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Kadar Making Pens Stronger, Faster

by Joe Sager / Pittsburgh Penguins

Mike Kadar won’t show up on any scoresheets.

However, he plays a big role in assisting the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Kadar, in his first season as the Penguins’ strength and conditioning coach, oversees the organization’s overall strength and conditioning program both in and out of season. He places a special emphasis on flexibility to maintain or decrease the chance of injury throughout the season, and also works directly with the medical staff in the rehabilitation of all injured players.

“My whole philosophy is that you want to decrease any chance of injury while increasing athleticism. I think if you can get guys doing a program where you look after both, you’re on the right track,” he said. “There is a multitude of ways to attain that. It’s just a matter of sharing the knowledge you have with the player and working together to attain the goals you set forth. I think you have to have an open mind and keep learning and finding out what’s new in the field and stay on top of it.”

Mike Kadar instructs Colby Armstrong on a sliding agility drill.

While Kadar’s responsibilities are familiar, the location is a complete change. Prior to coming to Pittsburgh in August, he worked four seasons as the strength and conditioning coach for the Los Angeles Kings.

“It’s a great opportunity here. I think any situation where you can work with a young, talented team that is up and coming is very special, I am very fortunate,” he said. “The adjustment to Pittsburgh was pretty easy, actually. On the West Coast, there’s so much travel and the guys are always tired because of the travel. It wasn’t so much the time in the air, but the change in time zones. In Los Angeles, other than a 45- or 50-minute bus ride to Anaheim, I think our shortest flight was two or three hours. Fatigue was always a factor. But, on the East Coast everywhere you go is within an hour, pretty much. So, the fatigue factor isn’t that big of a deal.”

Upon his arrival, Kadar helped oversee improvements to the Penguins’ weight room at Mellon Arena.

“All I can do is bring what I know and what I believe in. We’ve changed up the weight room and put in some equipment that is second to none,” he said. “We’re trying to do the right things for the guys and make it as professional as we can and build an environment where guys want to be there and want to work out and spend time improving themselves as an athlete.”

While those facility changes were immediate, the alterations in the players’ training and nutrition are more gradual and will pay long-term dividends for many years.

Mike Kadar

“Absolutely, on the training side, it’s not something that is going to happen overnight,” Kadar said. “I think you’ll see results two, three or four years down the road. I don’t think it’s something that is immediate. If you can look back after a time period and realize the athlete has had very few injuries, has a full range of motion in every joint, and knows how to prepare their body for battle, and how to properly recover and recuperate, you’re making strides. Every day is a new day and a step in the right direction.”

“My approach is a multitude of things. You want to try to create a program where you develop the ultimate hockey player that has explosive strength, power, and flexibility. You’re trying to do all the little things that keep you injury free, but you also want to increase your athleticism, which may be increasing more strength or being more explosive or having more endurance. It’s a combination of everything. It’s my job to figure out what each player needs, but, I think a well-rounded program touches on all that, including an emphasis on proper nutrition.”

Indeed. Kadar’s responsibilities aren’t limited to the weight room or on the rink. He helps make sure the players get the right fuel.

“What you put into your body is absolutely what you get out of it, in terms of how you look and how you feel and how you perform,” he said. “If you look at the different diets out there, I don’t think there’s one program that fits all. I think you need to find out how you metabolize your macronutrients – your fats, proteins and carbs. I think everyone’s different. That goes back to more of genetics than anything. I think you have to be aware of what you eat, and be aware of how you feel after you eat a certain carb or a certain protein – do you feel energetic or lethargic after you eat certain foods? If it’s lethargic, you may want to take a closer look at what you are eating. So, you try to tailor a program based off that. Saying that, when you’re working with a large group of guys, all you can do is really make recommendations on what they should be eating and shouldn’t be eating, after that, it is up to them.”

Mike Kadar watches as Ryan Malone goes through a lifting exercise.

Kadar’s overall program includes a total commitment inside and outside of the weight room.

“You have to put your time in the weight room, but you have to have rest in order for your body to recover and recuperate, as well as have a proper nutritional program in place for optimal results,” he said. “You look at somebody like Gary Roberts – he’s 41 years old. If he wasn’t doing what he’s doing, his career may have been over five or six years ago. He’s living proof on what guys really need to do in order to prepare themselves day in and day out.  He is true a professional that has taken the time to learn about training and nutrition; he is very knowledgeable.

“I don’t think my philosophy has changed much over the last few years. My approach might be a little bit different,” he continued. “I may have to be a little softer on some guys and a little harder on others. I think it’s a matter of getting to know and building relationships with guys and knowing your boundaries of where you can push and where you can’t push.”

Always learning and looking for ways to improve, Kadar draws from the experience of the veteran players he’s been around in Los Angeles and Pittsburgh.

“What I have really learned comes from working with some of the older guys and really realizing what it takes to be a professional hockey player. Some of the veterans I have worked with, Luc Robitaille, Rob Blake, Jeremy Roenick and now Gary Roberts, Darryl Sydor and Sergei Gonchar, you see the dedication and professionalism and what they do daily to prepare themselves to play day after day and year after year,” he said. “Some of those guys have had careers of 18, 19 or 20-plus years. Working with guys like that gives you a whole new attitude and perspective on what it takes to be successful in the NHL.

“You have to stay up on all the latest and greatest stuff, in terms of equipment, training and nutrition. When it comes to training, there’s really not one magical program. Hockey is an anaerobic sport that requires short explosive bursts. There are certain ways you can train to work on being explosive.”

In addition, Kadar draws from his hockey playing days as well as his coaching experience.

In July 2005, Kadar assisted Hockey Canada in the development for the off-ice portion of Skills of Gold Hockey Development DVD series, and was responsible for putting together all aspects of off-ice training. This program is used by many national teams, including the under-18 and under-20 teams, as well as the under-22 National Women’s team as part of their off-ice training program.

Kadar was hired as a strength and conditioning consultant in April 2007 for the Slovenian National Team, where the team competed in the World Championships – B Pool in Ljubljana, Slovenia. The team won the gold medal and qualified for the A Pool. His job responsibilities included working one-on-one with all athletes in the development of conditioning and flexibility programs, plus administered corrective strength exercises for injured athletes. He also had the responsibility of working closely with the assistant coach in making system adjustments between periods.

“I grew up playing hockey. Once I quit playing, I started coaching and training. I have played the game at a University level,” he said. “I think guys respect that I can get out and skate – not necessarily keep up, but at least I can get out there and help them work on things that they will need to be able to do once they come back from injury”

So, even though he’s in a different environment from the sunny West Coast, the Elnora, Alberta, native is happy to be here.

“I love Pittsburgh. It’s totally different than the West Coast, in a good way. It’s a sports town. Anybody and everybody you talk to, they love hockey, football and baseball. So, that is refreshing,” he said. “When you’re in California, it’s really baseball, basketball and the beach. I enjoy it here. The people are awesome. The Penguins have been incredible to me and I am excited to be part of the team.”



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