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van Asten keeping Flames in top shape through off-season

by Jason Pirie / Calgary Flames

We’re confident that what we’re doing is working. We see it every day with our guys. Young guys, especially now, have grown up training. Every single one of them works hard and they buy-in to what we’re doing. We have a 100 percent buy-in with this team.Ryan van Asten

CALGARY, AB -- The term off-season is rarely featured in Ryan van Asten’s lexicon.

Simply put, there just isn’t one for the Calgary Flames’ strength and conditioning coach.

The man behind the muscle is tasked with ensuring the Flames are in top shape come fall and if that means working throughout the summer then so be it.

“I have taken a couple days off and through the summer I will probably take a couple more, but I haven’t had much time because we’ve had guys rehabbing from injury and rehabbing from surgeries,” said van Asten, who recently returned home from working with Calgary’s American Hockey League affiliate in Stockton. “Even if it’s for only a couple hours a day I’m still doing something every day.”

Not that he’s complaining.

An Oshawa, ON native, whose wife Jackie is a medical doctor in Calgary, van Asten came on board with the Flames two summers ago after helping transform the Los Angeles Kings into two-time Stanley Cup champions.

That type of track record speaks for itself.

With a physical and health education degree from Queen’s University, as well as a master’s degree in neuromuscular physiology from University of Calgary, van Asten also worked as a trainer for the national women’s hockey team that struck gold at the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games.

A former defenceman who once suited up for the Canadian Interuniversity Sport’s Queen’s Gaels, van Asten can relate to both the good and not so good habits of hockey players when it comes to off-ice training.

“When most of these guys take some time off at the end of the season they aren’t as conscious about their diet, and that’s okay because they need a bit of a break, but like I always tell the guys, ‘you can never out-train a bad diet,’” he said. “If you’re coming in here and putting in two hours of work and then going out and eating somewhere like McDonald’s the results are not going to be there to the extent that they could be.”

It’s all about emphasizing the details, which he says is imperative for the Flames’ long-term success.

“We’re starting pretty light after about a month off. It’s just about acclimating the body to train again,” van Asten said. “Lots of core and movement work. We’re not lifting anything too heavy right now. After about a three-week phase we’ll start getting into heavy lifting and speed work.”

The Flames will start by undergoing jump power and movement testing, which will provide a gauge of where they stand.

“We know these guys quite well from the season, but it’s nice to retest and have a starting point that we can build on throughout the summer,” van Asten said. “We test four or five times through the summer and track the data over time. We have testing data on every player since day one of them joining the team.”

Responsible for the performance of nearly $70 million in annual assets, van Asten’s duties include the design and implementation of programs to improve strength, speed/agility, power, nutrition, recuperation, and rehabilitation.

“We’re always looking at the big picture,” van Asten said. “There are going to be dips and flows over four or five years, but we want to see a gradual progression in a positive direction.”

van Asten is spending this week in Boston catching up with Flames leading scorer Johnny Gaudreau, and will follow that visit with a stopover in Toronto to drop in on the likes of Sam Bennett, Mark Giordano, Sean Monahan and Josh Jooris.

“I’m going there just to make sure training is in line,” he said. “I’ll talk to their trainers and watch them train. I want to see them early in the off-season to make sure that everything is good so that we can potentially make adjustments or catch anything early on rather than having to do it later. And at some point over the summer I will visit them again.”

The program van Asten has formulated not only benefits the players in the short term, but will allow them to extend their careers in the Flaming C.

It’s all about the process – every little aspect – and van Asten assures this Flames group is on the right path.

“We’re confident that what we’re doing is working,” he said. “We see it every day with our guys. Young guys, especially now, have grown up training. Every single one of them works hard and they buy-in to what we’re doing.

“We have a 100 percent buy-in with this team.”

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