Friday, November 18, 2005


Morning Skates: A Useless Practice?

How often do you think about the morning skates the players take? Probably never.

ESPN's Terry Frei, however, brings this rather outdated practice into light and the reasons why it should be scrapped. (Story Link)

It's madness.

It's the single stupidest thing in hockey -- except, perhaps, for Sean Avery's mouth.

It's outdated, unnecessary and counterproductive.

The first coach to have the pucks to junk the ridiculous ritual will give his team an immediate advantage.

The reason it will take such pucks is that it would provide one more outlet for second-guessing a coach if and when things don't go well. But it still would be the right thing to do.

It is the morning skate, the light workout on the ice the morning of the game. First the home team, then the visiting team.

It's nothing particularly strenuous, of course, and any strategic work touching on the night's opponent is cursory.

The evening's scratches and rehabilitating injured, plus the backup goalie, usually stay out longer than the rest. (In recent seasons, the shinny involving those players and assistant coaches could be more entertaining than the NHL game that night.)

But the point is: Though some veterans are allowed to consider the morning skates optional, most, and sometimes all, players have to waste energy on game day.

Some teams hold their morning skates at suburban practice facilities, usually cutting down travel time for the players.

Regardless of the location, though, the realities are the same. The players put on the equipment. They skate, they sweat, they shower, and then they either head home or back to the hotel, and before they know it, it's time to head to the arena for the game.
He goes on a rather lengthy look into how the practice got into common usage (blame the 1972 Russians, again) and why it should be abolished.

I agree 100% with Terry, which may be a first between me and any ESPN columnist not named Buccigross.

The players already have a thorough warm up before the game, so why go through the trouble of having a morning skate that does nothing but take up a lot of time and perhaps tire the players out even more? Given the monstrous travel schedule the Western teams (especially Vancouver) have to endure throughout the season, why don't coaches simply let their players relax the morning before the game? As Frei points out, today's players are in supreme condition already and aren't going to just use the extra time to party or recover from hangovers (a few might, but not many).

One of the biggest questions asked about the differences in the sport over the decades is the general conditioning level. It's not even close. The modern players win in a rout. They still know how to have a good time, but nowhere near as often, or with the vehemence, of their predecessors. Charter travel, which allows teams to depart from road cities right after the game, eliminates the opportunities for "winding down."

So there's no reason -- none -- to have morning skates. Even making them optional presents the problem of peer pressure or making marginal players think they have to show up to show their dedication. The ideal? If the scratches are predetermined, they can skate with the players who are rehabbing, whether at the practice facility or the arena.

Exactly. Those who don't take part in these morning skates can easily be labeled lazy even though 'smart' might be a better term.

Terry's article is definitely worth a read, and it's not often you see ESPN bring a minor issue out of the woodwork and make some real hay with it.

Morning skates serve no purpose for the home team, but are critical (necessary) for the visiting team. It is important that they feel at ease in that rink, come gametime. Check out the board ricochet tendencies. etc. Especially now that with the current scheduling a player may only visit some rinks at 3 year intervals. IE, the bye year, the game in your rink year, and the visit their rink year.
It might not be reason enough to have them but morning skates are incredibly popular with media types like Frei. Local and national media personalities go to the skates because the locker rooms are open when they're over. It gives the media time to interview players without them being as rushed as they are right after a game. They're a huge part of media access. Take them away and you'd either have to set up interview time a few hours before the games or you;d see way fewer quotes and stories that had anything more to say than "Well, we just played/didn't play a full 60 minutes. That's what happens when you do/don't give 110% every shift."

I'm planning on following up on Frei's story with my organization to see what the PR guys, layers and coaches think about it.
I have no idea who this Terry Frei is, but I can probably guess that this person has never played hockey before. (I reserve the right to have guessd wrong.)

Hockey players NEED morning skate. It's a practice routine that keeps the players in shape and focused on what it is they do for a living. But it's not even limited to just the players. ANYONE who has skated for recreation or for figure skating knows what dedication goes into their craft.

I even know about the need to get to the ice. It's like a fish to water. I'd skate every morning if I still had the opportunity to do so. To the people who simply love it... it's in their blood.
As I wrote to one mailing list - I dont think this case should be reduced just to quote "ban morning skates". Pro-sport coaching -- despite some unliterated ones:) -- is too complicated science to talk about it in short quotes. Do you think that if it would be so easy and bring so many benefits, no coach will generally avoid them since 1972? Let's leave this discussion to people, wo are much more involved. It doesnt matter which methods your coach uses, if your team wins every night.
and those idiot batting practices and taking grounders?!? IDOCY. waste of effort, only the Royals though batting practice fastballs during the actual GAME. andthe players then have to SHOWER and DRIVE,snooze fest!!

andwhat is it with the football players running wind sprints on the side lines and throwing pre game and the like?


and shooting hoops before the game!?

holy cow!!! no wonder shaq can't hit a free throw. his arm is dog tired!!!

and boxers breaking a sweat before boxing?!?! BEJABBERS!!

why practice during the non game days?!? doesn't that take energy and showering?!?

and just think all green earth reasons NOT ever practicing contains!! less washloads, less hot showers, less driving. shorter games unfettered with scoring!

wow. thankfully there are some GOOD journalist out there protecting the hockey public from stupidity.
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