Coach Nielsen's Ice Hockey Drills

Off-Ice Conditioning

Conditioning may be the most overlooked aspect of youth hockey. Off-ice training serves two purposes. First and most obvious it gets the athletes into better shape for the upcoming season, but secondly and maybe just as important it acts as a team building exercise. The off-ice program brings the players together in an environment that is outside the ice practice norm and into a more relaxed atmosphere. Now the work done at the conditioning isn’t a relaxed set of drills but the attitude the players bring to the program is what is more relaxed and it really helps.

I insist that starting two months before the first game the team gets together three times a week for a minimum of one hour each day. This allows me to gradually ramp up the conditioning program so that when the season starts we are ready to go a full three periods. As the season progresses we continue to work twice a week along with the on ice practice slots.

Each situation is different, but it really is important to get your team out and involved in a conditioning program. You may have to deal with players missing some of your sessions because of other sports that are still going on in the summer, but at least those athletes are doing something athletic. Stay focused and work with the group of players that attend and you will see the benefits when the season starts.

Here is a rundown of one of the sessions I run. Keep in mind that I coach older players but most if not all of these drills can be done with younger players.

  1. Stretching (5 mins)
  2. Calisthenics (10 mins)
  3. Leg work (10 mins)
  4. Sprints (15 mins)
  5. Change of Direction running (15 mins)
  6. 40 Second Run (5 mins)

Stretching consists of all the standard stretches to get the legs and back prepared to work.


  • Jumping Jacks 3 sets of 20
  • Squat thrusts 3 sets of 10
  • Squat jumps 3 sets of 10
  • Squat tuck jumps 3 sets of 10
  • Mountain climbers 3 sets of 30 seconds each
  • Prisoner squats 3 sets of 10 (each rep is held for 3 seconds)
  • 40 push-ups (spread out between the above exercises)

Leg work

  • Octagon hop 4 sets of 30 seconds (draw a stop sign on the ground and have the athlete jump out and into the octagon on each side for 30 seconds)
  • Plus sign hop 4 sets of 30 seconds (draw a + on the ground and have the athlete jump through each area of the + for 30 seconds)
  • Five dot hop 4 sets (draw five dots on the ground. The first two are two feet apart. Go three feet from each of those and draw two more dots two feet apart. Add a fifth dot in the middle of the other four. The athlete starts with one foot on each of the first two dots. He jumps with both feet to the middle dot, then jumps to the last two dots landing with one foot on each dot. He then reverses and hops back to the start. The second series is on the left foot and the third series is on the right foot. Do four sets )
  • Stutter steps (15 seconds hard after each above set) (standard running in place)


  • Line sprint (a parking lot with lines works great for this drill but you can use cones as well. In a parking lot have the athletes start at one line, run hard to the next line, touch the line and run hard back to the start line. Continue the same out to the second, third and fourth lines.)
  • Burst sprint (Line the athletes up in two lines facing each other about 20 feet apart. On the whistle each athlete sprints hard to the other line concentrating on the first three steps being a burst of speed. The athlete gets in the back of the opposite line and sprints again. Keep this going for at least a full minute. Works best with four or five athletes on each line.)
  • Ladder sprint (set cones out about five yards apart. Use three or four cones. At the start the athlete runs around the first cone and back to the start. He continues around the second, third and fourth cones and finishes with a hard sprint to the finish. Concentrate on keeping the shoulder tucked when you run around the cone.)
  • 30 yard sprint (place the athletes in lines of four or five and have the first athlete run a 30 yard sprint. When he is done the next athlete goes. Each athlete should run a minimum of six sprints.)

Change of direction running

  • Agility wheel (set out 8 cones in a big wheel formation and place one in the middle. When you stand at the middle cone you should have cones at the 12,3,6,& 9 o’clock positions about 20 feet from the center cone. Now place additional cones halfway between each of those cones. You should have 8 cones in a big circle and one in the middle. The athlete stands in the middle of the wheel and runs out and back to each of the cones all the way around the wheel. The next time they run they run forward to the cone and backward back to the middle. The third time they run they side-step out and back. Each athlete should run a minimum of four sets.)
  • Out and back (set up four cones about 10 feet apart. Now draw a line on the ground about 15 feet from the cones. Draw a start line 10 feet in front of the first cone. When standing on the start line you should have four cones in front of you 10 feet apart, and on your left you should have a straight line about 15 feet left of the cones that runs the entire distance of the cones. The athlete runs from the start line out to the straight line and then backward to the cone. He repeats that for each cone. Run the drill for one minute with six to eight athletes.)
  • Angle cut (set up three cones in a line about 10 feet apart. Place a fourth cone even with the middle cone but 15 feet to the left of it. Draw a start line 10 feet from the first cone and 15 feet to the left of it. When standing on the start line you should have three cones to your right and a fourth cone directly in front of you even with the middle cone. Now on the whistle have the athlete run hard to the middle cone and break hard to the upper right side cone. Each athlete in the line runs that pattern. Next run hard to the middle cone and break hard straight across to the middle cone. Again, each athlete runs that pattern. Last, run hard to the middle cone and then break back to the lower cone. Again each athlete runs that pattern. Each athlete should run this three set pattern 10 times. Once you are done with the 10 reps, move the start line to the opposite end so when you stand on the start line the cones are on your left. The first set of run you were always breaking to the right, by moving the start line to the other end, you can run the same sets but this time you will break to the left. This drill works best with four or five athletes at a time)
  • Forward & Back (Draw a start line. Now place a cone 20 yards directly in front of the start line. Place the athletes in two lines. On the whistle the first two athletes sprint to the cone full speed. Without slowing down when they reach the cone they turn their bodies and run an additional 10 yards backwards. Each athlete should run this drill six to eight times.)

40 Second Run (This drill is designed to simulate a hard 40 second shift on the ice. Break your players into three groups. Draw a start line on the ground. Place a cone thirty yards away and another cone ten yards past that or forty yards from the start. Now, on the whistle the first group of players sprints to the far cone (40 yards), stops and backpedals to the next cone, turns and sprints back to the start line. They continue this pattern for 40 seconds. The test is to see how many times they can complete the entire course in the 40 seconds. At about the 30 second mark get the next group of players ready to start. At the 40 second mark the first group stops and the second group begins. Continue this pattern for the third group. When the third group is done the first group goes again. Each group runs three reps of the drill. So when the drill is done, each group will have run 40 seconds three times and rested 80 seconds between each rep.)

There are lots of additional things you can add to your conditioning program like hurdles, and parachute sprints or long distance runs. The above is a plan you can use with a few cones and some chalk. Have fun and keep the players moving.

Filed under: Conditioning, , ,

6 Responses

  1. RobD

    I’m no expert on RSS feeds so my help may be useless. I use Firefox as my browser and when I clicked the “Entries RSS” link on the top of the page, I got a basic Add type of screen that allowed me to Add the RSS feed to my “Live Bookmarks”. When I look at my “Live Bookmarks” I see my blog.

    I did the same thing in IE8 and it was added to a “Feeds” section of “My Favorites”

    When I click on either of those links I get a version of my blog which is different to each browser. Not sure this helped, but hope it points you in the right direction.

    BTW – Thanks for the compliments on the blog and thanks for reading. Hope I can continue to help coaches and players with questions.

    Coach Nielsen

  2. RobD says:

    Hey, great blog…but I don’t understand how to add your site in my rss reader. Can you Help me, please🙂 🙂

  3. Tnelson says:

    Your site was extremely interesting, especially since I was searching for thoughts on this subject last Thursday.

    • Thanks, glad I was able to help in some small way. Conditioning is so important to a successful hockey team. Once you get the players to “Buy In’ to the program you can see the difference it makes in their playing.


  4. DennisVega says:

    what a great site and informative posts, I will add a backlink and bookmark your site. Keep up the good work!

    • Thanks, I appreciate the kind words. It’s nice to see people are reading what I have written. I will try my best to continue to bring content that people are interested in. Thanks again, it is much appreciated.


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