Friday, December 13, 2002

If Bure's ACL is torn, his season and maybe his career are over.
The original diagnosis was that Bure tore cartilage and sprained the medial collateral ligament. An MRI taken the following day was unclear whether there was damage to the anterior cruciate ligament. That will be determined during surgery.

If that ligament is torn, it probably would end Bure's season - his first full one with the Rangers after being acquired from Florida at the March trade deadline.

The operation on his right knee, rebuilt twice already, is exploratory. The speedy winger tore cartilage in that knee during a pre-season game Sept. 24 against New Jersey and underwent arthroscopic surgery two days later.

In March 1999, shortly after he was traded from Vancouver to Florida, Bure had the ACL in his right knee repaired for the second time in less than four years.

Before that, Bure had surgery to repair torn cartilage, which also revealed the ligament damage. He tore the same ACL and required surgery in November 1995.
UPDATE: Bure's surgery went well with no evidence of torn ligaments. He will return in a month.
Ron Johnson, President of Quan-Tech Sport Systems Inc. spent years developing his Competitive Advantage Training Systems (C.A.T.) with some remarkable results. He has done some extensive and fascinating research in analyzing the basic components of hockey; shooting, passing and skating and providing detailed training programs to enhance those skills. The following is part of a shooting theory he developed.
Shooting is, without question, the most important contributing factor to a team's success and in my experience, the least practiced skill in the team training environment. It amazes me that while power skating instructors proliferate, shooting instructors do not. It was not until schools such as Puck Masters came along that any one actually tried to capitalize on this fact. I was sitting at a coaching seminar with Dave King over 15 years ago discussing this fact. Why do professional team's hire power skating instructors, but no shooting instructors. The biggest complaint is that there are not enough good goal scorers around, let alone know HOW, or WHY they score (and of course BEING able to articulate and teach). If an instructor was to increase a team's shooting/scoring production by 1 shot every 10 attempts for every player, what would be the result? Interesting statistic (don't get me going on shot stats taken during game play. We video tape my junior games so as to accurately assess Save Percentage and score-keeper to video stats can be off as much as 50%). It is said that in the majors, (baseball) increasing a ball player's hits per trip to the plate one more time for every 6 attempts is the difference in that player making several millions dollars more.

Knowing where to put the puck increases chances of scoring. How many times have you seen a puck get past a goal-tender and wonder how it happened especially since there was "nothing" on the shot. Ever notice how some players seem to score effortlessly while some have to work hard at it. Location and Timing. Knowing when to shoot (knowing when a goal-tender is about to go down) and where to shoot (shooting upstairs glove side as he is going down) are the two basic goal-scoring strategies that separate the "men from the boys" so to speak.

There are 5 basic attack methodologies that utilize the above shooting criteria (location, distance, angle, speed and pressure) and they can be broken down into the following basics.

1. Linear attack - Centered attack - driving to the net
2. Horizontal attack - parallel to goal line
3. Vertical attack - perpendicular to goal-line
4. Diagonal attack
5. Wrap-a-round

Attack lanes shown below:

1. Linear Attack: Picking a straight line to the net. Shortest distance between two points.

2. Horizontal attack lanes: Moving across the top of the goal-line in a parallel position.

3. Vertical attack lanes: Attacking the goal-line in a perpendicular position.

4. Diagonal attack lanes: Attacking across the goal-mouth diagonally.

5. Wrap-a-round attack lanes: Attacking from below the goal-line.

Rangers trade for mediocre veteran goalie: With Mike Richter gone for the season, the NY Rangers traded forward Rem Murray, defenseman Tomas Kloucek and the rights to defenseman Marek Zidlicky to Nashvile for goalie Mike Dunham.

So the Rangers will replace one injury riddled veteran with... another veteran, nowhere near as talented, who also gets injured all the time. Hooray!

LCS' analysis comes down pretty hard on the Rangers:

Richter isn't the only injured Ranger. Pavel Bure could be done for the year. Brian Leetch is out for what looks like an extended period of time. And Eric Lindros is always one hit away from an extended vacation at Sunshine Acres.

Since the Rangers are already thin throughout the organization (and have just traded away three more players while getting one in return), they made another trade Thursday night, acquiring forward Josh Green from Edmonton for a conditional pick in the 2004 draft.


But pulls no punches with the Predators either:
Predators GM David Poile couldn't have made a worse trade if he's shipped his one tradable player for a bucket of used pucks and a moth-eaten Rangers jersey. ... these players may turn out to be greatness eventually. But this team doesn't have eventualities. They need results. Now. Only Murray is positioned to deliver on that. And in their current state, it will take a great deal more than a single player to make a difference on this team.

Plainly put in a cliché: Poile had one shot and he blew it.

Thursday, December 12, 2002

In his book, "Let's Play Hockey", Gordie Howe devotes his first chapter to conditioning.
The most important thing a hockey player has are his legs. You've often heard it said that those are the first things to give out. When he loses his drive, the extra step, he loses his usefulness. As a youngster I spent some of my summers gopher hunting, walking many miles during a day. I didn't set out to walk those miles...the gophers made me do it and I'm glad I did.
At one time, when NHL players worked during the off-season, many at hard laboring jobs, physical fitness was not an imperative. However as salaries got larger, the players union got stronger and expansion diluted the talent pool the only thing these guys were chasing was beer in a strip club. Even after the awakening in 1972, it wasn't until the mid-eighties, with the growing influx of European players and their training techniques, that specificity training began to be accepted by NHL players.

Lorne Goldberg of the Athletic Conditioning Centre in Ottawa introduced Olympic style weightlifting in the mid 1980’s to the Ottawa 67’s Hockey club.
Most strength coaches and fitness enthusiasts are familiar with Olympic style weightlifting. In a competition sense it is the clean and jerk, and snatch that we are familiar with from TV. From a training viewpoint, there is much more to Olympic style lifting with regard to variations of the two lifts.

One can assume that weight lifters are the strongest men in the world. It is not only their strength that makes them interesting but also their ability to perform powerful events. Coaches have indicated that weightlifters are actually more explosive and faster out of the blocks than 100-meter sprinters, for the first 10 meters. I heard this analogy from a coach, who had visited some Russian training facilities, and had talked with Russian coaches. This race apparently happened many years ago.

What makes these lifters so strong? Typically they train in a very intense manner, emphasizing nervous system development. This means rarely do they train with more than 5 reps, and most of the time is spent working in the 1-3 rep range. By training in this intensity range the emphasis is pure nervous system. Your brain learns how to turn on more motor units; it gets them to turn on together in synch, and to make optimum use of the type llb fibers (fast twitch).

The first question that I usually receive regarding Olympic style lifting is how does it relate to hockey? In 1986, my first year with the St. Louis Blues players like Bernie Federko and Brian Sutter probably thought I was crazy when I first introduced this style of training. Some of the older players were not too accepting of this, especially with the potential of injury if not performed properly. Interestingly enough that year I tested the players for a maximum hang clean in training camp. They did not do much lifting during the season as a result of a poor training facility, and my position being only part time. At the end of the year when I retested them, they were able to maintain over 90% of their training camp score by just playing the game. This was a great statistic as it re-enforced my thoughts that this style of lifting is very sport specific. The joint angles that the ankle, knee, hip, and back go through is very similar to what happens to these joints on the ice. Since that time, selling players on the benefits of Olympic style weightlifting as part of our program has been an easy task.

Another point that has also made it quite easy to sell to the players, are the numbers of Europeans who have been training like this for many years. Many of them who come over to play in the NHL are well versed in the technique of lifting and are usually very quick skaters.

In Ottawa players like Andreas Dackell, and Alexandre Daigle could hang clean well over 200 pounds, and there were even some players in the 300-pound club like Sean Mceachern, and Daniel Alfredsson. Having examples like this made it a very easy sell in Ottawa, and contributed to the Senators very good work ethic in the weight room.
Gordie knew instinctively that powerful legs were the key to hockey. What he didn't know was that eastern European coaches half way around the globe were refining techniques to develop fast twitch neuron fibers to ensure their comrades were getting to the puck first.

In the early 1970’s exercises were being developed to bridge the gap between strength and speed. Lorne Goldberg reveals more:
...these exercises were simply called jump training. By the late 70’s jump training was termed plyometrics by American track coach Fred Wilt. In Latin terms this means ‘measurable increases’. This type of training was made famous by Eastern European athletes, who were continually beating North American athletes at most strength and speed events. Through the late 70’s and 80’s plyometrics has become an integral part of any sports conditioning program.

Plyometrics helps bridge the gap between strength and speed by enhancing neuromuscular physiology. This is demonstrated by improved power. In all true plyometric movements, there is eccentric loading and stretch placed on the muscle. A perfect example would be a hockey player racing for a puck to prevent an icing call. As he touches the puck he begins his stop so he does not crash into the boards. This stopping movement will initiate the eccentric load on the player’s quadriceps. To stay in play the player immediately pushes-off to skate back into position. This push-off is the concentric contraction. This resulting concentric contraction is much more powerful, compared to if the player just pushed-off from a dead stop. This muscle response occurs with no conscious thought on the player’s part. Without this response, the player’s knee would buckle and he would collapse. The above response is a result of the muscle spindles, also known as intrafusal fibres, which lie parallel to the myofibrils of the muscle. When the player initiates the stopping movement on the ice, the muscle spindle senses the stretch and load on the muscle. It then receives a message from the brain to initiate a stretch reflex (myotatic reflex). The result is push-off or concentric contraction. This stretch reflex works in the same manner as the knee jerk you would experience when tapped with a rubber hammer.

When a player strength trains his muscles generally get strong, not necessarily quicker and more powerful. Plyometric exercise helps to bridge the gap between strength and speed by developing the stretch reflex, which in turn will help in developing a more powerful muscle.

Geez, I think I prefer chasing gophers on Saskatchewan's open prairie.
It's the right team, but how the hell did I get here!

Take the Which NHL Star Are You? Quiz
With all those quizes, it had to happen sooner of later:

Take the Which NHL Star Are You? Quiz

Wednesday, December 11, 2002

Marketing the NHL: LCS has some important ideas on marketing hockey and the NHL, following in the footsteps of the National Basketball Association's rise to power in the nineties. My favorite one is this:
Fair or not, some biases are currently working against hockey players. Even now, in the 21st century, the public's image of a hockey player is a large, oafish Neanderthal with a stick who has five teeth in his head and cannot string as many words together in a sentence. Granted, many hockey players are missing some teeth, but most put in fake teeth when they aren't playing. And besides, anyone who claims that hockey players are eyesores and uncharismatic clearly have not seen the wives and girlfriends that hockey players snag: Janet Jones, Carol Alt, Pamela Anderson, Anna Kournikova, that older sister from Full House now that she's all grown up and stuff. The list goes on and on. If hot, leggy supermodels find hockey players and LCS Hockey correspondent attractive, then there has to be something marketable there that Madison Avenue can exploit. At this point, the only way to refute old stereotypes is for the viewing public to actually see hockey players acting in commercials. Unlike Gary Thorne at the beach, the more exposure these players can get, the better.

Tuesday, December 10, 2002

William Southmayd M.D., graduate of Harvard Medical School, writes in his book, “Sports Health”, that sixty percent of all significant knee injuries include at least a possible tear of the Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL), one of the two ligaments inside the joint itself. In 30 percent of cases of torn knee cartilage, there is also damage to the ACL.

The most common knee injury in hockey is a tear, whether partial (grades 1 and 2) or complete (grade 3), of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). Why does the injury occur so often in hockey? Dr. Southmayd believes it stems from the anatomy of the knee itself. When the knee is completely straight, all the ligaments are tight and the leg becomes a straight stick. There is no side-to-side, front-to-back, or twisting motion available when the knee is in this position. However, upon bending the knee ever so slightly, play develops between the femur and the tibia.

James D. Key, M.D., evaluated the demands made on the knee with various sports. He evaluated those demands through seven different categories. Bending, straightening, angles from side to side, slides, rolls, rotates, and is subjected to high external forces. Although football places greater strain on the knee in the bending and straightens categories, hockey is equally or more demanding on the knee in the remaining five categories and out paces basketball, soccer and skiing for knee demand.

Players on skates are more susceptible to this kind of injury because the skates lock their legs into a forward position, making it more difficult for a player to turn and absorb the blow somewhere other than the knee. Although hockey is less strenuous on the knee compared to other contact sports because of the decreased friction, Dr. LaPrade explains that contact is the main problem in knee injuries.

Says Dr. Robert LaPrade, of the University of Minnesota, “The knee is never as good as what God gave us. It is always at an increased risk.”

Another interesting aspect of ACL injuries is the role anatomy plays, especially for women.

According to National Collegiate Athletic Association data, female athletes injure the ACL at a rate six times higher than men do; yet, most women professional athletes and weekend warriors do not have a clue about their increased susceptibility.
The numbers are astounding. Over 1.4 million women have been afflicted in the past ten years alone — twice the rate of the previous decade. In the last 15 years ankle sprains have decreased by 86% while knee ligament injuries have increased by 172%!

Rebecca Lobo of the WNBA, who spent 15 months recovering from an ACL tear warns, "Women may be more susceptible to ACL injuries than men because of our anatomical construction. Although the studies are still underway, the medical community seems to be focusing on the more prominent femur (i.e. thighbone) angle in females. This difference in anatomy causes greater stress on female knee joints and increases our risk for ACL injuries".

So for parents wanting their children, boys or girls, to play hockey, should they carefully consider the potential of injury? The answer is of course, because the injury, as well as traumatic at the time can also continue to nag otherwise healthy adults for the rest of their lives with the onset of arthritis. Dr. Southmayd’s book compiled data on the sports injuries sustained every year by four million children under the age of 15 . The major culprit is, by percentage, playground equipment and by actual number, bicycling!

And the sport that is toughest on the knees, by a long stretch, is skiing in which 25.3% of participates, according to Dr. Southmayd, will sustain a knee injury.

At this writing, on the current NHL injury list, concussions far exceed ligament damage as a reason for sidelining players. Drake Berehowsky (ACL) and Jean-Luc Grand-Pierre (MCL) are out of action until February and January respectively. However, nine NHLers are sitting out because of concussion.
Flyers-Sharks swap d-men: The San Jose Sharks traded defenseman Marcus Ragnarsson to the Philadelphia Flyers on Friday for defenseman Dan McGillis.

Monday, December 09, 2002

On October 10, 2002, the Rangers beat Carolina 4-1 despite incuring nine penalties in the game. Last year the New Yorkers ranked last in the NHL in killing penalties.What caught my attention was a comment Marl Messier made."We don't want to have to kill off (nine) penalties every night. We want to stay out of the penalty box," Messier said. "We're going to have to do a better job of that. All of our penalty-killing worked well together. The rotation was excellent. We weren't giving up a lot of time with the puck and when we did, (Mike) Richter made the saves for us."
So what does he mean the "rotation" was excellent?

The main purpose of penalty killing is to deny the opposition scoring chances from the slot area. Bjorn Kinding of Sweden did an interesting study examing the origin of power play goals. He found that about 30% of goals came from plays originating behind the goal line. Plays starting from the half boards account for about 10% of goals and 60% of goals come from shots or shot passes from the point. Bjorn noted that passes from behind the goal line and from the point only need to beat 1 defender, while plays from the half boards must beat at least 2 defenders. These results are important when a coach decides where he is going to give up the 2-on-1, or where to create pressure or simply to contain, when his team is killing penalties. Many teams use a high press that pressures the puck at the half boards and tries to force the player to pass to the point, where the point player is pressured immediately. Pressure the puck when it is moved from below the goal line to half boards and rotate from the high press when the puck is passed below the goal line. The defenseman in front pressures the puck below the goal line. The middle forward covers the player in front while the other forward slides to cover both points. The defenseman who has pressured at the half boards skates hard to the front of the net and ties up the stick of the attacker in front. The forwards go back to their original positions and the defense has switched sides.

Hockeyschoolonline insightfully examines the game theory concept of rotation in penalty killing:

Penalty killing basically stands for; "while at a numerical disadvantage, keep the opposition from accessing good scoring lanes and locations while running off time on the penalty clock". The advantage of a "power play" is that it automatically provides the offensive team with a two on one opportunity at the onset. A power play breakout is designed to get the puck into the offensive zone either by carry or dump-in and keep or gain possession of the puck. The power play itself is designed to move the puck into a position that best utilizes offensive strengths, either individually or tactically and capitalizes on the weakness of the defending team, either skill-wise or positionally by creating two-on-one opportunities that open up quality scoring or passing lanes.

Penalty kill: Key questions:

1 - What breakout tactic do they use; Speed, Pick, Stretch, Gain center line, etc

2 - What preferred method do they utilize to gain offensive zone; Carry, Pass, Dump-in, etc.

3 - What part of the offensive zone do they try to utilize; High (point-"umbrella" for example), Down Low, Side wall to back-side, hi-slot, wrap-a-round, etc?

4 - What is their preferred method of creating two on ones; Single pass - drive, Two pass, Carry and Support.

5 - What is their preferred offensive tactic; Shot from point/screen-go to the net, Cross pass and one-time shot, Support low and back door pass, Corner draw and slot pass/shot, Go to the net, etc.

6 - Do they focus on a key player; Hard point shooting defenseman, Off-wing one time shooter, Play-maker down low, etc.

7 - Do they have confidence with the puck (able to control under pressure).

8 - Are they a good passing unit (keep the passes clean - no rims or bouncing passes).

Upon analysis of an opponents power play using the above information we can either assume one of two postures; positional or pressure.

Positional penalty killing is based on numerical systems such as 1-2-1, 2-2, or a 1-1-2. as shown below.

A - The 1-2-1 system is to eliminate one attack lane to the net, protect the seam, eliminate hi slot options but is weak down low unless D-man is good at blocking passing lanes.

B - The 2-2 system or standard box is the most common with players keeping tight formation and moving in quarter zones as shown below.

C - The 1-1-2 system which provides double coverage down low and in the slot and eliminates the shot from the seam. This system takes more practice since players switch often. This is a high pressure system down low and positional high. Low Rotation between Defence and low forward is shown below.