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From water skis to weight lifting

Off-season training has come a long way in the last 30 years

Tuesday, 04.10.2012 / 2:35 PM / News
By Cory Wright
For Butch Goring and the Islanders of the 1980’s, the offseason had a distinct flavor to it. Goring posted up at his lakeside cottage in Manitoba, cleared his mind daily with 18 to 36 holes of golf and strutted his stuff on water skis. He remained active enough, playing in a summer hockey league, but as far as training, that’s what camp was for.

“Training camp was very much more to get in shape,” Goring said. “Guys didn’t do a lot in the offseason, it was more to rest your body, rest yourself mentally. You didn’t have your own personal trainers. No one talked about nutrition.”

He said that he never fell too far out of shape or came into camp heavy, but his summer didn’t include lifting weights, riding the bike or sculpting his core.
Islanders players and prospects work out during an informal training session at Nassau Coliseum in 2011.

“I played in the summer league a couple of times a week, just to maintain a little bit of feel for the puck and conditioning,” Goring said. “As far as what they do today, I never did any of those things.”

It’s a far cry from how today’s Islanders approach offseason training. They take some time to unwind after a long grind, but train hard during the summer, armed with the latest techniques, programs, trainers and nutrition guides.

“It’s a whole different world training-wise,” Matt Martin said. “The training department has come such a long way.

“Nutrition is probably the most important thing. You have to work hard in the gym, but if you aren’t eating the right things or fueling your body correctly, it’ll break down.”

But that doesn’t always mean that it’s a clear path when navigating proper nutrition.

“Things change all the time,” he said. “One day milk’s bad for you, then the next day it’s good for you.”

During the dynasty era, Goring didn’t adhere to a strict dieting regiment, but sports-nutrition also wasn’t as highly researched as it is today.
Nowadays you have to be in shape long before training camp because that’s really your tryout. If you don’t train during the summer, you’ll lose your job. - Matt Martin

“Outside of [game-day meals], no one really paid that much attention to what you ate,” Goring said. “We didn’t eat very often right after games and there wasn’t the big push on hydration like there is today. There was more, ‘do what you think you need to do’ without anyone really laying out the schedule of what you should eat and shouldn’t eat.”

As a secure player on the dynasty squad, Goring didn’t have to worry about his spot on the team at each training camp. The same could not be said of bubble players and he noticed they were more inclined to come to training camp in better shape.

Now, with a shorter training camp (the first Isles exhibition game came seven days after the start of camp), coming into camp out of shape will likely cost a player his spot.

“Nowadays you have to be in shape long before training camp because that’s really your tryout,” Martin said. “It’s far more competitive. If you don’t train during the summer, you’ll lose your job.”

There lies the dilemma for veteran players who have to balance their time between healing injuries and training hard for that extra step on the young blood.

“As you get older, it’s taking care of any injuries you’ve had during the year,” Marty Reasoner said. “Mentally, you need a nice little break to regroup and come back and feel confident in yourself.”

To the current players, offseason training is second nature and most can’t envision a hockey-life without it. But the four-time Stanley Cup champion has a message for today’s players; it’s okay to take a break, both physically and mentally.

“I really believe that the body needs a rest physically,” he said to avoid injuries and develop non-hockey muscles. “I also think you need a mental break, I really do. I think you need to be able to get away from hockey and think about something else."

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