A common misconception about hockey defensemen is that they aren’t fast enough to play forward. Coaches have to put bigger, slower guys at the point, because they can’t skate quickly up and down the ice without getting winded. That may have been true in the early 19th Century when hockey originated. But in today’s game, speedy defensemen can usually hold their own against opposing forwards.
Washington Capitals star defenseman Mike Green defines the term “offensive defenseman.” During the ’09 season, he led all NHL defensemen in both points  and goals . Known for his wicked quick shot and his Mohawk haircut, Green has recently been featured in the press for his ability to skate circles around opponents.
Even before being picked 29th overall in the 2004 NHL Draft, Green had understood the importance of training and nutrition. “I dedicated myself one summer to strictly training and eating properly,” he says. “The results the next season were great, and [I] got drafted.”
But until he hit up hockey strength trainer Doug Crashley, of Crash Conditioning [Calgary, Alberta], Green had not fully appreciated the effectiveness of off-ice training. Previously, he had focused on upper body strength, working his biceps and triceps. Crashley pointed his training in the opposite direction: legs and core.
“I came out to his gym, and he ran me through a warm-up, and I couldn’t even get through a warm-up,” Green says. “The next day I was aching really bad.”
Green knew that Crashley’s type of training was necessary in order to compete at the NHL level. He says, “I trained with him the rest of the summer. My skating, stride, everything with hockey—my whole hockey performance—was way better than it had ever been in years.”
Although his ’09 season ended early—the Capitals lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference semi-finals—Green won’t be taking much time off for R&R, however well-deserved.
“Training is everything,” Green says. “You used to go to camp to get into shape. Nowadays, you have to be in shape to go to camp. You’re only going to get better by training off the ice, and it will carry onto the ice.”
If you want to be as quick as Green, you’d better be willing to train like him. Try the following Triangle Drill, which Green performs at Crash Conditioning. It’s a great agility exercise, designed to simulate a game-type movement that defensemen must make when they skate into tight corners to chase down the puck. But don’t think performing one drill will turn you into a superstar. Head to the Hockey Channel to see more of Green’s off-season training plan and find out about his NHL workout partner.
• Set up a triangle with three cones three to five yards apart, numbering each cone
• Start in middle of triangle in low athletic stance
• Coach shouts out what cone to run toward
• Sprint to specified cone, plant outside foot and touch cone with hand
• Pivot on outside foot, turn and sprint back to start
• Continue running to cones; repeat for specified amount of time
Adaptation: Face coach while he walks around in circles or shouts more than one name or number
Sets/Reps/Rest: 5-7×20-30 seconds with 30 seconds rest
Coaching Points: Stay in low athletic position at all times // Don’t overextend while reaching toward cone // Stay focused on coach // Move as quickly as possible