ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — Last season, injuries benched several members of the University of St. Thomas hockey team. Most were groin injuries forcing coaches to re-think training and how to improve player flexibility and strength.
This season the team is relying on the age old art form of yoga to help keep players injury free.
Flexibility, focus and relaxation — this Yoga class is unlike any other you will find in the Twin Cities because it’s exclusively for members of the Tommies hockey team. At first, the thought of yoga didn’t go over so well.
“Oh my God, what’s going on? This is hockey, right?” said Tommies Forward Chris Hickey.
But, now that they are into it, they understand how it can help their game.
“It pushes you in areas you could use some flexibility. Positions where normal kind of training wouldn’t push you,” Hickey said.
“Sweating like crazy and it’s definitely something I didn’t expect to get that good of a workout from yoga,” said Tommies Forward Matt Lipinski.
Co-captains Hickey and Lipinski say this class has helped them approach their play on the ice in a different way.
They say what they’ve learned from instructor Kristin Lucius is keeping them relaxed and the whole “flexibility thing” has helped their skating.
“We try to focus a little bit more on flexibility just because that’s what Coach Besser wanted us to focus on because of the tightness in their hips and groin muscles that they’ve had injuries in the past years,” said Lucius.
Assistant Coach Parker Burgess, who has done yoga for years, was the one to introduce it to the team.
“Hockey players, in general, are really tight. We don’t put enough emphasis on stretching and core strength that we did see a lot of injuries last year; injuries that could be prevented whether its groin, hamstring, just flexibility issues,” said Burgess.
“It’s a good escape from the normal routine of working out at the rink or at the gym every day,” Lipinski said.
Balance, strength in the core and learning how to breathe. Players and coaches believe its working.
“I definitely notice a lot less tightness in my hips and my hip flexors, so that’s been nice. A little bit more limber on the ice, hopefully it’s preventing a lot of injuries that could happen,” Lipinski said.
The Tommies hope what they do on the yoga mat translates to fewer injuries on the ice.
“Our key players were out three to four weeks, not 100 percent, with groin injuries,” said Head Coach Jeff Besser. “And then we had a lot of kids that they are heavy on the weights and their flexibility is not real good and as hockey players you need to be flexible, you need to get lower, so we’re hoping that helps as well.”
The Tommies have seen a decrease in injuries this season with the use of yoga. They are currently 8-3-1 overall and lead the MIAC with a record of 4-1-1.