Investigating the Relevance of Maximal Speed and Acceleration in Varsity-Level Female Ice Hockey Players

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Alexander S.D. Gamble Department of Human Health and Nutritional Sciences, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON, Canada
Department of Physical Education and Sport Sciences and the Sport and Human Performance Research Centre, University of Limerick, Limerick, Ireland

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Kyle M.A. Thompson Department of Human Health and Nutritional Sciences, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON, Canada

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Jessica L. Bigg Department of Human Health and Nutritional Sciences, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON, Canada
School of Medicine, University of Limerick, Limerick, Ireland

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Christopher Pignanelli Department of Human Health and Nutritional Sciences, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON, Canada

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Lawrence L. Spriet Department of Human Health and Nutritional Sciences, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON, Canada

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Jamie F. Burr Department of Human Health and Nutritional Sciences, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON, Canada

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Purpose: To characterize and compare female ice hockey players’ peak skating speed and acceleration ability during linear sprints and gameplay. We also sought to quantify the time spent at various speeds and the frequency of accelerations at different thresholds during games. Methods: Seventeen varsity-level female ice hockey players (20 [1.4] y, 68.9 [4.9] kg, 167.6 [4.7] cm) participated in an on-ice practice session (performing 3 × 40-m linear sprints) and 4 regular-season games while being monitored using a local positioning system. Speed and acceleration were recorded from the sprint and within-game monitoring. Time on ice spent in relative skating speed zones and the frequency of accelerations at different intensities were recorded. Results: Players’ greatest peak speeds (29.5 [1.3] vs 28.3 [1.1] km/h) and accelerations (4.39 [0.48] vs 3.34 [0.36] m/s2) reached during gameplay were higher than those reached in linear sprinting (both P < .01). Peak in-game values were moderately predicted by linear sprint values for speed (r = .69, P < .01) but not for acceleration (r < .01, P = .95). Players spent little time at near-peak linear sprint speeds (≥80% [22.7 km/h], ∼3% time on ice; ≥90% [25.5 km/h], <1% of time on ice) during gameplay. However, 26% to 35% of accelerations recorded during the 4 games were ≥90% of linear sprint acceleration. Conclusions: Although skating speed may be advantageous in specific game situations, our results suggest that players spend little time at near-maximal speeds while accelerating frequently during games. This warrants further investigation of direction changes, skating transitions, repeated sprints, and other determinant variables potentially related to on-ice success and the implementation of training strategies to improve repeated acceleration or qualities beyond maximal skating speed.

Gamble (alexander.gamble@ul.ie) is corresponding author.

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