July 2, 2014
ANN ARBOR, Mich., -- Since early May, a familiar sight greets those walking by the Ferry Field. Sometimes crawling or hopping, sometimes jogging or sprinting. It's a blur of yellow T-shirts -- it's members of the University of Michigan ice hockey team.
Three months removed from the end of the 2013-14 season, a number of the returning members of the team have remained in Ann Arbor to take classes during the spring semester and participate in voluntary workouts with the team's strength and conditioning coach, Joe Maher.
Maher, who joined the athletic department staff in August 2013, has provided a new approach to spring training, a program that has been embraced by team leaders.
While participation in the workouts is voluntary, student-athletes who have participated have found the diversity of Maher's program engaging.
"Joe is doing a really good job of keeping us focused and intense right from the get go. We're incorporating everything into different workouts. We do a little bit more running during lift days, and on running days we do a little bit of strength training," one participant noted.
Maher came to Michigan with an extensive hockey background. He was a four-year member of the ice hockey team at the University of Rhode Island, earned his USA Hockey Level 3 coaching certification in 2006, and worked with the men's and women's ice hockey teams as associate head strength and conditioning coach at Yale University from 2007-2013.
Since joining the Wolverines last fall, Maher quickly earned the respect of the players and coaching staff. He became a fixture on the ice, working every practice and traveling with the team on the road. Now in his first full offseason with the team, Maher is happy to help players establish a spring-summer routine as they prepare for the 2014-15 season.
"Because of the way the hockey season is, because it's so long, everyone is at the same level towards the end of it," Maher said. "Now, we need to work on building them back up and getting them stronger than they were the year before."
Maher has helped guide players through strength work in the weight room at Canham Natitorium three days a week. Two days a week the team does conditioning runs on the Ferry Field track and at Oosterbaan Field House. The student-athletes start most days at Ferry Field for what Maher terms a "dynamic warmup."
"Each day you'll see us out on the track because we warm up with a speed and power element with everything we're doing," Maher said. "Even though we're out there for a dynamic warmup, we're still working on speed, just to get them used to running fast on the ground. One thing is hockey players typically, while many played other sports growing up, running is tough for them. So you slowly ramp that up to ease the transition, so that they have that conditioning, and they can have that game-ready speed at the end of August or early September."
Lifts consist of squats, cleans, bench press, and pull-ups, a basic strength phase designed for the offseason. With many returning players participating in the training, Maher has tailored workouts for the group.
Through the end of June -- the conclusion of the spring term -- the routine will remain the same. While some players will depart for NHL Prospect Development camps for a week in early July, others will remain in Ann Arbor for the summer, when Maher will ramp up workouts.
"We're going to transition into a max strength phase during the month of July, and get into our more hockey specific game training in August and early September," Maher said. "Right now our guys are working on building their bodies, putting some weight on or taking some weight on if they need to."
Maher's structured hockey-specific approach to the offseason has helped build camaraderie among the corps of returning players as they engage in their first team activity in preparation for the upcoming season.
"The guys have been supporting each other a ton," Maher said. "They've been helping each other, but they've also been holding themselves accountable to that standard of work ethic, desire, grit, and determination, with what they're doing away from the rink as well.
The players are confident that hard work in May, June and July with Maher will pay off in 2014-15.
"I can't wait to see the results with some of the guys," one senior member of the team said. "It's going to be great."
Contact: Jeffrey Weinstein (734) 763-4423