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Pens Getting Creative with Activation

The players are taking full advantage of the non-hockey related activities available to them in the bubble

by Michelle Crechiolo @PensInsideScoop / Penguins Team Reporter

On the morning before a game, Penguins players usually have the choice of taking part in the optional morning skate or some type of dynamic warmup.

Before, that dynamic warmup tended to consist of guys finding an area to play two-touch with a soccer ball, in addition to other movements and stretches. But now, they have a whole variety of activities they can do prior to a game in addition to that, including tennis and basketball.

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"We're just trying to foster some sort of physical activity," strength and conditioning coach Alex Trinca said. "A lot of it is just getting guys out of their beds. Especially with the 8 o' clock game, it's a lot of time you would otherwise just be spending in your bed."

When the Penguins are on the road during the regular season, the strength and conditioning staff does their best to get creative when it comes to the dynamic warmup - or active recovery, if it's a non-game day - when the entire team takes part.

For example, if the team is in Florida or California with access to a beach, they'll have the players go out there and toss a volleyball around. But if the team is in Buffalo or Detroit in the middle of winter, usually they will set up in a conference/meeting room at the team hotel. 

They just need enough space for the players to move around, as the warmup/recovery usually consists of a combination of movements - jogging, skipping, shuffling, lunging, and stretching. 

They also need room for the muscle stimulating devices and/or compression devices players use, which incite low-intensity muscle contractions without doing actual exertion. Most of the guys will also do self-muscle release techniques, like using a foam roller, vibration devices or softballs.

But now that the team is in their Toronto bubble, they have more space than they could have ever imagined at the team hotel, called Hotel X.

In addition to the gym, amenities include four tennis courts (with two being converted into pickleball courts); squash courts (with one being converted into a basketball court and another into a stickhandling area); arcade basketball; and golf simulators. They also have access to a basketball court at Scotiabank Place, along with BMO Field, where the guys went and threw a football around earlier this week.

So with all of these options at their disposal, the strength and conditioning staff are having the players take advantage of them.

"With the way we do our activation, a lot of times it has to do with psychology," Trinca said. 

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For example, the players practiced later than usual on Friday, skating at 2:45 p.m. Then with a morning skate scheduled for 10:30 a.m. and the game at 8 p.m., that's a lot of taking one's gear on and off in a short period of time. 

By doing something non-hockey related in the morning instead - whether that's today, Sunday or ahead of Game 2 on Monday - the players still accomplish the goals of alleviating muscle tension, increasing nutrient-rich blood flow through the legs and getting some movement around the joints - while having the added benefit of some team bonding.

"There's a chance for guys to get competitive or learn something they didn't know about each other, and the situation is not related to hockey," Trinca said. "We just try to foster that as much as we can. And as strength and conditioning coaches, we're not saying you need to spend 15 minutes playing tennis and five minutes playing ping pong and 10 minutes playing pickleball. It's more of a collaborative process where we work with the athletes to come up with strategies that make them feel best come game time."

And the players are having a blast in the process.

"I think it's great," Marcus Pettersson said. "We're in a unique circumstance. Just have fun with each other, I think that's going to help a lot. You can get real tired just sitting in the hotel room the whole time. Just to get out and do stuff with each other is going to help everybody and helps you keep a healthy mindset. It's been real fun so far."

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