The race to the 2021 Stanley Cup finals has begun. The conference finals in the NHL post season are underway. In the west, Vegas Golden Nights defeated the Montreal Canadiens. Great expectations for the challenge between Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Islanders.
This is last year's rematch when Tampa Bay won 4-2, only to win the Stanley Cup against Dallas. Golden Knights Vegas, as mentioned, beat Montreal Canadiens in Game-1 in the semifinals, with a score of 4-1. The goals are from Theodore, Martinez and Janmark in the second, with Caufield's goal for the Canadians in the middle.
In the third period Holden's goal, thus interrupting Montreal's long unbeaten run, which lasted for seven games, the four of the series won against Winnipeg and the last three against Toronto.ù
The fitness of professional NHL players?
On the The Journal of sports medicine and physical fitness we can read a very interesting article entitled: The relationship between age and fitness profiles in elite male ice hockey players, which explains very interesting aspects about the physical condition of the best athletes in this sport.
Below we can read an abstract: "Background: The present study investigated relationships between age, body composition and performance in elite male ice hockey players. Methods: 199 players performed off-ice tests (countermovement jump height (CMJ) and body composition) and on-ice tests (5-10-5 Pro Agility test, 30-m sprint test and the maximal Yo-Yo Intermittent Recovery Ice Hockey test (Yo-Yo IR1-IHMAX) for assessment of aerobic capacity.
Results: No overall correlations between age and performance were present except small-moderate positive associations between age and body- and muscle mass (r=0.24-0.30, P≤0.05). The youngest age group (YOU; 18-21 years) were 4-9% lighter than all other age groups and possessed 7% less muscle mass compared to the oldest players (OLD; 30-33 years) (P≤0.05), whereas no differences were present in body fat percentage.
OLD were 2-3% inferior to the second youngest (SEC; 22-25 years) and mid-age group (MID; 26-29 years) in sprint and agility performance in addition to a 6-10% lower CMJ height (P≤0.05). The younger age groups differed only by a 7 and 5% better CMJ performance in MID compared to YOU and SEC, respectively (P≤0.05).
In contrast, no differences were found in distance covered on the Yo-Yo IR1-IHmax. Conclusions: Only small-moderate associations between age and body composition were present unlike for the remaining performance parameters.
Nevertheless, a consistently lower high-intensity exercise performance was evident in the oldest- and a lower body weight in the youngest players, whereas aerobic capacity was similar. This suggests that capabilities related to size, strength and power are the most critical parameters differing between young and old ice hockey players."
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the regular season of NHL has been reduced to 56 games and began on January 13, 2021. Due to COVID-19 cross-border travel restrictions currently imposed by the Government of Canada, the league temporarily realigned for this season, putting all seven Canadian teams into one division.
The playoffs are then tentatively scheduled to run from May until July under a 16-team format with the top four teams from each division.