For hockey you need to be more than just fast. You need to be able to repeat your fast performance on the ice again and again.
Most players will play between 10-30 shifts in a game with each shift lasting 30-60 seconds. During each shift, you may reach top speed 2-5 times. Many players I have trained have good speed on a one-time blue line to blue skating test. When we make them repeat the test 10 times, however, their performance rapidly deteriorates as fatigue sets in. For these players, we focus on speed endurance training.
Speed endurance is the toughest aspect of fitness to train because the training hurts. You have to push until your muscles are loaded with lactic acid. Speed endurance training produces a hockey player who can go hard every shift of every period. A player with high levels of speed endurance becomes extremely valuable toward the end of each period, especially the third, and for overtime. One of the best ways to train for speed endurance is with interval training on the track in the off-season.
Interval training consists of short bouts of activity followed by short bouts of rest. For example, the athlete would run the straight away and walk the turn on a 400-meter track. We call this the variable acceleration 400-meter and the players hate it! For pro players, we will repeat this 5-10 times asking the players to try to repeat their performances as consistently as possible. This type of training requires the athlete to train with a lot of lactic acid in their muscles. Lactic acid is a by-product of the anaerobic metabolism required to do the variable acceleration 400-meter drill.
The key to increased speed is less contact time with the ground or ice due to a more powerful sprinting action. As simple as this statement is, athletes will spend most of their training time on increasing speed. Team sports such as hockey make heavy demands on sprint capabilities. The truly great players are able to accelerate explosively both in defensive and offensive maneuvers. Most of your increase in speed will come with a good off-season dry land training program. Dry land sprint speed training has a crossover effect to skating.
High intensity (95-100%) sprinting should be done on the track. The increased central nervous system demand of high intensity sprinting requires complete recovery between repetitions and requires a minimum of 48 hours between sprint training sessions.
Low intensity (75% or slower) running should be done on grass and promotes circulatory/ aerobic changes and active recovery. Medium intensity (76-94%)- running should not be performed at all as it would be too slow to be specific and too fast to allow recovery within a 24 hour time frame.
A good sprinting start requires that the hips must be ahead of feet, the left arm must drive forward with full extension of hips and you exhale as you push out from the starting position. For each stride, the foot needs to clear the opposite knee and the hips should extend as the shoulders counter-rotate. In our dry land training programs, we will spend a lot of time working on drills that make a player a more efficient sprinter because this will lead to more breakout speed on the ice.