The National Hockey League’s all time leading goal scorer never picked up a hockey stick or strapped on his skates during the summer months. Instead, young Wayne Gretzky would trade his stick for a bat and spend his time on a baseball diamond.
The Great One isn’t an anomaly when it comes to pushing the pause button on hockey.Many current NHL stars such as Steven Stamkos and Jakob Chychrun have spoken out about the importance of being a multi-sport athlete.
“It turns you into an athlete and that was huge,” Chychrun told the Hockey News. “And when you take that time off from hockey, you get to miss the game. You work that much harder in the off-season because you can’t wait to get back.”
In a time when young hockey players are training throughout the off-season, many coaches report that some of the best players are athletes first, hockey players second.
“The ability to learn agility, balance, and coordination that comes from playing a variety of sports builds a solid foundation for athletic success, physical fitness and more importantly, staying active for life,” says Corey McNabb, director of player development with Hockey Canada.
Hockey Canada lists the following sports as activites to develop better hockey players:
Lacrosse : Develops hand eye co-ordination, balance and agility
Soccer : Great for fitness, stamina, foot speed and reading team play
Baseball : Awesome for developing hand-eye co-ordination, athleticism, focus and lateral movement speed
Team handball : Develops overall athleticism, agility and power
Racquet sports : Excellent for hand-eye co-ordination, lateral mobility and quickness of body and mind
Gymnastics and yoga : Develops balance, agility, coordination, flexibility and athleticism