for the offseason is to skate on the good days.
If they skate five days a week, they won’t see any improvement in their off-ice times, reps, or sprints because as you know, or as you might not know, hockey is the sport. the most explosive after mixed martial arts.
But you only need two or three off-season days to train on ice and five days a week in the gym, because during the season you skate six days a week. So you don’t have time to strengthen your legs.
You have to keep a good balance. I do balance workouts twice a week. You have to maintain a good core and then you just have to maintain your upper body.
MM: What subtleties are there in the training schedules between a goalkeeper, a defender or an attacker?
WM: Kai thinks attackers and defenders should train exactly the same.
MM: Is it because of the interchangeability of positions during a match?
WM: Yeah, and you’ve got someone who’s moving really fast but can’t skate backwards. So we try to build that into our training – on-ice training, off-ice training.
And for goalies, it’s the most important position in hockey. Goalkeepers need to be well conditioned … goalkeepers need to focus and sit in position, like a 90 degree turn for up to two minutes, so the goalie needs to be the most explosive athlete on the ice.
MM: Do outfielders ever time each other against goalkeepers in this position?
WM: Goalies will always win.
MM: Does good physical, mental and positional hockey training help a player avoid physical confrontations and hits? Is it designed for this given the number of injuries that occur against boards, for example?
WM: I can speak to experience. My muscle atrophy is at its best due to the gradual pre-match warm-up. I have little or no injuries. And the mental toughness side is just as important.
MM: Physics and efficiency of skating, power and subtlety – what is the hardest to train to achieve?
WM: I constantly train my skating every summer – every day. The most difficult to train is probably the fluidity. The strides are so smooth that you can’t really teach that.
MM: Apart from just drilling and drilling?
MM: Hockey is considered to be one of the fastest team sports that involves shooting an object into a goal. What training methods are used to adapt to the speed of the game?
WM: For example, we do everything as explosive as possible and then we get out on the ice. Then we do what is called snow plows. So we have to do everything at maximum speed, manipulate the puck at maximum speed, release the puck at maximum speed.
MM: Which of the workout routines that are skipped too often do you think?
WM: Warming up is probably the hardest thing to instill in a hockey player. We often play sewer ball, like two-touch with a soccer ball and some guys say ‘that’s it for warm-ups’ and ‘you’re going to warm up on the ice’, but there’s a whole other thing. aspect to this training that we have to do progressive pre-game warm-ups up to 20 minutes to put on our gear and a lot of times I sweat and see other guys doing the same.
But imagine if everyone did that in hockey, how explosive the first half would be. Most of the time, the first few periods are quite slow for the first ten minutes.
MM: Could you support this methodology by perhaps linking it to the injuries the players might suffer in the first ten minutes?
WM: Yeah. It’s all about stretching and warming up your legs. And often I see someone pulling their groin in the first ten minutes. It is very important to warm up before going on the ice.
(A 2016 report by Nathan Currier on the most injured NHL teams since the 2009-10 season reveals that 48.1% of regular season injuries occur in the first period)
MM: How important is the coach / coach relationship with a player to promote his development?
WM: I’ve been with Kai since my first year of college. What is that? 14 years ago. He motivates me, he pushes me to the absolute limit. When I don’t want to be pushed anymore, he will find another piece of equipment and push me even harder.
Kai not only helped me recover from brain surgery… but two and three. So the second time I had brain surgery I got permission from my doctors to start training and he brought me back to the professional standings, and I did well.
With a third and fourth brain surgery, back to back, and I hadn’t played hockey for three and a half years and he brought me back to regain my strength after the chemo… I had fallen to 160 pounds, but I’m back to my weight game at 188… absolutely I couldn’t have done it without Kai. And he pushes me and pushes me where I’m comfortable.
Wade MacLeod plays in the English Ice Hockey League for Manchester Storm and is the founder of Headway Hockey. (www.headwayhockey.ca)
Image credit: Dean Woolley (EIHL)