Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Average shift times in the NHL -- should this apply to the beer leagues?

Click above to see larger image.

One of the recurring points of discussion on my beer league team is shift times: many of us (including me) are pushing for shorter, more energetic shifts while some players prefer longer shifts, which they view as a way to get more playing time.

That's totally understandable. Who doesn't like to play? That said, if you watch a lot of hockey games with a critical eye, it's easy to see that players who are going all out get tired quickly. After all, there are numerous studies pointing to the fact that humans can only go all-out for a minute or so.

Here's an excerpt from the book "Exercise and Sport Science:"

Long shifts of high intensity result in accumulation of muscle lactate and a rapid reduction in myscle glycogen, particularly from the fast-twitch fibers. If high concentrations of lactic acid are produced, the muscle acidity caused metabolic and contractile disturbancees that result in decreased work performance." 

Check out these statistics from this past NHL regular season: they show average ice time per shift per player. The guy with the longest shifts in the NHL is Washington defenseman Mike Green, who averages 62 seconds per shift with about 24 shifts per game. (Click on the link to see the full list; that's a screen shot above).

In other words, NHL players are taking a lot of shorter and more explosive shifts. Obviously, things are a little different in beer league hockey, which often uses running time -- i.e. the clock continues to run even when play stops for a face-off or goal.

There has also been some backlash in recent years against short shifts. Some people believe that conditioning has improved to the point that players can stay on the ice longer. And some also feel that short shifts deny players the ability to work into a rhythm and play better. Both points have some merit.

Still, what I think is very clear is that shifts of two minutes or longer are definitely not a good thing and are probably hurting your team unless absolutely necessary. The hardest thing is teaching this to everyone. Because it only takes one guy staying out too long to have a ripple effect -- the lines get messed up and other players want to also take long shifts to make up for time they're sitting on the bench.

I'm curious how other teams enforce this (or don't). I don't get a lot of comments on this blog, but in this case it would be great if others chimed in. 


1 comment:

  1. In my beer league in South Jersey, my team doesn't even have a real captain, since we were thrown together by the league organizer. Shift lengths vary from player to player. Personally, I time my shifts based on the number of subs we have on the bench. If there are at least three other forwards on the bench, I try not to stay out longer than 1:30 to 2:00. There are times when I'm really hustling and I'll only be out for 60 seconds.

    In addition to the number of teammates, the quality of the opponent also factors in to my shift times. Against a better team, I will be skating harder and taking shorter shifts. If only I had a big hook to get the floaters on my team off the ice. Or maybe a man-sized prize grabber like the ones you use to grab little teddy bears at the arcade - just pluck the lingerers up and put them on the bench.