Blackhawks’ Kirby Dach hopes intensive summer training leads to explosive season

Britney Millar has met many dedicated hockey players. As an intensive skating instructor in Edmonton, Alta., Her programs attract exactly that type of person.

But after six years of working with Kirby Dach, she realized her work ethic stood on a separate plane.

“He comes to the ice rink [and] he’s still the goofiest, happiest guy, ”Millar said. “But the minute we get into the actual exercises, he’s still connected, paying attention. And then when he does his rehearsals, he’s always focused and listening to what he’s trying to do and accomplish. This is the most important thing I noticed about him.

Dach and Millar reunited this summer for an intensive offseason training session for the 20-year-old Blackhawks center, who looks set to thrive in his third year in the NHL.

After a largely lost season – Dach missed the first three months and last week of 2021, recovering from his disastrous wrist injury at the World Junior Championships, finishing with 10 points in just 18 NHL games – it was clear that this offseason would be crucial for his career development.

As camp draws to a close and Dach prepares for training camp, he is happy with how it turned out.

“I took a little while, let my wrist heal, and did physiotherapy,” Dach said. “I felt I was in a good enough position to start skating and training again, and pushing my body back to a place where I felt happy in my conditioning and how I felt and how I moved.”

Kirby Dach scored 10 points in just 18 games during his abridged injury season 2021.
AP Pictures

Refresh your skating

Many factors have contributed to Dach’s rise from a talented teenager to a third overall pick to that of a flourishing star over the past half-decade, but his skating job with Millar is the one of the most influential.

Dach’s father connected the two in 2015, shortly after Millar started his own business, and his first task was to use Dach’s natural athleticism to allow his skating to catch up with his body.

“As a kid I was always tall and lanky and then I had a few big growth spurts so it took a while for my body to come to terms with the way I wanted to skate without looking awesome,” said Dach laughing. “She’s been really good for me, helping me lengthen my stride and get the most power out of everything.”

“A lot of players tend to move with their feet because that’s the normal pattern of movement when you’re off the ice,” Millar said. “Corn [I had to] get your body in tune with the fact that your skating power on the ice comes from your hips, then your knees and ankles.

Their collaboration has evolved since then. In his 2018-19 draft year, Dach and Millar worked together three days a week for three months to improve his first-leg explosiveness – as the Scouts saw that as a weakness in his game at the time.

And this summer, after not being able to collaborate last year due to COVID-19, they worked together two days a week to help Dach get rid of the rust created by playing sparingly over the past year. and a half.

“I asked him at the beginning, ‘Well, what do you want to work on in particular this summer?’ ”Said Millar. “And he just said, ‘Overall I want to get better. “”

“It was [about] refresh everything, because from my perspective it had just lost some of those specific efficiencies in its stride. We worked a lot on the edges because I also found that he had lost that awareness of his edge control. And then we worked on the acceleration, as usual. And a lot of upper body rotation – his upper thoracic spine, we worked to connect that to his body. “

Wrist completely healed

Dach follows a summer timeline that focuses heavily on skating at first, then gradually shifts to skill work – like shooting and puck handling – and small group training settings later, Millar said.

He followed that pattern again this summer, returning to Chicago in late August for more of the latter. He also continued his off-ice training with Ian Mack, the famous private trainer who has helped him gain strength and mobility simultaneously over the past two years.

But Dach’s repaired wrist presented a third issue to be addressed this summer. He didn’t reach a 100% comfort level with her until the beginning of August.

“It was a pretty steady process throughout the whole process, just trusting my body, listening to it and knowing when it felt ready and when to push it, and when to step back if it got worse and started to get a bit. painful. ”he said.

The whole eight month recovery process turned out to be a lesson in patience. He admits that “sucks to get hurt all the time” – that part will never change – but he has learned to deal with it better mentally nonetheless.

“It’s not like I’m the only guy in the world who gets hurt,” he said. “You can’t get too high on yourself and push things around and just say it’s okay and go back and then hurt yourself more. [But you also can’t] don’t play your best; then you hurt the team. It’s a happy medium, and you just need to be able to find that balance to push yourself to the right extent.

Come Thursday, when the Hawks start camp at Fifth Third Arena, Dach won’t have to actively think about that balance. For the first time in three years, he will be in good health and will be able to participate in an NHL camp.

There will still be challenges to overcome this season, such as shooting, an area where he struggled somewhat in his first two seasons – and an issue made worse last season by his lack of confidence in the strength of his wrist.

But Dach’s training in the offseason makes him very confident for the year ahead.

“I just want me to take one more step [this season], “he said.” I want to go out there and prove my worth and be able to play at the highest level every night. “

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