Stanley Cup Champion Training Tips from the Chicago Blackhawks

5 Stanley Cup Champ Training Tips from the Chicago Blackhawks

Chicago Cup 2015

With another great NHL season in the books, here are 5 training and success tips inspired by the 2015 Chicago Blackhawks Cup run.

1. Set Goals and Follow Through on Them

The one thing that separates the successful from those who never get anywhere in life is that winners set goals, then relentlessly pursue them until they get what they want.

Can you imagine what would have happened if leaders in the Hawks dressing room – guys like Toews, Kane, Hossa, Keith and Seabrook – addressed the team in the pre-season:

“Alright boys, let’s play some hockey and see where that will take us, eh?”

I guarantee their season would have been plagued by inconsistency, declining team spirit, uncharacteristic losing streaks, and come to a merciful end after 82 games.

Those virtually guaranteed a spot on the team knew that legacies, even dynasties, are built in the playoffs, not the regular season. So they set their sights on getting into the last 16, all the while vying for the club’s third Stanley Cup in six years.


Every fringe player entered training camp with the goal of making the team on opening night. While obviously not all of them made that dream come true this season, the truth remains:

An activity without a goal is merely a hobby.

If you’re content with mindlessly going through the motions in the gym, lifting the same weights and doing the same routines you did three years ago already, then be my guest.

For anyone else, goal setting is a must. And following through on them isn’t optional.

So take a page from the winners’ playbook and go scribble down some numbers you want to hit on the big lifts by the end of 2015.

2. Finish Strong

The Blackhawks entered Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals with their backs against the wall, exactly where the Ducks wanted them.

But Chicago had already dealt with adversity in the past and knew what it took to reach the elusive 16 W’s en route to the Stanley Cup – they’d done it not once, but twice in the last five years.

They took over the series against Anaheim, winning the last two games on their way to advancing to the finals.

A repeat performance was called for when they went down 2-1 against the Lightning. Again, the Blackhawks took over at the right time, emerging victorious in the last three games, clinching the Cup on home ice for the first time since 1938.

Toews Cup 2015

No matter how much adversity they were facing in a series, they always finished strong. Just like you should a training session.

These days nothing short of killing yourself in the gym counts as “real training” where muscle soreness and sweat instead of performance increases count as the measuring stick for progress.

I can kinda get that if you’re a regular gym rat who doesn’t know any better.

But if your goal is becoming significantly stronger, more explosive and minimize injuries, you gotta be smarter than that.

That means no going to failure, no ugly grinders or making every session look like a Rocky training montage.

Hit it hard, fast and heavy. But always leave a little something in the tank so you can come back for more tomorrow.

3. Ignore the Nay-Sayers

When Tampa Bay took the series lead in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Finals, armchair experts were ready to write the Blackhawks off. Tampa looks way fresher, they said.

“You can’t win when four defenders each play 25-30 minutes per game. Gotta put the other two guys on the ice too.”

“They’re looking tired out there. Tampa’s speed will turn this series their way.”

“Quenneville needs to stop shuffling his lines, all that mixing and matching is putting the team out of sync.”

tampa chicago 2015

When you think about it, people use discouraging statements to bring down the driven among us all the time.

“Whatcha mean, you’re calling it a night already? C’mon have another drink, bro. We’re getting smashed tonight.”

“Hill sprints on a Saturday morning? Nah, man. I’d rather sleep in.”

“Why do you need to lift weights, anyway? Just go for a jog and hop on the machines like everyone else.”

Sounds like a bunch of whiny, weak-minded bullshit to me.

Ignore it and those hell-bent on shoving mediocrity down your throat at all costs if you want to keep your sanity and achieve something worthy in life.

4. Lead from the Front

Captain Jonathan Toews scored twice in the dying minutes of the third period to tie Game 5 (which Chicago eventually lost in overtime). He also set the tone in Game 7 with his two first period goals.

Three Stanley Cups, two Olympic golds, two gold medals at the WJC, a Conn Smythe as the playoffs MVP – when the stakes are highest, there’s nobody I’d rather have on the ice for my team than Captain Serious.

Every guy on the Hawks team knows Toews walks the walk, leading by example.

And that’s great advice for any strength coach or trainer.

You don’t need to be big like a bodybuilder. Or as strong as a powerlifter. Actually far from it.

But you need to be able to demonstrate key exercises with great technique. And being stronger than your athletes definitely helps too.

Going over proper setup on block pulls with the U17 team

Going over proper setup on block pulls with the U17 team

Even better is when you can jump in during a session to show a guy how the lift is supposed to be done with a weight he was struggling with while you make it look like a breeze.

Doing that will get you so much more respect from your athletes than simply telling them what to do.

Talk is cheap. Anybody can do that.

Wanna have guys buy into your training system? Wanna earn their respect?

Then lead from the front.

5. Believe in Yourself and What You’re Doing

I was once again reminded of how small the hockey world is when watching Finnish D-man Kimmo Timonen lift the Cup and go for a lap on United Center ice with it.

Timonen’s son played on the Team Comcast U16 team that I had the chance to coach while interning at Endeavor Sports Performance in South Jersey when Timonen was still on the Flyers roster.

Kimmo Timonen entered the 16th – and last – season of his NHL career with blood clots in his leg and lungs that could have been life threatening. He retired as a Stanley Cup champion.

The problem these days isn’t that you can’t find good information on strength training.

The problem is that there’s way too much info and sorting out the gold from the crap ain’t easy.

That’s why you have guys wasting their time reading blogs and articles by 37 different trainers, asking endless questions on various training forums, switching from one system or program to the next every few weeks, never seeing any noticeable strength or performance gains.

You don’t get anywhere in life or in the gym with a million doubts running through your head each day.

You gotta pick one training system or methodology that you believe in 100%, then stick to it. That may be mine. Or it could be someone else’s. I don’t really care.

As long as you’re getting somewhere in your training and believe in what you’re doing, whose methods you follow makes no difference.

Kimmo Timonen could have decided to hang ’em up on the day he was diagnosed with a serious disease. But he believed in himself and in the fact that given one more chance, he could make the most out of it.

He did.

Will you?

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Yunus Barisik

Yunus Barisik, CSCS, is the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach for an elite junior hockey organization based in Espoo, Finland. He has trained hundreds of hockey players at the junior, college and pro levels, including NHL Draft picks and World Champions. An accomplished author, Yunus has had articles published on top fitness and performance sites, including STACK and Muscle & Strength. He also wrote Next Level Hockey Training, a comprehensive resource for ice hockey players on building athletic strength, size and power, while staying injury-free.