Every professional hockey player dreams about playing in June.
If you are still playing hockey into this month, that means you are playing for hockey’s holy grail, the Stanley Cup.
But while a typical hockey season begins with training camp in September, the work for the upcoming season begins well before that with a player’s off-season conditioning program.
“As a player, you always hear about how in the old days, you went to training camp to get into shape,” said Matt Keith.
But that is definitely not the case anymore.
“You can’t afford to not show up in shape,” added Brandon Segal.
Segal, a North Delta native who turns 28 next month, has been in the pro game since 2003 and suited up in 92 NHL games with Tampa Bay, Los Angeles and Dallas.
It is with the Stars he has had the bulk of his NHL time, scoring 10 goals and 20 points in 65 games over the past two seasons.
“The NHL season is such a grind; the off-season training program is huge,” Segal said. “That is what has really gotten me into the best shape of my life.
“Just doing the little things to make sure you are ready to go.”
“When you get into games, 40, 50, 60, that is what you are doing this (off-season) training for,” Keith said.
The 28-year-old Keith, who grew up in Aldergrove is coming off his eighth pro season.
Last year, he played in the American Hockey League with the Abbotsford Heat, leading the team in goals (20) and points (35). Keith has played in 27 NHL games, the majority of those with the Chicago Blackhawks, scoring two goals and three assists.
Both players train at Revolution Martial Arts and Fitness in Langley.
The players are there under the guidance of Mike Thompson and Tyler Jackson, who have teamed up to form TnT Hockey Performance Training, a spring/summer conditioning camp.
“Our goal is to get guys in the best possible shape when they hit the ice,” Jackson said.
“He focuses on the on ice and I do the off-ice stuff. This just made sense.”
Thompson is a long-time on-ice trainer while Jackson, a mixed martial arts fighter with the Revolution Fight Team, is a personal trainer.
The pair had discussed joining forces for a while, with each party offering a different skill set.
Thompson has plenty of hockey connections — the Blackhawks’ Duncan Keith, a Norris Trophy, Stanley Cup and Olympic gold medalist, credits Thompson for helping him make the transition from junior hockey to the pro ranks.
As for Jackson, Thompson said the trainer’s “attention to detail is second to none.”
“It was just the perfect mix for us,” he added.
The camp is split into three phases, each one lasting six weeks.
The first phase is general adaptation, where the participants focus on improving their body composition, increasing their strength, endurance and flexibility, and working on decreasing the likelihood of future injury.
Phase two is concentrated on strength, power and performance, and the final phase deals with those three elements, as well as performance.
In addition to the gym work, the players hit the ice at Sportsplex and also work on their cardio by running the track at McLeod Athletic Park.
The program is open to bantam, midget, junior and pro players.
With competition so fierce to make it to the NHL, the players know just how important the off-season is, especially in the salary cap era where organizations must adhere to a budget.
“You can’t afford to not show up in shape, teams can’t afford to make mistakes,” Segal said. “If you show up not in great shape, you look like an idiot.”
“My work ethic is I want to be the best I can,” he added. “I pride myself on that.”
While competition may be fierce on the ice, the players enjoy the camaraderie of their workouts.
“It is a good group of guys,” Keith said. “Everyone is going after the same thing and it pushes you to get better.”