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Pre-Game Routine

Having a set routine before each game you play can help you focus more and get into the zone easier. By not having a routine most of your mental energy will be spent thinking over what to do before the game, rushing and forgetting things. I found over the years that by having a routine that my performance on the rink has significantly improved. And as each year goes by I continue to refine my process.

My routine prior to a game starts the night before with a full night of restful sleep. Sleep is what is going to let your body repair and recover from the few days before and help give you the energy you need for the game. From the time I get up till dinner time my focus is eating as healthy as I can and staying as hydrated as I can. Fast food is going to slow you down, make you feel sluggish, and could upset your stomach in the middle of a game. When it comes to endurance sports such as hockey and running, hydration is key. If your body does not have enough water you will lose energy rapidly.

Similar to the food I ate during the beginning and middle of the day, for dinner I also try to eat a healthy meal. I tend to go with something such as grilled chicken with pasta. My goal is to try to eat about two hours before my first game so that I can digest properly. After dinner I get my water bottle ready and then move on to getting myself and my equipment ready.

I start by getting all of my gear into my hockey bag. I even have a routine for that. The first piece of equipment into my bag are my leg pads followed by my skates and goalie cup. On the other side of the bag goes my blocker, then my glove and neck guard. I finish up with my chest protector on top of my leg pads, my pants over my blocker and glove, and then my mask sitting inside my pants with my jersey. Once my equipment is ready to go I throw my contacts in, get dressed and then head to the rink.

Typically I show up to the rink about an hour or a little bit more before the game starts. First thing I do is get my equipment out of the bag and laid out in the same order every time in the locker room. I put my leg pads and skates on the floor, pants and goalie cup on the bench with my chest protector and neck guard next to it, and then my blocker and glove under the bench, with my mask in my hockey bag till game time.

Once my equipment is laid out I practice a few hand-eye coordination drills such as juggling or putting on my glove and throw a tennis ball at the wall trying to catch it. Before putting on my gear I spend at least 10 minutes going through my regular stretch routine but only hold each stretch for no more than 20 seconds. Next step is to get my gear on, which as you have guessed by now I have a routine for that too.

Here is my order for putting on my gear:

  • Goalie cup
  • Pants
  • Right skate with right toe tie and right leg pad
  • Left skate with left toe tie and left leg pad
  • Neck guard
  • Chest protector (no arms yet)
  • Suspenders and tying chest protector to pants
  • Arms of chest protector
  • Jersey
  • Mask
  • Blocker
  • Glove
  • Stick

With my gear on I throw my water bottle into my glove, grab my stick and head out to the waiting area. I use the waiting area to practice my angles, telescoping, post to post slides, etc… This allows me to get better warmed up for the game since the pre-game warmup is only five minutes long. I use the back of a wall as my crossbar and pick out different landmarks around me to grab my angles.

During the pre-game warmup (and for every game I play that night) I drop my water bottle on top of the net and skate over to the goal line just below the right face-off circle. I go through a series of four different quick stretches, then I do a few kick saves in the butterfly position, and finish by doing three consecutive standard butterfly blocking saves. Last but not least I head into my crease and take warmup shots.

For me having a routine works. I am able to focus on the task at hand instead of worrying about getting ready. There are times when I do not get enough sleep or eat a bad meal or do not get the opportunity to show up early. Do I have a bad game because of it? No. Even though my routine appears to be very strict, I am aware of the fact that things do not always work out the way you want them to, I accept change, and I am flexible. When things do not work out as planned I do what I can and go out there and still give 120%.

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