The NHL is the premier ice hockey league in the world. It is where the best coaches and players on the planet aspire to be. Since 2008, Firstbeat Technologies has played a part behind the scenes at many of the North American league’s 31 franchises.
As of the start of the 2018-19 season, over 50% of NHL teams are using Firstbeat Sports to monitor individual players’ physiological data and, in turn, optimize performance, reduce injury risk and fast-track player development.
The Buffalo Sabres were the first to utilize the technology – based on over two decades of scientific research into human physiology – and Firstbeat clients have been represented in the last three Stanley Cup Finals series. This includes in 2018 when Firstbeat was used by the Vegas Golden Knights throughout their stunning inaugural season in the league which culminated in a Stanley Cup Finals appearance.
The cloud-based platform used by teams in 2018 allows coaches and players to work with confidence and put personalized training advice on firm, scientific ground. Insights derived from heart rate and heart-rate variability let teams accurately analyze what is happening internally when players are on and off the ice.
Metrics at their disposal include; Training Load, Training Effect (aerobic and anaerobic distribution), TRIMP, EPOC, and Calories Burned. These can be viewed in real-time as well as in easy to interpret individual and group reports. This data helps coaches and sport scientists replace guesswork with objective findings and is used to inform decisions on everything from training load management for specific position groups, to return to play protocols for individual players and scenarios.
In July 2018, the Carolina Hurricanes became the 17th NHL franchise to incorporate Firstbeat Sports into their training and recovery set-up. Bill Burniston, the ‘Canes’ Head Strength and Conditioning Coach, explained how they planned to incorporate the single platform solution:
“Currently, we use subjective data to measure and manage player workloads. Using Firstbeat, we hope to get a more accurate assessment of workload by measuring internal load objectively. In addition, we hope to develop better recovery protocols based off HRV readings.”
Teams across the league also use Firstbeat to help develop the next generation of hockey stars. The Hurricanes’ AHL affiliate, the Charlotte Checkers, have access to Firstbeat Sports and this is the case for affiliate teams linked to many of the NHL franchises such as the Arizona Coyotes and Pittsburgh Penguins. Meanwhile, the Detroit Red Wings relied on Firstbeat data during their 2016/17 Development Camp:
The Hurricanes also use the latest development in Firstbeat Sports’ Premium offering, Stress and Recovery analysis. Using the Firstbeat Bodyguard 2 device – a tool already used by organizations such as BMW and the UK’s National Health Service to monitor employee well-being – the Carolina team get the big picture of a player’s recovery levels, sleep quality and stress balance.
The San Jose Sharks and Pittsburgh Penguins used Firstbeat Sports during their run to an ‘All-Firstbeat’ Stanley Cup Finals showdown in 2016. Sharks Director of Strength and Conditioning, Mike Potenza, reveals how he uses TRIMP and Training Effect (TE) metrics provided by Firstbeat to keep track of the demands placed on players during training:
“TRIMP is our go-to accumulative workload metrics for the team (and) TRIMP is an important indicator of work stress. We look at our TRIMP and TE by position to measure the work to rest ratios of Forwards compared to Defensemen. It is critical that we take into account each drill’s cost of doing business per position and plan recovery accordingly.”
“Finding consistent practice days in an NHL season is difficult to come by due to the challenges of the game schedule and travel. Using Firstbeat’s workload measures of TRIMP, Training Effect and TRIMP/min allows us to choose the appropriate dosing of intensity for the limited amount of practices during the season.”
Andy O’Brien, Director of Sport Science and Performance at the Pittsburgh Penguins, adds:
“Firstbeat has been a consistent staple in our Sport Science program. HR is a basic measure, but there are many ways to look at it. The data from a single on-ice session can produce dozens of different metrics. Understanding these metrics in relation to other data – and within the content of our subjective assessment of athletes – is the critical component. This process lets us determine what action to take and, ultimately, make a difference. What I love about Firstbeat is it’s designed with a great level of flexibility to explore those relationships.”
As well as continuing to provide value to NHL teams across North America, Firstbeat Sports is currently bringing a complete solution to optimizing training load and recovery to over 1,000 teams spanning the elite levels of soccer, rugby, NBA, NFL and college sports among others.