Updated: Jun 3, 2019
Many players find themselves casual about morning skates; generally, morning skates may be 20-30 minutes unless you have a coach that is overzealous and chooses 45 minutes. However, there are many similarities in how the body responds to morning skates and games. As most players practice the way they play, morning skates will have points of fast pace. Therefore, the legs can go through a little burn.
Prepping for morning skates... similar to games, can make sense. Especially, if players have morning skates in 'Back to Backs' or '3 in 3s'. Sometimes, players can have morning skates the morning after a game. A player can wake up fatigued after a restless night; therefore, morning skate preparation may not be a priority due to emotional fatigue or not sleeping well. In other words, a player can roll out of bed after only sleeping 2-5 hours. At this point, they can be so drained that it's hard to fathom the thought of prepping for morning skates.
Hockey players could look at morning skates just as critically as a game. Especially, if they are playing 2 game in 2 days and 3 games in 3 days. And when I mean critically, most coaches recommend players practice just like they do in a game to emulate game situations. If this is the case, then a morning skate should not be treated any different than a game. The right energy support (nutrition) and bio-mechanical preparation (prehab) should not be undervalued as the body is going into lactic acid mode.
Lets also look at the big picture for a morning skate and the overall affect it has on stress levels. On a game a day; warm ups, morning skates, and games can lead to energy depletion. As a result, the body can have trouble relaxing before bed time. The body could lack enough energy to relax and rest peacefully from energy depletion. For the body to perform optimally 24 hours a day, if energy support for stressful situations is enhanced, the body's energetic response can be more optimal. In other words, if a hockey player is getting the right quality and quantity of energy support, and this includes morning skates, stress and fatigue can be decreased.
As there are hockey players that role out of bed for morning skates with little preparation, not only can this deplete them for morning skates, but also for the game, and finding restful sleep the following night. If that sounds confusing, think about a domino effect. If a player is stressed for morning skate, the stress can carry over to afternoon nap, then carry over to game time, then pre bedtime relaxation. The physiology of the body is connected 24 hours a day.
To initiate the domino effect from a new perception, instead of waiting until pregame meal to prep for the game, starting the night before can make sense. The pre bedtime meal and routine can enhance the body for relaxation and better sleep function. Upon waking the day of the game, if a player is more rested, they will rise with more energy. If they rise with more energy, they will have more energy to make breakfast and have better preparation for morning skate. If a player is in a 'Back to Back', or '2 in 2', they could have more energy for the next game on the 2nd day. If this domino effect of stress reduction is duplicated over days, weeks, months, and years; energy levels can grow exponentially. Or better yet, keep improving.
To sum up this thinking, the understanding of the game has changed from previous generations. Many coaches and organizations understand that morning skates are stressful and suppress game day performance. Or better yet, take away from a player's performance during the game that evening. If a hockey player is in an organization that believes in morning skates, it's smart to become aware of how the morning skates affects them and prepare effectively. If it's difficult to wake up for a morning skate, especially after a game the previous night, the pre bedtime routine and energy support for restful sleep can be a focus. The domino effect starting at bedtime can give surprising and exciting outcomes to the body's energy levels.