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Mountain training keeps Linden, Gelinas at their peak

by Jennifer Raimondi
John Ramsden and Trevor Linden teamed up to form the “Dark Horse Racing” duo, covering 385 miles of terrain.
NHL veterans Trevor Linden of the Vancouver Canucks and Martin Gelinas of the Nashville Predators have combined to play in more than 3,000 games since their debuts as 18-year-old rookies in 1988.

Gelinas, 37, hasn’t missed a game in the past two seasons, while Linden, also 37, has missed just two. This durability can be attributed to the time they spend in the off-season taking care of their bodies and preparing for the rigors of the 82-game regular season.

A summertime of hard work will follow Gelinas and Linden to the ice this week as NHL teams begin training camp. But, as the oldest members of their respective teams, don’t look for either of them to be overly flashy.

At this point of their careers, they don’t need to catch the eye of the coach. Instead, look for them to be teaching and showing players, some half their age, just what it takes to play in the NHL.

“I get geared up for every workout and for the season,” Gelinas told “I love competing, I love winning and, for me, it’s pretty easy to go to the gym and pump iron and to get the cardio going.”

After 18 off-seasons, both Gelinas and Linden are always searching for different training methods and unique ways to stay focused; all with the same goal in mind -- to be in the best shape possible.

This summer, their search landed them in the mountains; Linden to the Alps and Gelinas to the Rockies.

“When you get a little bit older, you look for different ways to get through a summer and maintain and improve your fitness,” Linden said. “You really have to try and be creative.”

Linden’s creativity took him to Europe, where he competed in the TransAlp competitive bike race in July. It was an eight-day stage race that began in Mittenwald, Germany and, after 40 hours of riding, finished in Riva De Garda, Italy.

Linden teamed up with John Ramsden to form the “Dark Horse Racing” duo. They covered 600 kilometers (385 miles) of terrain and took on a challenging 19,500 meter (65,000 feet) vertical gain, finishing 48th (out of 122) in the Master Division.

“I’ve cycled for the last 10 years in a variety of ways,” Linden said. “This has just become a lifestyle love of mine. I don’t know how hockey specific it is, but from a general fitness standpoint it’s certainly good and it was a lot of fun as well.”

Linden has grown accustomed to utilizing the outdoors for training. When he is not conquering the Alps on his bike, Linden can be found in and around the mountains near his home in Vancouver supplementing his sport specific training in the gym.

“For me, it’s about doing something that’s fun, that’s enjoyable, but that also has a purpose,” Linden said. “Going on hikes and doing some trail running up in the mountains are things that can serve the purpose of training for hockey, but also get me out of the gym.

”I think most of the guys look at me like I’m whacked for most of the stuff that I do,” Linden joked. “But I enjoy doing things that get you outside and that are outside the box a little bit.”

In August, Gelinas could also be found in the mountains as he geared up for training camp. This time, though, it was the mountains surrounding Vail, Colo.

Gelinas helped create a mini-training camp with Andy O’Brien, the head strength and conditioning coach of the Florida Panthers, and former NHL goaltender Ed Belfour. The camp stemmed from an idea of creating an isolated environment where a group of players could get together and focus completely on the training.

“The focus is sometimes not always there in the summertime when you are at home with three kids running around,” Gelinas laughed. “Being in a setting like Vail, where you can just focus on training, nutrition and so on, was ideal for me to get ready for the season.”

Ramsden and Linden finished 48th out of 122 in the Master Division.
Gelinas and the group got right down to business with their morning workout beginning at 8 a.m. It consisted of a 90-minute off-ice training session that focused on speed and agility, while maximizing anaerobic endurance, and was followed by a 90-minute session on the ice. Each session was high-intensity and kept the players moving with minimal rest.

The training continued after lunch as the players went on group excursions that included hiking, ATV riding, skeet shooting and golfing.

Vail was chosen mainly for its isolation from distractions, but with an elevation of 11,500 feet, it also added its own dimension to the players’ training. One of the group’s hikes up the mountain lasted over two hours and took the players to the summit.

The altitude, according to O’Brien, “was all part of the challenge.”

O’Brien emphasized the importance of variety in the activities players participate in during the summer months and also the benefit of working out with other athletes.

“It’s amazing, the positive outcome and the camaraderie that results from doing an activity as a group; it can really lighten (the training) up and make it a little bit more enjoyable,” he said.

Linden and Gelinas’ mountain excursions supplemented their summer training as they both aim to be fit and healthy for their 19th NHL season.

Gelinas has spent the last five off-seasons training in Calgary with James Gattinger, while Linden credits Peter Twist for a lot of his physical development off the ice. Each trainer not only provides physical guidance, but is also a positive motivator behind their success.

Linden notes that Twist really gets him to believe that he is as fit as he’s ever been.

“Our big joke every summer is that whatever age I am, I’m right in my prime,” Linden laughed. “That started when I was 31-years-old, so every year I come back and work with him it’s; ‘Hey, you’re right in your prime!’”

Both players have come a long way from the 1988 Memorial Cup, that saw Linden’s Medicine Hat Tigers eliminate Gelinas’ Hull Olympiques from contention, and the 1988 Entry Draft where the highly touted prospects were selected in the first round -- Linden by Vancouver with the second overall pick and Gelinas going to Los Angeles with the seventh selection.

“When I came into the League in 1988, guys would ride the bike a little bit and lift a few weights, if that,” Linden said. “Now, with the growth of sport-specific training, there is so much emphasis on core and stability. It’s changed completely and it continues to evolve.”

Gelinas has brought his skills to six different teams throughout his career (Edmonton, Quebec, Vancouver, Calgary, Carolina and Florida) and aims to make it seven this fall in Nashville. The change in off-season training and the extent of what he has learned and how much he has developed is not lost on him.

“I remember my first year in the League before my first camp,” he said. “I used to ride my bike 70 kilometers a day and I did it five days a week. I also did some sit-ups and push-ups, but I had no real knowledge of what it took. I was working out, but I was not getting a proper workout.”

With each having played more than 1,200 games and counting, Gelinas and Linden bring an unparalleled work ethic and a wealth of experience into their team’s training camp. Whatever they lack in youth, they gain it back with their consistent determination and commitment to be the best they can be on and off the ice.

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