So did any of you catch the Lightning vs. Islanders game on Monday? If you didn't it was akin to a counter top of freshly caught seafood confronting Dan Aykroyd and his Super Bass-O-Matic 76. (Ask mom and dad or see clip below)
It was impressive display of control and strength by the Tampa Bay club. Conversely, New York looked like they were still looking for their lost luggage at the airport.
Many of you may be asking, how do I elevate my game to such a level? It is a legitimate question and one that requires some serious dedication in executing its answer.
Coach Littler thought it was a worthy topic too. So he dug up this article on the Tampa Bay Lightning's Victor Hedman and the training regimen he undertakes to be one NHLers on the ice.
BEHIND THE WORKOUTS THAT WERE A ‘GAME-CHANGER’ FOR THE LIGHTNING’S VICTOR HEDMAN
By Joe Smith Aug 17, 2020
Victor Hedman was at a crossroads in the spring of 2013.
The Lightning defenseman was 22 years old, had just wrapped up his fourth NHL season and was staring at another long offseason in his hometown of Ornskoldsvik, Sweden. He had established himself as a mainstay on the Lightning’s blueline, averaging more than 20 minutes per game, and was part of a run to the Eastern Conference final in his second season. But two playoff-less seasons had followed.
Hedman, the No. 2 pick in 2009, wanted more.
His humble paper-mill hometown produced NHL stars like Peter Forsberg, Markus Naslund and the Sedin twins. They were Olympic medalists, Stanley Cup champions, future Hall of Famers. They were his heroes, his neighbors, his friends. Now they were his peers, so it’s no surprise Hedman dreamed big. He called friend and former NHLer Hans Jonsson, who suggested he meet with Swedish trainer Joakim Dettner, who ran the Scandinavian Top Athletic Center in Ronneby, located in southeastern Sweden. A one-hour flight from Ovik to Stockholm, plus an hourlong connection, and Hedman was sitting in Dettner’s office. The trainer asked the 6-foot-6 Swede his goal.
“I want to be the best in the world.”
Dettner, 53, didn’t think Hedman was being too bold. He admired him, so he sat back in his blue swivel chair and listened. Hedman talked about his previous training regimen (mostly workouts designed by the Lightning) and what he hoped to accomplish in future sessions. When Hedman was finished, Dettner took him through his background as a trainer of top athletes. While the trainer talked, Hedman’s eyes surveyed the room, especially the simple, wall-mounted shelving that was bursting with books and binders on everything from strength training and motor control to human physiology. When they finished their conversation, they toured Dettner’s training ground, just a few feet outside his carpeted office. The gym’s floor was hardwood and it was filled with free weights, a variety of machines and a green, two-lane 25-meter track. Plush, green trees hid the sunlight peeking through the windows.
When Hedman left, Dettner was convinced the young defenseman had his head in the right place.
“It’s an asset to aim higher than the opponents,”
Dettner said. “He needed to and still needs to think like that, to ask the right questions, hire the best coaches and really put the extra effort in. If you can’t think it and say it, you probably can’t do it.
“And he did it!”
Victor Hedman, left, with Joakim Dettner and Lightning strength coach Mark Lambert. (Courtesy Joakim Dettner)
Hedman, 29, is in that best-in-the-world conversation now. He’s been a Norris Trophy finalist for four straight years, the first to do that since Hall of Famer and fellow Swede Nicklas Lidstrom. Hedman, who won the Norris in 2018, boasts a tantalizing blend of size, skating and hockey skill. The Norris favorite this season, Predators defenseman Roman Josi, calls him “the most complete defenseman in the league” who “could win this award every year.”
“Victor has really established himself as a top ‘D’ in the league,” Lidstrom told The Athletic. “He’s a workhorse that gets better the more he plays in the games, and that’s a skill, too. Not everyone can handle big minutes and still be on top of their game. It took him a few years to figure out how to be effective and a two-way defenseman, but now he can be a shutdown defenseman and at the same time run the power play and contribute offensively.”
Hedman’s skating ability is his greatest gift, with his effortless stride and endless energy making him a force at both ends of the ice.
“He’ll literally lead the rush and be below the goal line, and on offense he’ll beat the other team back,” said former Lightning teammate Adam Hall. “The other team will have a 2-on-1 and he’ll beat them back. It doesn’t look like he’s even trying. He’s got such a powerful stride, it doesn’t look like he’s out of breath — ever.”
Hedman said he doesn’t get to this point without his star-studded team. He’s been mentored by many coaches, including current Stars coach Rick Bowness, who says Hedman is “like a son to me.” There have been stabilizing veteran partners like fellow Swedes Mattias Ohlund and Anton Stralman.
“He’s No. 1 for me,” Bowness said. “His size, skating ability, his skills. And his compete. He’s separated himself from everyone. He’s a dominating player on both ends of the ice. And I’ve always said, nobody skates like him. He can control the game, that’s how good he is.”
But Hedman wasn’t always this way. He said the way he transformed his offseason workout regimen seven years ago was a game-changer for him. He overhauled his workouts, which were tailored to him by Dettner.
Those workouts focused on explosiveness, quick feet and agility and helped Hedman more than keep up with a game that’s gotten faster every year. He’s just as strong in his last shift as his first, including in Tuesday’s herculean 57 minute, 38 second performance in the Lightning’s five overtime victory.
“In the beginning, it was tough for me,” Hedman said. “I didn’t really have a strength coach back home so I did a program by myself handed to me by the Lightning. … The biggest key for me, being a bigger guy, was I needed to keep working all the time on being explosive in my skating ability, coordination. The bigger thing was the foot speed and acceleration, and that was a huge part of why I turned it around. It made me better.”
Dettner studied to become a doctor of naprapathy, a development from chiropractic medicine since the early 20th century. The goal is to find the causes behind disfunction and then treat and facilitate the recuperative and regenerative processes of the body.
He played hockey growing up, but mostly focused on bandy (like land hockey on ice) and several other sports from his mid-teens on. He’s studied different kinds of training from all over the world, including teachings in Russia, Hungary and the Czech Republic. “The player is the method,” he said. “I’m the enzyme to take them where they want to go.”
Dettner works with several NHL players, like the Sabres’ Victor Olofsson, Coyotes captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson and the Ducks’ Hampus Lindholm, and always starts out with a baseline test (STAC Screening) before creating a custom program. They do screening on flexibility, mobility, midsection recruitment and local integration, core stability and strength, and power and sprint agility tests. There’s also the STAC 300-meter test (six 50-meter shuttle runs done four times).
With Hedman, as talented as he was, there was work to do.
“He had a not-so-good midsection, not-so-good core stability, not-so-good integration of different body parts, and lacked anaerobic repeatability,” Dettner said.
Dettner developed a specific schedule with 13 integrated programs. And Jonsson, Hedman’s good friend and a former NHL defenseman, ran his workouts in their hometown of Ovik, most of the time on the track or on gravel trails. Jonsson, 47, played four seasons with the Penguins (1999-2003), including with Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr. Jonsson said Hedman is one of the hardest-working players he’s ever seen.
“He said he wanted to be the best,” Jonsson said. “Be stronger, faster, more power. Every workout, he does everything 100 percent.”
Jonsson, who is a STAC Elite Trainer, said the key part of Hedman’s summer program is COD (change of direction) and RAT (reaction agility training) and RAT mirroring agility (mirroring the opponents’ agility movement pattern). “With short shifts with high intensive action, like it is in a hockey game,” Jonsson said.
“And after every shift, you recover to the same level the next shift. Your speed and strongness should be almost the same in the first shift of the first period as in the last shift in the last period.”
The outdoor track that Hedman trains on during the summer months. (Joe Smith / For The Athletic)
Hedman’s summer workouts begin a couple weeks after the Lightning’s season ends, whether that is in April or June. He goes through two-hour off-ice sessions five days a week, split between upper body (Monday and Thursday), lower body/core (Tuesday and Friday), with Wednesday and Saturday mandatory rest days. The Tuesday lower-body workout is focused on maximum strength (squats and weights), with Thursday’s on explosive technical agility, anaerobic endurance and repeatable short clustered intervals. Hedman will usually begin his on-ice workouts on Aug. 1, though he didn’t have that option during the four-month NHL shutdown, as there was no ice available in Ovik (the closest open rink was a five-hour drive). So Hedman stuck with the off-ice regimen until he returned to Tampa June 24.
That quick acceleration that Hedman now has on the ice, it started with improvements he made on the track in Ovik. One of the tests Dettner uses is a 10-meter dash, where Hedman has gone from 1.73 seconds in 2013 to 1.61 last year. That’s .12 in seven years. It may not seem like much, but Dettner puts it in hockey terms.
“From blue line to blue line, that’s more than a club length,” Dettner said. “That’s why opponents are so frustrated. He’s as good at accelerating and change of direction as really good 5-foot-11 players.”
One of the best drills for that is the STAC 10-5-10 agility track. You run 10 meters forward, turn around in a 180 and go 5 meters back, then turn 180 again and go 10 meters forward. It’s a total of 25 meters. Hedman would do it four times in a row. From there, Dettner can track patterns in acceleration, change of direction, stability, all planes of motion and a total time.
There’s a 15-second rest in between, with the reps showing power repeatability.
Dettner said the fourth rep should be the worst one. Hedman went from 5.60-5.68 seconds when he started to now 5.25 seconds. “He’s doing the same time as the 185-pound, shorter, faster guys,” Dettner said. “He has an extreme physique because he trains to be fast and agile like the 5-foot-11 guys and he’s 6-6.”
Dettner said the agility workouts are designed to simulate shift lengths and game-like situations. They don’t run more than 300 meters at a time because then they go over the 60-second barrier of decreasing speed, intensity and more.
“Many strength and conditioning coaches are just putting on volume,” he said.
“‘We have to do more reps, we have to do more training to make you puke.’ That’s just getting people tired. Every year, I want to deliver an upgraded product to (Lightning coach Jon) Cooper. He said, ‘Oh, I didn’t think you could top last year, but you did.'”
Dettner said the primary shifts like, typical track workouts, are in three parts — a sub-10-second drill (like the 5-10-5 sprint), a sub-20-second drill and one that goes 20-50 seconds. For the third part (like the video above), they do a lot of work on mirroring, with two people in the workout. One leads and the second follows. There’s a set of cones put on the track with different changes of direction depending on what path you choose.
“The first guy has three turns, he can round the third cone back to the first cone and up to the fifth cone and then go back for the finish,” Dettner said. “That’s where the RAT training comes in.”
There’s 20 seconds per rep, three reps in a row with 60 seconds of reps, depending on training status.
The longer endurance-type workouts are based on two main sections, focusing on lactic acid energy systems and anaerobic intervals. Occasionally, the athletes do short bursts (15-30 meter maximal tempo runs). For example, there’s a STAC varying 200-meter uphill run with different tempos every time you hit 25 meters. You go 80 percent of max speed the first 25 meters, then 90 percent, 100 percent, then 80 again. Then there’s a varying 300-meter uphill, that changes tempo every 50 meters. In 300 meters, there’s no 100 percent, just 70 percent, 80 percent, 90 percent.
It’s really hard. That’s four sets of three 200-meter tempo sprints uphill. The rep rest periods in between are 3 to 3½ minutes, with athletes like Hedman stopping for 5-10 seconds at the top, slowly walking back down to the bottom, and then it’s 40 seconds left in the total rest. Set rest periods are 4 to 4½ minutes, with rest progression going from a jog back to shorter rest before starting over.
The longest one is a 300-meter shuttle run, an extreme exercise to heighten the ability to do a high tempo through an entire shift. It’s ideal for the faster-paced teams where there’s a lot of acute accelerations at 90-100 percent tempo. “That’s really modern hockey,” Dettner said. “You overcome the opponent.”
So Hedman would do the STAC 300 meters, 6X 50-meter shuttle run, where you can never let your time drop more than 1.5 seconds. So if you do 52 seconds in the first one, you can’t go past 53.5, then 55, then 56.5. You do that 6×50 four times.
“It takes awhile to get it down,” Dettner said. “Even with Victor, he started out with the high 50s and his last one over 60. But at the end of last summer, he was a 53-second guy with 233 pounds. That’s like what (5-foot-11) Victor Olofsson was doing.”
Hedman’s workouts are between 1-2 hours with the focus on the intensity, quality and execution of each drill.
Hedman’s workouts are shorter but more intense, he says. (Courtesy Joakim Dettner)
“Back in the day, you’re pushing yourself for three hours,” Hedman said.
“But it was more about quantity than quality.
This is more about quality and that’s what I have to do as a hockey player. I need to be sharp for 45 seconds or a minute and then recover quickly.
That’s the training we’re focusing on with the short sprints and the more hockey-like training that I’m doing. I think that’s how you should do it.
There’s no reason to go out there and run a 3K. It might make my lungs better, but won’t do me much good on the ice.”
Dettner said they do run up to 7.5K, but it’s still in just 300-meter shifts. And it’s all in tempo, from 80- to 90- to 100-percent tempo for 30 steps and then walk 10 seconds. It’s like dropping the puck and running another 30 steps. Wash, rinse, repeat. Then they run for 500-600 meters with a tempo of from 90-120 seconds, so it’s like playing three shifts with not a lot of whistles.
They do 5K worth of that, rest for 6-8 minutes then finish the other 2½K. The 5K takes around 24 minutes. “So it’s like a fast Swedish game, not an NHL game with all the commercials,” Dettner joked.
I figured that might have been the hardest track drill that Hedman goes through. I was wrong. Hedman said the STAC goalie zoo drill is the one he loathes the most. This is a video of Henrik Nilsson, one of Dettner’s many Swedish pro hockey player clients, doing it.
There are five pairs of cones, set 2.5 meters away from each other. The players basically jump between the cones in a zig-zag, then go over and under the hurdles on each end. The record for this drill is 31, 31, 33, 33, 33 seconds by NHL goalie Anton Forsberg.
“It’s a tough drill,” Hedman said. “It’s a cone over and over for 100 meters, plus there’s hurdles. You zig-zag, curl jump and go over, then come back the same way. It usually takes you about 33, 34, 35 seconds. And you’re gassed after that one. It’s great for not just the lungs and the heart, but the quickness and feet. It’s good for flexibility. You go over and under and, for me, being a big guy, going under the hurdles is not easy.”
Dettner said that the bigger you are, the harder that goalie drill is. “For a big, non-goalie skater guy, this is just an extremely good mobility, speedy, cruel anaerobic exercise,” Dettner said. “Thirty five seconds is good, 39 and above is bad. Victor is nowadays in between 34-35 in his fastest reps. He’s shaved off 5 seconds in the last four years.”
Hedman hits the weights, too, but it’s not to put on a ton of muscle mass. It’s to create that functional strength, power and explosiveness, especially in his legs.
There’s the walking lunges, where smaller players are supposed to be able to do four reps with 100 kilograms (about 220 pounds). Big guys should be around 110 kilos (243 pounds). Hedman can do 120 kilos (265 pounds) four and six times.
Dettner picks up the phone for a FaceTime call and is fittingly in Lightning gear.
He’s wearing a blue Lightning T-shirt. There’s a Tampa Bay hat behind him, and an OEL hat from one of his other high-profile NHL clients, Ekman-Larsson.
“You want a tour?” he asks.
Dettner walks out of his office and into the hardwood-floor gyms. There are several windows on the left that create some natural light, the large green trees provide some shade. There’s a free weight area and machines, large yoga balls and, of course, the 25-meter track (where Hedman originally did his testing seven years ago).
On the wall are jerseys from Dettner’s clients, including Jonsson and, of course, Hedman.
It’s a Lightning road jersey, which Hedman signed, including a message in Swedish: “Joakim. Thanks for all your help! Best wishes, Victor Hedman. 77.”
Hedman was always a talented, driven player, but he’s now one of the best in the world. He saw many areas he could improve following that change in training in the spring of 2013. His point totals went from the mid-20s to 55 in 2013-14, a career-high 72 in 2016-17 (he tallied 55 this year). Hedman’s Corsi-for percentage (percentage of shots while he’s on ice) went from 48 to 53.9 and remained in the low to mid-50s ever since. His point share, the estimated number of points contributed by an individual player, went from 3.0 in 2012-13 to 9.0 the next year, then three straight years of 10 or above from 2015-18 (with a career-high of 12).
Dettner visited Hedman in Tampa in February, watched a couple of home games and connected with the team’s strength coach Mark Lambert. Dettner felt proud to watch his most high-profile client playing some of the best hockey of his career. “I remember Cooper once said that ‘Victor Hedman must have extra oxygen tubes because when the game is over, he had three more shifts in him,'” Dettner said. “That was a very specific training for him.”
The day Dettner and I spoke on FaceTime was the same day Hedman was announced a Norris Trophy finalist for the fourth straight year. On a conference call that afternoon, Hedman said his summer training had “a lot to do” with the consistency he’s developed at this level.
Hedman said the details are fuzzy from that initial meeting with Dettner, but he’s never forgotten the impact his change has made.
“I wanted to become better,” Hedman said.
“The bottom line is I needed to get better. You don’t get many chances.
The Lightning had great patience with me and it took some time. I wasn’t that player right away. Training helped me adjust more to the game that I needed to play to be successful in this league. And I’ve just kept building on that.”
Victor scored a goal and two assists in Monday night's Eastern Conference Final opener. He was a +3 for his 20:27 of ice time.
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