An Interview with Anaheim Ducks Strength Coach Sean Skahan

Skahan

Continuing my interview series with NHL strength & conditioning coaches, I spoke with Anaheim Ducks coach Sean Skahan (@SeanSkahan) last week.

Sean has been working with the Ducks for a decade, having including the Stanley Cup championship in 2006-07. We discussed the changes in training hockey players over the past decade, who the fittest Ducks are, and more.

His previous work:

Skahan was the Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach at Boston College for the 2001-02 season. In 2000-01, he was the Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach at the University of North Dakota. While earning his Master’s degree in Kinesiology, the Massachusetts native worked as a Graduate Assistant Strength Coach at the University of Minnesota from 1999-00. He earned his bachelor’s degree in exercise physiology from the University of Massachusetts at Boston in 1998. He also holds certifications from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (N.S.C.A.) and USA Weightlifting. Sean is also a certified as a Russian Kettlebell Instructor (RKC).

In addition to his work with the Ducks, he runs his own exercise/health blog (SeanSkahan.com), offers up hockey training products for sale, and is very active in the online hockey fitness community. Here he discusses some common mistakes he sees with hockey players and training.

  1. Inadequate nutrition.
  2. Lack of leg strength and power.
  3. Too much time dedicated to aerobic training.
  4. Not being on an organized training program.

As someone who is a huge fan of kettlebells, it is great to see Sean integrate them into working with hockey players.

Sean has several other terrific resources on his site. Some of my favorites:

Here is Sean demonstrating how to use the Slide Board, a tool he incorporates in his training of hockey players:

I picked his brain with several hockey and training questions. His reputation is tremendous, for good reason. He delivers results. 

“He transformed Bobby Ryan from an out-of-shape 21-year-old to a potential 40-goal scorer who can command $5 million per season. That’s why players tend to have big ears when they’re around Skahan.”

Under Skahan’s guidance in the summer of 2008, Ryan dropped 20 pounds and reduced his body fat from 17 percent to nine percent. After Ryan broke out that season with 31 goals and 57 points in 64 games, he thanked Skahan by paying Skahan’s way to Las Vegas for the NHL awards show.

“He took me from a guy who was going to be a borderline NHL player to a guy who could play big minutes,” Ryan said.

RyanRyan remembers that Skahan changed his whole lifestyle, notably his diet, and made him realize “it’s not like juniors where you go home and sleep for four hours” after practice.

“That summer with him was an eye opener,” Ryan said. “He has a very long handle. He goes off quite a bit, but it’s dedication. He wants your full commitment.”

Angus: What is unique in terms of training a pro hockey player compared to other athletes?

Skahan: What is unique about training pro hockey players is that for the most part, they want to improve on a daily basis.  They are very coachable and a fun group to work with.  There aren’t many pro hockey players who don’t want to work hard and get better.  It comes with the territory.

What have been the biggest changes in hockey training since you have been working with the Ducks?

Some of the biggest changes in hockey training over the last few years:

  • Players  are reporting to training camps in much better condition.  Training camp is fully embraced as a time to show that players are ready to compete in the regular season, not as additional time to get in condition.
  • This kind of coincides with number one.  Most players who don’t live in the area during the off-season have personal trainers/strength and conditioning coaches during the off-season.
  • Players are more educated on proper nutrition and supplements.
  • Players take their in-season strength and conditioning more seriously.  I can recall when it was very challenging to get players to buy in to the in-season program. Not the case any more.

What does a typical summer look like for you in terms of staying in touch with players and doing your own training?

I usually have a small number of payers who stay in town throughout the summer. The rest of the team lives in their off-season homes throughout the world.  I stay in touch with all of them via phone, email, and/or text.  We also have a one-week conditioning camp for our prospects every summer.

What is your athletic background? Has that helped you establish a relationship with the players you train?

I was a division three college football player and I currently play recreational hockey.  I really believe in being part of a team in any sport at any level is going to be very beneficial in relationships with athletes that you train.

What level of nutritional guidance do you offer the players? How do you make sure they are eating properly in and out of season?

I approach it on an individual basis.

In your time with the Ducks, who have been some of the fittest players you have worked with?

Niedermayer

Both Niedermayer brothers were  known for their fitness levels

Some of the fittest players that I have been fortunate to coach include Paul Kariya, Andy McDonald, Keith Carney, Teemu Selanne, JS Giguere, Chris Pronger, Samuel Pahlsson,  Joffrey Lupul, Francois Beauchemin, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Todd Marchant, Bobby Ryan, and Scott and Rob Niedermayer. There are others, but when I think of guys who are/were really professional in the weight room, whether they were veterans who already knew what they were doing or younger players who really needed the coaching, these guys stand out.

Sean and three other coaches own and operate www.HockeySC.com, a website specifically tailored for hockey strength & conditioning. Check it out – it is a great resource with a lot of material. 

Other NHL strength & conditioning coach interviews: