Coach Nielsen's Ice Hockey Drills

A Day with Tony Horacek at Midget National Camp

I posted about this before but just in case you don’t remember, my organization has former NHL player Tony Horacek coaching our 16 National program. Tony invited me out to skate with his team yesterday to help with day 2 of his summer camp. I took the opportunity with excitement because I really like watching how other coaches do things and with my summer camp starting next Friday I figured it would give me some ideas on things to add to my program. I’ve watched Tony run practice in the past and admired how up-tempo the skates are and how he handles the team. I wish I could have attended all three days of his camp but with mine coming up next weekend I didn’t have the free time this week to commit. Here is a breakdown of his day 2 camp schedule.

The players started with some basic stretching and skating exercises up and down the ice just to get everyone ready to go at an up-tempo.

We then switched to some simple passing drills, but even though the drill is simple it reinforces the basic skills that all players need to be fundamentally sound on.

Three Short Ice Passing/Skating Drills

Next up were a few simple Neutral Zone passing drills all run at high tempo. Again these are simple drills that we have all run at times but the emphasis was on making and receiving good passes while skating hard. All shots were to be taken from the top of the circles.

3 Neutral Zone Passing Drills

The team then transitioned into a continuous 2 on 0 drill that emphasized the importance of backside support and coming underneath for a pass while the player without the puck skates hard to the front of the net for rebounds.

Continuous 2 on 0

Next up were two drills that worked on gap control for the defensemen. The first drill also emphasized that the forwards have to bust down the outside lane to get around the defense.

1 on 1 Full Ice

2 on 1 Full Ice

The next drill worked on breakouts and using different options off the breakout and finishing up with screen shots from the points. The drill runs from both ends of the ice and has everyone moving. (I have to admit that I did to Tony what I hate my players doing to me…….I skated away from the board before he was done describing the drill because I thought I knew what he wanted and because of that I screwed up the first two or three rotations…….UGH!!!!)

5 on 0 BO with Screen/Deflection Drill

Last up was a conditioning drill that worked on some small area 2 on 0 as well. I can tell you that at the end of this drill all the players were exhausted.

2 on 2 with Backcheck

The session ended with all the players stretching around the center circle and then off to the gym for an hour of core work.  I really had a great time skating with Tony and his team and I appreciate that he offered me the opportunity. As I said, I wish I could have done more so I would have more to pass along to all of you but above is a good practice plan that any of you can run with your teams. Tony did spend some time during the skate working on some defensive scheme concepts which I didn’t include but I think the above is a good practice with lots of hard skating.


Filed under: coaching, Conditioning, Drills

Summer Conditioning Program

For most of us the team has been selected and the spring leagues are over, now we get some time off until it all starts again in mid to late August. How do you keep your players in condition when you have no team conditioning sessions for another two months? One way is to give your players a summer conditioning program they can do on their own. Over the years I’ve found that if you give the players a program that is too intense they won’t stick to it on their own, so I’ve developed a simple 30 minute program that they can do on their own every other day. The program can be done in the basement, in the driveway or the local school parking lot. All you need is a good pair of sneakers and a piece of chalk.

One of the goals of this program is to build endurance and I have found that running is the best way to accomplish that goal. At the end of the exercise program the player runs a 1/2 mile. The goal is to finish that 1/2 mile run in 3 minutes and 30 seconds or less. The normal high school athlete in good condition can run a mile in seven minutes, so 3:30 is a good goal.

I will post this program and video on the website so you can share it with your players if you would like. Just give them the website address and tell them to look in the Summer Conditioning section.

Below are the individual exercises followed by a video that briefly describes each exercise. As with any exercise program make sure you stretch before you begin to avoid injury.

Summer Conditioning Program
Designed to work on upper body strength,endurance, legs and core. Perform this program for thirty minutes every other day.
Do a few minutes of basic stretching exercises.
o Quad pulls
o Down the middle
o Side to side
o Toe grabs
o Butterfly

Part I
These drills are performed in a continuous flow. Go from one to the next with no break in between.

• 10 Push-Ups
• 5 Dot Agility Drill – 2 sets
• 10 Sit-Ups
• Left Leg Hop (5 Cycles) – 2 sets
• 10 Push-Ups (Incline if you can)
• Two Leg Hop (5 Cycles) – 4 Sets
• 10 Sit-Ups
• Right Leg Hop (5 Cycles) – 2 Sets
• Octagon Hop (8 Cycles) – 4 sets

Break 2 minutes
Part II
These drills are performed in a continuous flow.

• 10 Push-Ups (Incline if possible)
• 10 Prisoner Squats – 2 Sets
• 10 Bicycle Sit-ups
• 10 Squat Thrusts – 4 Sets
• Planks – 3 of 20 seconds each – 2 Sets
• 10 Push-Ups (Incline if Possible)
• 10 Bicycle Sit-ups

Break 2 minutes
Part III

• 20 Push-Ups
• 20 Sit-Ups

• ½ mile run (goal time is 3:30)

The above program is designed to work a player for 30 minutes every other day and help them stay in shape throughout the summer when they are not with their team. Each player can increase the total number of push-ups and sit-ups above and beyond what is outlined above if they want to go longer and harder than 30 minutes.

If possible work with a friend who can help keep you motivated and on course.

Filed under: coaching, Conditioning

Speed Strength Size Conditioning (S3 Formula)

From time-to-time I am offered to participate in different hockey specific programs . Coach Weiss is offering a $50 OFF deal on his S3 Formula training. Take a look at his website by clicking the image below and see if you are interested. Enter code MOTHERSDAY50 if you decide to purchase. This may be something you want to pass along to your players for the off-season.

Here is a short link you can give to your players if you think they might be interested

The sale is just for this weekend so take a look.

Jeremy Weiss the developer of the S3 program is an excellent coach out west and a former high level hockey player. He has a college education in athletic conditioning and nutrition and is someone I respect for his knowledge of the game and how to improve your ability. Check out the videos and move forward if you find it to be of interest to you or your players.

Filed under: Conditioning, Nutrition

Competitive Drills to Keep Practice Fun

This time of year it’s sometimes difficult to keep your players focused on practice. Most teams have a two or three week break in games around the holidays but still have practice slots. So how do you keep the players motivated to practice during this downtime? I’ve done a few different things over the years to keep the players focused while having some fun and working on skills at the same time. Here are a few ideas.

2 on 0
Crease Challenge
Forwards v. Defensemen

I also like to play small ice three on three games. We break our team into four or five groups of three players and play a round robin of two minute 3 on 3 small ice games. We have our two goaltenders alternate sides every three games so the same team isn’t always shooting against the same goaltender. After the round robin we play three minute playoff games and finish it up with a four minute championship game. If you stay focused you can get this tournament done in a single one hour time slot. The players love the competition. Make sure you split the teams evenly or better yet pick names out of a hat.

Have some fun and Happy Holidays!

Filed under: 1 x 1 - 2 x 1 - 3 x 1, Conditioning, Conditioning, Defensemen, Drills, Forwards, Passing, Practice, Shooting, Small Area Games

Conditioning Counts

The first week of conditioning camp is over and I’m happy with the early results. The players, for the most part, came to camp in good condition and ready to work. As I’ve said many times, I think conditioning is the most important part of team success. If you can go harder and longer than your opponent, you have a very good chance to succeed. For those of you who may be interested in seeing what our conditioning program is like, I’ve put together a few videos with information about the different parts of the hour long session. Typically we try to run three days a week for one hour each day.

The parts of the session are as follows

  1. Calisthenics
  2. Sprints
  3. Leg Work
  4. Endurance Runs

Each day will incorporate parts of each of the above areas, but on day one we concentrate on cardio. Day two is mostly leg work and day three is a combination of cardio and leg work.

One thing I can tell you for sure is you will get a really good idea who the leaders of the team are through your conditioning program. Each of the past three seasons the captain of the team was chosen because of his dedication and work ethic during the conditioning sessions.

Remember to keep the players hydrated and let them rest between sets.



Filed under: coaching, Conditioning

Off Ice Conditioning Program

From time-to-time I am offered to participate in different hockey specific programs because of all the hits this site takes each day. A coach I have known for about a year now is starting up what I think might be an interesting web based conditioning program for hockey players. Take a look at his website by clicking the image below and see if you are interested. This may be something you want to pass along to your players for the off-season.

Here is a short link you can give to your players if you think they might be interested

Between today and March 15th there will be different videos on the site to give you an idea of what’s to come. On the 15th there will be a video describing the program and how to join.

Jeremy Weiss the developer of the S3 program is an excellent coach out west and a former high level hockey player. He has a college education in athletic conditioning and nutrition and is someone I respect for his knowledge of the game and how to improve your ability. Check out the videos and move forward if you find it to be of interest to you or your players.

Filed under: coaching, Conditioning, , ,

Visualization for Hockey Success

Courtesy of
Brett Henning

Today’s players spend over 500 hours every season practicing on the ice, training off the ice, and doing whatever it takes on top of that to be the best physically prepared player they can. The game has become so competitive that it’s hard to separate yourself from the pack as you move up to better and better competition.

I truly believe that the mental part of the game is often neglected and affects a player’s performance just as much, if not more then, the physical preparation above. In my book the       7 Pre-Game Habits of Pro Hockey Players I devote a whole chapter to Visualization. Researching the book I found that every star performer in any area, such as Navy Seals, bodybuilders, CEO’s, etc. use visualization to consistently attain that high level of performance.

Without getting too technical, every situation on the ice creates experiences that your brain can recall back whether positively or negatively in the future. By visualizing correctly your brain can’t tell the difference that you’re not on the ice and has the same experiences. Except with visualization you can control the experiences in your favor to bring up positive emotions such as confidence and eliminate negative emotions such as anxiety.

Visualizing before the game will allow a player to get the most out of their physical training.

I created a webpage to give you full access to the Visualization chapter. With a quick read you can implement visualization in your next game to eliminate the emotions that are holding you back and reinforce the positive emotions to help your team.

Here’s the link:

“Amateur players have excellent games. Pro players have

game excellence.”

—–Pat Riley


I am not asking anyone to purchase the book, that is your decision. I just think that the chapter on visualization is worth the 30 minutes it will take to read it. I hope you enjoy and learn something from the chapter.

Coach NIelsen

Filed under: Conditioning, General

Dynamic Pre-Game Warm-Up

Courtesy of Peter Twist

Many players aim to be game ready where they feel athletic and skillful, fast and strong but also fluid and mobile. A player needs to enter the first shift ready to move with explosive power and rapid agility right from the puck drop. The pre-ice (and pre-workout) routine plays an important role in readying the player’s mind and body to exert best efforts skillfully. Historically, players would do a few brief on-ice stretches, however, the result is little more than a pre-skate ritual. Stretches are held in a static position like a statue. How can stretching like a statue prepare the mind and body to move explosively? It can’t. Research shows that in workouts following static stretching, strength and speed are actually lower.

To be game ready, static stretching is no longer the way to go. The goal of pre-ice exercise is to wake up the mind, warm the muscles, and link the mind and muscles to have a responsive body that is prepared to react quickly. A dynamic warm up is recommended pre-game, leaving static stretching for post-ice, when the muscles are tired and need recovery, the mind is also fatigued, and is ready to shut down and relax.

The more than 600 muscles in our body are the ‘hard drive’ with the brain and all of the nerves that connect the mind to the muscles acting like the body’s ‘software’. To prepare to move explosively and skillfully, both the software and the hard drive need to be turned on and warmed up. This is best achieved through balance, movement and strength exercises in a planned dynamic warm up that follows a number of progressive steps.

Use the dressing room, lobby, hallway, Zamboni bay, or any other location you can secure that provides space for movement. Players can warm up half dressed to minimize the time delay between warming up and stepping on the ice. A useful dynamic warm up should last at least 12 minutes and could be as long as 30 minutes. The end goal is for the player to be warm, a little sweaty, mind pumped up and ready to go. The whole body should feel awake and athletic but not fatigued.

The program starts with balance drills for a low impact method to activate many muscles and turn on the mind. These drills safely challenge the small stabilizer muscles key to reaction and physical confrontations. Balance brings focus. Players must think and concentrate to coordinate their bodies through each drill.

Next players go through specific movement skills where they move large muscle groups through slow, linear movements and progress toward faster, more dynamic multidirectional movements that require more thought. My athletes begin by walking up on their toes to wake up the calf muscles and ankles. Exercises move up the body until each muscle group has been worked. Add straight line movements, and then progress through angled patterns, lateral movement, and crossovers before advancing to multidirectional agility drills. This adds quick feet, stop and starts and reactive demands.

Finish with whole body strength exercises to help link the body together, activate muscles from toes to fingertips, and sequence the muscles in the order they will need to fire for shooting and body checking. It is valuable to step on the ice feeling strong and durable. Exercises could include wide body weight squats, standing partner stick pushes, standing stick pulls and standing partner ward offs. Initiate each rep from the legs and follow through with the upper body, engaging the trunk so the core is ready to be strong.

Coaches and athletes are encouraged to develop a dynamic warm up and use it before a practice to determine its effectiveness. A dynamic warm up routine gives players the confidence to jump into a game with a winning attitude.

Peter Twist, 11-year NHL Conditioning Coach, is now President of Twist Conditioning Inc., a company that provides franchised Sport Conditioning Centres, hockey training products and home study coach education. Check out

Filed under: coaching, Conditioning, General, , , ,

Game Day Nutrition Part I

How come sometimes you feel like your flying around the ice and other times it feels like a piano is strapped to your back?

For the most part it’s the food you eat and fluids you down leading up to the game.

Although there is no substitute for good daily eating habits, the foods you eat and amount/type of fluids you consume in the 24 hours before a game will determine your energy levels.

I am in the finishing stages of putting together a book and one chapter deals very specifically with this concept.  Here is excerpt from the book that is a tip sheet for game day hydration. (It’s kind of long so foods will be covered next newsletter.)


Key #1

I’m sure you’ve all seen Man Vs. Wild, where Bear Grylls defies death in every region of the earth. That guy is world class lunatic. I have every episode Tivoed. Part of me wants to see the Nascar crash, where he battles it out with a carnivorous bear in some deep backcountry wilderness but that’s another story. While shooting an episode in the Australian outback he stated an amazing fact. He said that “humans can only survive a few hours in that heat without water”. In this episode Bear goes as far as drinking his own pee for hydration. (Please don’t try this at home.) But the fact of the matter is you can live around 5 weeks without food but without water a human can last only 5 days in normal circumstances. On average, the human body is about 60% water. Our brains are 70% water, our blood is 80% water and our lungs contain about 85% water. (It’s hard to believe, but Dicky Dunn wrote it so it must be true.) Only oxygen is more vital to sustaining life. Throughout the day we lose water through regular perspiration, going to the bathroom, breathing, and of course perspiration by exercising. Hydration is by far the most important factor in your game preparation. If you’re not properly hydrated your athletic performance will suffer. Even minor dehydration impairs contractile strength in the muscles, speed, concentration, coordination, reaction time, and stamina. Remember this, the human thirst mechanism is faulty, so waiting until you are thirsty to drink is TOO LATE. Hydration must be a priority for peak performance.


  • As a guideline try to drink 1/2oz -1oz per pound/per day.
  • 190 lbs = at least 95 oz fluid per day (2.75 – 5 liters per day).
  • Weigh-in before and after practices, training, and games. There shouldn’t be a drastic change either in weight loss or gain. (This is especially true for goalies. I remember hearing that Glen Healy lost 14 lbs in water weight during a game in the 1993 playoffs. Not only will this effect performance during the present game but also any future games.)
  • Given the nature of a hockey game with 2 intermissions, athletes should consume electrolytes to enhance absorption and prevent cramping. Choose a carb/electrolyte drink for 16 oz- of your replacement fluids perhaps during an intermission, but then the rest of your fluid needs should be met with water. You don’t need to replace all your fluids on the ice.
  • Carb/electrolyte drinks- the concern with a number of the electrolyte drinks on the market is they are a combination of non-purified water, sucrose, glucose, fructose (sugars manufactured by factories from corn) and artificial colors with electrolytes (potassium and sodium) thrown in. More research needs to be done on the nutritional value of them. (With the explosion of new drinks onto the market including “energy drinks”, you can drop a lot of money with little to no effect. (Might as well be drinking tap water) Some feel that they do more harm than good. You can’t go wrong consuming natural mineral or spring water, fresh vegetable juice, or diluted fruit juices. But good ‘ole water is still the best bet. Nothing replaces pure water for hydration. Try to get the other nutrients you need from your meals, not from marketed sugar drinks.
Pre-event Immediately prior to event During event Immediately Post event Post event recovery
1-2 hours 0-10 minutes Drink early (6-8 oz) & at regular intervals (10-15 min.) when possible Take in carb/protein drink (2:1 or 3:1 ratio) & banana Re-hydrate: 20 oz per pound lost during competition. Tomato juice is good choice for part of this replacement
17-20 oz 7-10 oz EAS -Myoplex
Water/shake Water/electrolytes Nutrilite – meal replacement
Make your own: see recipes

Game Day Hot Tip: Monitor your hydrations level by the color of your urine. The clearer the color, the better … if you have bright yellow urine or it has a strong smell, start pumping the fluids.

courtesy of Brett Henning

Filed under: Conditioning, General, Nutrition

Conditioning Videos Ready

I worked on the conditioning video series that a few YouTube followers asked for and finally posted it last night. Below you can access each of the videos. This program is what I use for my varsity team as well as my midget 16AA team. We work three days a week for 60 to 75 minutes and we started two months before our first game. There are many additional conditioning exercises you can add to the program, but I found over the years that this program works best for me to get the athletes in excellent condition before the season starts. We continue the program as long as we can outdoors and then scale back when it gets too cold and move indoors.

I hope this helps you work with your players and gives you a good foundation to start a conditioning program of your own. Feel free to add any or all of these drills to your program, and remember to give the athletes time to rest and hydrate between sections of the workout.

Thanks for following!

Here is the overview document Conditioning Plan

Filed under: Conditioning, , ,



Post Categories

%d bloggers like this: