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Behind The Bench

Pre-game warmups
By Greg Siller

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Physically and mentally preparing to play a game is one area that you may not have given much thought to. For many players, pre–game warm–ups are thought of as just time to kill before the real game gets started. Players should wisely use the time before a game to get both physically and mentally prepared to play.

Since each team generally has only a few minutes to warm up before each game, what can be accomplished? A better question is, what skills should your team (and individual players) practice to get prepared for each game? The five essentials of pre–game warm–ups include stretching, skating, passing, shooting and goaltender warm–ups.



It is best to have players perform most of their stretching before they get onto the playing surface. This serves two purposes: it allows the limited on–rink warm–up time to be spent on specific hockey skills and it can also help quell any pre–game jitters while players are waiting in the locker room. Stretches should be performed to moderately extend the leg, arm, back/upper torso and neck muscles.



Once on the playing surface, players should take a couple of moder-ately–paced laps in each direction to get their legs warmed up and their hearts pumping. Skating warm–ups should also include some turning and stopping so players get used to the ice/playing surface and how their blades/wheels react. Goaltenders need to make sure they can skate freely around their crease–area.

There are several ways in which you can work the passing/shooting/goaltender warm–ups. The most basic is the Two–Line Rush, as shown in Figure 1. This warm –up is performed by lining your players up into two lines and having them execute 2–on–0s. This drill is good because it allows the forwards and defensemen to skate, pass and shoot. This warm–up is not the most effective warm –up for goaltenders due to the deking and quick passes across the slot.

If your team is using two goaltenders, alternate them during the warm–up. If you don’t get much warm–up time, keep your starting goaltender in the main warm–up drills and have one player shoot on your backup goaltender in one of the corners or along the boards near the center of the rink.


Two-line rush (left) and Half-circle drill (right)

For Goaltenders

Two warm–ups aimed at goaltenders are the Half–Circle Shoot and the Two–Line Shoot. The Half–Circle Shoot (Figure 2) is performed by lining up five players in a semi–circle near the face–off circles and having them shoot, one at a time, on the goaltender. A variation is the Two–Line Shoot which requires players in each of two lines to alternately shoot on the goaltender from just outside the face–off circles. These warm–ups are good for goaltenders because they force them to respond quickly and allow them to get plenty of shots before a game.


Are You Ready?

The best overall warm–ups utilize game–like situations. These warm–ups prepare the players’ physical and mental skills. For roller hockey teams, a 2–on–1 works best (Figure 3), while for ice hockey, either a 3–on–1 or 3–on–2 (Figure 4) works most effectively. Each line gets one shot and any corresponding rebounds and then moves along the boards back in line when they are done. Each line should only take about 10 seconds to complete the cycle so your team should get an effective warm–up even if it is only a few minutes.

The roller hockey warm–up that I have shown in Figure 3 provides both the forwards and defensemen with the opportunity to skate and pass (the forwards also get to shoot), while allowing the goaltender more realistic game–like situations. This warm–up is started with the defenseman (D) skating toward the left forward (L) and receiving a pass (pass #1) from L. The defenseman passes the puck (pass #2) to the right forward (R), transitions to skating backward, and then the 2–on–1 begins with a pass from R to L (pass #3).

Roller two-on-one (left) and Ice three-on-one (right).

The ice hockey warm–up shown in Figure 4 provides the three forwards and defensemen with the opportunity to skate and pass (the forwards also get to shoot), while, again, allowing the goaltender more realistic game–like situations. This warm–up is started with the right defenseman (RD) passing the puck to his partner LD (pass #1). Once LD receives the pass, RD and LD begin skating in semi–circular patterns. As LD approaches the center (C), he passes the puck to C (pass #2). Once the two defensemen transition to skating backward, C passes the puck (pass #3) to the right wing (R) and the 3–on–2 begins.

By utilizing your pre–game warm–up time wisely (incorporating the five pre–game essentials), your players will be both physically and mentally prepared to play the game even before the referee drops the first puck. l



This first appeared in the 06/1997 issue of Hockey Player Magazine®
© Copyright 1991-2003, Hockey Player® LLC and Hockey Player Magazine®
Posted: Nov 10, 2001, 18:01
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