Chasing the Dream of Women’s Pro Hockey: Preparing for Draft Day

As seen in The Epoch Times on July 19, 2011.

Part 2 of a series in which Melissa Boufounos, a 22-year-old from Montreal, Canada talks about her journey to play women’s professional hockey

Melissa Boufounos is pursuing her dream of playing women's pro hockey. (George Teichert)

With only a few days to go before the Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL) draft, anxiety and excitement are kicking in full force. On Thursday night, I will learn my fate—which team I will be trying out for in September.

While there are six teams in the league, I have indicated the Greater Toronto Area for my preference on where to play. This means I will most likely be drafted by Toronto, Brampton, or Burlington.

Leading up to the draft, I’ve been training for the upcoming tryouts, which has been no easy task. Whoever said athletes had it easy, has never been an athlete.

Juggling a full time day job, coaching a 3-on-3 team of teenage girls, playing in a men’s league, on-ice development, and fitting in two-hour sessions at the gym in between doesn’t leave much time for a social life. My best friend, and neighbor, hasn’t even seen me in over a month.

Unfortunately, this struggle is something female hockey players have to deal with. They do not have the luxury or chance to make millions of dollars a year to play professional hockey. They have to hold full time jobs in order to support themselves and their families.

“I think it is a tough juggle for the players to balance the training, practice, and especially the travel schedule with their real life,” said Dan Lichterman, former Toronto coach. “Many players make a huge sacrifice to make it to practice late at night or have to leave for a road trip on a Friday morning and not return until late Sunday night. The commitment level of the players is huge.”

Training Regimen

Melissa working out at Total Package Hockey, doing push-ups on a Bosu Ball (Nick Petrella)

Once I was cleared to workout again after my back injury, I started doing sessions once a week on a skating treadmill at the Skating Lab in North York to regain the strength I had lost in my legs after a month of being idle.

Not only was the cardio aspect intense—I threw up after six of the eight sessions—the 15-minute warm up off the treadmill was all geared towards enhancing speed, agility, and quickness. Also, the trainer watches your stride as you skate and corrects your form so you learn how to get the most out of every single stride

After eight sessions on the treadmill, it was time to add more off-ice training to my weekly routine. I went to Total Package Hockey in London, Ontario where I met up with Nick Petrella, a strength and conditioning coach. Nick put me through a grueling two-hour evaluation so he could create a specially designed training program for me.

“Based on the evaluation it was apparent that we needed to work on your endurance and strength, but at the same time be mindful of previous injuries and try to improve the strength of the muscles affected by the previous injuries in order to avoid developing muscle imbalances,” said Nick.

“In reference to the endurance, we needed to improve your aerobic endurance, focusing more on your anaerobic power.”

Nick created a four-day program for me with each day focusing on a different area of my body. The overall goal of the regiment is to improve my athletic performance through power.

“Power is a combination of speed, quickness, and strength. If you are able to be more powerful, you will likely have improved your speed, strength, and quickness,” explained Nick.

“In order to prepare you for the upcoming season we develop a training plan in phases. Each phase has a different goal, but the ultimate goal is improving your power. Phase 1: Endurance, Phase 2: Strength, Phase 3: Power.”

Melissa prepares to do a squat while extending one leg back to mimic a skating motion. (Nick Petrella)

Right now I am in Phase 1. Day 1 consists of 45 minutes of cardio on the bike followed by a circuit of leg resistance training: 50 leg curls, 100 squats, and 100 lunges (and a few other exercises in between). After I’m done, I’m practically crawling out of the gym.

Days 2 and 3 are my upper body workouts. After a quick 10 minute warm-up of core exercises is a 30-minute cardio session on the bike followed by resistance training. I perform two different circuits (going through each circuit three to five times) consisting of a variation of push-ups, shoulder and bench presses, bicep curls, and pull-ups.

Day 4 is a whole body workout. While it’s a challenging to perform the entire circuit three times, I get the added bonus of no cardio. I’ve never been a big fan of cardio, I find it boring compared to resistance training.

“To improve endurance, strength, and power I like to use exercises that require the most number of muscles and joints in the performance of the exercise,” Nick says.

“The goal is to constantly challenge the neuromuscular system and overload the sensory systems to keep the body guessing.”

As much as my muscles hate me for putting them through this training regimen, the difference is already starting to show on the ice just three weeks into the program. Teammates in my men’s league say they’ve noticed an increase in my speed and endurance since the first game 10 weeks ago.

“All hockey players should train off of the ice as well as on the ice year round. It is imperative in order to improve,” Nick explains. “With the speed of today’s game, skill is often not enough. There are very few players in the world that do not participate in off-ice training in and out of season.”

Nick suggests players do two to four days of off-ice training during the season and five to seven days during the off season.

“I can’t say for sure how often players trained off-ice,” says Lichterman about his team last season. “We did not have any set sessions, so it was up to them individually. Some players were very committed off ice and some were not.”

Draft Logistics

The draft will take place with the CWHL commissioner and the general manager and head coach from each team in a phone conference call and at the Delta Meadowvale Resort and Conference Centre in Mississauga, Ontario.

“After the League’s most successful season ever, with new partners and sponsors, an increase in registered game attendees, and the addition of a sixth team from Calgary [the first from Western Canada], the draft is more positive and promising than ever,” stated Brenda Andress, the CWHL commissioner in a press release.

“We are proud and excited by our accomplishments, which would not have been possible without the support of our sponsors and passionate fans, and now we look forward and continue to build the future of women’s hockey in North America.”

Once the players have been drafted, the teams will contact the players they have selected and will be responsible for setting up a local press conference to present their tryout roster to the public.

All players (last year’s players and 2011 draftees) will then go through team tryouts in September with their respective teams.

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3 thoughts on “Chasing the Dream of Women’s Pro Hockey: Preparing for Draft Day

  1. It is wonderful to have you join our team in Burlington this year. I just read the draft result on the CWHL website since I wanted to find out who will be playing for our Barracudas team. This is how I came across your blog.

    You are a terrific writer by the way ! You should strongly consider writing a piece about the team for the Burlington Post in September before the season starts, to help stir up interest for game attendance. The paper’s sports editor is Kevin Nagel, knagel@burlingtonpost.com.

    My young daughter and I will be coming out to the weekend games when the team plays in Burlington. We will miss not seeing Danni (Danijela Rundqvist) play this season, but I look forward to seeing how this new team will work together. Hopefully we will see some wins for our team 🙂

    best wishes and good luck Melissa with the 2011/12 hockey season

    – Heather Howell of Burlington

    • Heather, thank you so much for taking the time to read my blog and leave me this comment. It is much appreciated and only helps push me towards my goals even more. I look forward to playing in Burlington this season and posting many more blog entries throughout the training camp and season.

  2. Hi Melissa, I am the Sports Editor at Before It’s News. Our site is a People Powered news platform with over 3,000,000 visits a month and growing fast. I would love people to hear your story. Would you like to republish your blog RSS feed on our website? Email me at KMiller@beforeitsnews.com and I can get you signed up.
    Thanks,
    Krystal

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