In my short hockey career, I’ve achieved some things that I will never forget. Scoring my first professional goal, helping the Under-20 Coventry team win the 2017 English championship and, of course, receiving Man of the Match honors in the 2017 Under-20 UK National Championship. However, as if training with a qualified U.S. coach in his homeland wasn’t enough, I was able to meet a former NHL captain during my trip. The xChallenge was an excellent time for me, as it really put a bow on my time in the States.
This entire trip was one for my personal record books.
xHockey Performance Center
A few days after visiting New York City, Lee and I left Delaware again. Only this time, we headed to Scotch Plains, N.J., where xHockeyProducts was holding the xChallenge, an event where CCM supplied players with their latest equipment to try out at the xHockey Performance Center.
You’re probably used to the running theme of awe-struck Brit sees hockey in how it is meant to be by now, so why stop now?
xHockey Performance is a hockey paradise. When I walked in and saw the stickhandling station, shot-speed setup and everything else, I was instantly in love with the idea and I knew it would be difficult to leave at the end of the day.
My first introduction to the brains behind xHockey Performance was with Ben Shear, an athletic trainer who has worked with NHL players in his long career. We had a short 30-minute introduction workout together, where he focused on my core and helped explain how important core training is for professional hockey players. He showed me some workouts that I have never seen before in my life; I felt foolish doing them, but I could instantly tell they were doing the job.
One of these felt like a salsa dance (yes, you read that correctly), and it was just … odd. But I could feel the impact it was making and I definitely appreciated it when I woke up sore the next morning.
Luckily, Lee was able to capture some video of my workouts, as well as other moments from the xChallenge.
Single Leg Squat w/ Lateral Lunge on the Turbo Ramp
This was an interesting workout I was tasked with once we entered the gym. One of my feet was on a slope and the other was on a flat platform and I had a dumbbell. While I was squatting, there was an elastic cord pulling me down the slope; I was told to shoot back up. I had visions of myself getting pulled down the slope and it making a complete mess of myself. It was a difficult workout, but I can see how it gets results.
Squats on the K Box
This worked on leg strength. The harder I pulled up, the harder it pulled me back down and I had to resist that. Not easy.
I somewhat felt like a puppet, as I was attached to some elastic pulleys. I had to punch one way and contort my lower body the other way. At first, I really struggled with this routine, but Ben grabbed an exercise ball and put it between my legs. I was told to squeeze it, and, somehow, it managed to separate my upper and lower body, allowing me to complete the workout. I don’t fully understand how the mechanics of that works, but it did. Ask a scientist (or Ben).
Side Plank on Redcord Station
Next up, we headed to a platform that looked much like an operating table. I placed my legs into a rope that was hanging from the top and lifted myself to work like a side plank; I lasted about 20 seconds before crumbling in some pain. That was a tough one.
Note: for a breakdown of the challenges at the xHockey Performance Center, visit the xHockey Performance site.
Of the people at the xChallenge, we were split into a few groups to complete the tasks within the xHockey Performance center. I completed the accuracy challenge with a perfect 5-out-of-5 score within 10-12 seconds (Ray Bourque would be proud).
I then moved onto the hardest shot challenge — my excuse for my score is I don’t usually shoot without my skates on. I still was one of the hardest shooters within my group.
Next up was the Dangle Zone. I let the younger people in my group go first, and they set some pretty nice times. However, I again managed the best score out of anyone in my group, so that went well.
The Game Changer came next and that one messed with my brain. You have to look up at the screen and down at the puck some times, as well, which can be disorienting. The first time around, I completed about three scores before deciding to wait for another try because I completely mucked it up. I then put up a score of 22, which isn’t bad.
Once the competition was over, everyone in attendance was able to just play around with the CCM gear. I picked up a few different sticks and tried them out. Any hockey player knows that when you try out a different brand than you’re used to, it’s a difficult task to complete anything correctly. With no offense to CCM, which is a fine hockey company, this confirmed even more to me that I am a Bauer player.
Although this wasn’t me, I do want to share a video of a 14-year-old who set the all-time record for fastest time in the Dangle Zone.
His 5.9 score was barely better than mine at 6.1. It was truly an impressive display and I’m fine with swallowing my pride on this one.
Unfortunately, I was bested by Lee in a hardest shot matchup. I shot at 65.7 mph while Lee mustered a 75.0 mph shot. Lee will agree that shooting without skates on is more difficult than it sounds.
Bryce Salvador, though, made us look like chumps, blasting an 80-mph cannon when demonstrating how it works.
Speaking with a Former NHL Captain
After the event was over, I was able to speak with Salvador 1-on-1 for the first time. He is a solid guy; he treats you like a friend the first time you meet him.
I will admit that I didn’t follow his career too closely before, but I can see his accomplishments as a player. He was a sixth round draft pick (138th overall) in 1996; despite this, he played 13 NHL seasons, served as a captain of the New Jersey Devils and even appeared in a Stanley Cup Final. He went toe-to-toe with the league’s toughest, like Brad May and Chris Simon, and has his jersey retired with his junior team (the Lethbridge Hurricanes of the WHL). He was a guy who worked hard to get to the pinnacle of the game, and he seems to be continuing that trend in the business world.
There’s a lot I can learn from him. I plan to continue a relationship with Bryce, as well as Ben, as my hockey career continues.
Taking My Experiences Home
The flight back was pretty relaxing. Lee ran me through the shift simulator right before my flight (which can be seen at the bottom of my second post), which made me pretty tired. I fell asleep as we were crossing the Atlantic; when I opened my eyes again, we were on the other side of the ocean. That’s about an eight-hour nap!
I also knew I was going home when the flight didn’t offer coffee, but tea. I realized I did miss home when that happened.
All of the work I did, all of the people I met and all the places I saw while in the U.S. was an eye-opening experience. I knew coming into it that I would walk away with a wealth of training knowledge, but never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be coming home with tales of big-city living and NHL glory. This is something I hope to do every summer for the foreseeable future.
A friend asked me what was the biggest preconceived notion about Americans that turned out to be false? As I stated in my first post, I am a fan of hot weather, since summers in Peterborough only last about two weeks. I just assumed that everyone in the States love the heat they get; they don’t! Everyone complains! This is something that I guess I will never understand unless I decide to live in the U.S.
I was also asked if I accomplished everything I wanted to. Before I arrived in the U.S., I had my own workout regime. I always struggled to complete them, but since returning home last week, I have no problems with them. This was a fruitful trip for me in every facet.
I check in with my club in the middle of August and will be playing preseason games about a month after that. Sometime after the season begins in October, I plan to check back in with Everything Hockey and let everyone know how my training has shaped me as a player. My plan was to become a bit more lean, but mostly to improve my stickhandling game; I think I have passed both of those, thanks to my friend Lee, as well as Bryce, Ben and everyone else I met in this journey.
Thank you to everyone who took the time to read these posts. If you’re ever in England, come to an NIHL game and see the Coventry Blaze play! Maybe you can be the judge on if my summer training made me a more complete player …
If you have any questions that you would like answered, please contact me on any of my social media accounts or by email!
From Across the Pond
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