What if the secrets to keeping hockey players healthier and more injury-free is in their genes? DNA testing for performance optimization and injury prevention has been part of the sports landscape for years, but mostly outside of North America and mostly concentrated in professional soccer, rugby and tennis.
Ronnie Shuker writes about how some NHL trainers are using DNA analysis to pinpoint everything from food sensitivities to an increased likelihood of joint injuries:
As his NHL clients returned to his gym in Toronto - Steven Stamkos, Connor McDavid and James Neal among them - [trainer Gary] Roberts had each player's DNA tested. An ex-NHLer himself, he understands players' mindset when it comes to training and knows they prefer to be shown, not told, what to do.
"What I like is that a player is going to see his own DNA," Roberts said. "You can tell them something, and they won't clue in, but if they actually see their results, they say, ‘S—, my DNA doesn't lie.' "
Among the biggest benefits Roberts sees with genetics testing is that it can reveal susceptibilities to certain kinds of injuries, which allow strength and conditioning coaches to tailor players' programs more precisely. Say, for example, a player is predisposed to hip, knee or ankle injuries. Roberts might take back squats out of his program and replace them with single-leg exercises to lessen the load on those joints.
It's new territory for the NHL, and Shuker writes that the league has been mum on the possibility that testing is already happening:
As with the beginning of the analytics movement, when many teams were largely denying using advanced statistics while setting up departments dedicated to them, the temptation is to equate silence with secrecy and conclude teams are actually testing players and just aren't admitting to it. But BioSteel's Matt Nichol, who trains the likes of Tyler Seguin, Wayne Simmonds and Mike Cammalleri, doesn't think DNA testing is widespread among the NHL's 30 teams for two reasons: they just aren't aware of it or they fear the potential consequences from the results.
"It's Pandora's Box," Nichol said. "A lot of teams know that, for example, ‘If I do this test, and it determines that a player needs to rest for 24 hours immediately following your game, what does that mean? No intensive training? Do we have to cancel practice? What if that means he needs a completely different style of training than what is currently being suggested by the team?'...This is just my opinion, but I think maybe as a team you have got to be careful in doing all of this expensive testing, because then they will get scared that they are obligated to act. If you do not have the information, you can plead ignorance. If you have that information at your disposal and you choose to ignore it, you are held liable."
It's an interesting read, and the whole thing is right here. [The Hockey News]
Veteran defenseman Johnny Oduya has chance to grasp teachable moment for Dallas Stars. http://t.co/BGDbqfe59z— Mike Heika (@MikeHeika) October 12, 2015
The Buffalo Sabres' No. 1 goalie, Robin Lehner, is out 6 to 10 weeks with a high ankle sprain he suffered in the second period of the team's season opener. This is going to be a problem for them. [CBS Sports]
It didn't even take that long for the Vancouver Canucks to run into goalie trouble, as their backup, Jacob Markstrom, left Tuesday practice with a lower-body injury that has put him on the IR list (and prompted the recall of former Star Richard Bachman from the Utica Comets). [Vancouver Sun]
Kevin Woodley says the NHL is now a three-goalie league, and he believes the stats will back him up. [NHL]
And if you thought the Montreal Canadiens would have a hard time winning without Carey Price, Mike Condon would like a quiet word. In his first NHL game, he stopped 20 of 21 shots against the Ottawa Senators en route to a 3-1 victory. [TSN]
#HockeyHistory happened yesterday as the National Women's Hockey League opened for business at Chelsea Piers in Stamford, Connecticut. Forward Jessica Koizumi of the Connecticut Whale scored the first goal in league history as her team also tallied the first victory, over the New York Riveters.
Not coincidentally, NWHL Commissioner Dani Rylan posted a timely piece on how a sense of mission (and a lot of help from Google) helped her and her colleagues create North America's first professional women's hockey league. [The Players' Tribune]
...You graduate from college and there's no more free sticks, no more trainers. If you're a woman, you have reached the end of the road. Unless it's an Olympic year and you're on the roster, you're going to be looking for a real job and hitting open sessions at your local rink. Before the best young female hockey players even have a chance to reach their peak in their mid-20s, they're waiting tables or going to grad school and training alone when most people are sleeping.
So I had a crazy idea: What if we created a sustainable professional league that actually paid players and gave them access to the best equipment? What if they didn't have to store their hockey bags in the back of their cars or in the bathroom of their apartments? (Elbow pads can smell so, so gross). We would have to start small, but wouldn't people come out to watch the best female hockey players in the world?
This is awesome. This is possible. These shouldn't be thoughts that are exclusive to boys.
Michael Blinn covered opening day, and he has a pretty long list of things the NWHL is doing right. [Sports Illustrated]
And in case you missed it...yes, this is the Whale's goal song, and how could it be otherwise?
A high school hockey accident left him paralyzed from the chest down, but 20-year-old Jack Jablonski has made it to the NHL anyway. Say hello to the Los Angeles Kings' new communications intern. [Orange County Register]
What are NHL players most looking forward to this season? "How the coaches ruin 3-on-3," as one wag told Elliotte Friedman. Friedman takes a look at how a few representative teams are adapting in his most recent 30 Thoughts. [SportsNet]
The Hockey Writers is getting into the spirit of the season by asking what your favorite NHL figure would be as a Halloween monster. It's a fun read, but how in the world can they have left Jordie Benn off the werewolf list? [THW]
Finally: And just like that, Mattias Janmark is everywhere. The newest Star's first NHL goal – on his first NHL shot, in his first NHL shift – has been immortalized in the Bud Light Frozen Moment of the week. I'll drink to that. Enjoy your Monday. Stars play tomorrow!