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Complimentary Sports to Ice Hockey

I frequently get asked to recommend complimentary sports for Ice Hockey. A great question to ask, but the answer may be different for each player.

Before going any further, I want to first recommend: BE ACTIVE, LEARN NEW SKILLS, PLAY, HAVE FUN, and BE AN ATHLETE. Probably the most complimentary sport for today's young athlete is just getting outside and playing sports with friends and family, a lot, seriously. Play existing sports, invent new sports, race your friends to the top of that hill, organize neighborhood basketball games, tennis matches, baseball games, whiffle ball games, kick ball, dodge ball, wall ball, tag, anything. The opportunity to develop as an athlete is more available for most than initially perceived.

That aside, let us look into the question at hand:

I recognize two main factors that determine a good complimentary sport to Ice Hockey. First is the sport and its exercise components: The physiological demands, mental acuity, mental durability, and athletic skill demands. Second is the player: Their likes, dislikes, individual physiological needs, cognitive development needs, various social factors, and economic variables. There is a lot that goes into determining which sport is best for a player but probably the most important are the goals of the individual.

A quality complimentary sport has similar dynamic and static muscular demands. Additionally, it should have lateral mental demands, work to rest ratios, and game pace. Almost all sports are complimentary in one way or another, and they all can be beneficial for an athlete. However, there are some that, in theory, may be more beneficial than others for an individual who desires to enhance on ice game play through cross-training in another sport.

Best Complimentary Sports, Sports That Have Similar Dynamic and Static exercise components

Tennis (On & Off Season)

Similar Dynamic and static exercise components, work to rest ratios, short vigorous bursts and high anaerobic demands during periods of competition. Great for hand eye coordination, requires core rotational movement, develops body awareness, and detailed mental acuity is required. It is easily accessible and inexpensive in a non-competitive setting, a good option for casual play in and out of season.

Squash & Racquetball (On & Off Season)

Like tennis, the dynamic and static requirements are similar, competition to rest times similar, strong hand eye requirements, in moment quick decision making, powerful swinging motion. Less accessible than tennis, however, variations can be played outdoors at a wall ball court or similar set up.

Mixed Martial Arts (minimal to no Sparring In Season & Off Season)

One of the purist forms of individual sport, hand to hand combat, extremely high dynamic demands, striking, and kicking are fundamental athletic skills. The dynamic demands are higher, in general, than those of Ice hockey. This can be greatly beneficial during the off season. Overall, I have seen significant growth in players who begin training in MMA during the hockey off season. There is a huge mental toughness element, obviously, that can breed confidence in players when they have success through individual combat competition. Keep in mind a player’s head injury history when determining sparring intervals.

Boxing (minimal to no Sparring In Season & Off Season)

Like MMA but less multifaceted physical demands.

Short Distance Track and Field Events (Natural Off Season)

Track and field events are summer sports, making them ideal for hockey players. Most schools offer the sport so additional cost is negligible and it normally will not require added commute for practices. Notable events: 100-meter sprint, 100-meter hurdles, 400-meter sprint, 200-meter hurdles, 400-meter hurdles, long jump, triple jump, pole vault, and the 4 x 4 relay. The Dynamic and static demands are extremely similar. There is some concern with overuse of the hips with added running, however, the shorter distance events should minimize that risk. I personally like pole vault, it is exciting and fun, weighted sprinting, and full body coordination. There is not a similar hand eye component (except with maybe the 4 x 4 relay, albeit brief) but with the direction hockey is going in terms of speed and body awareness at maximum exertion, these track and field events are extremely complimentary.

Skate Skiing (Short Distance or Interval)

Unlike downhill skiing which requires significantly more static demands than hockey, skate skiing at short distances is similar to the demands of skating in Ice Hockey.

Box lacrosse involves more short distance exertion than field lacrosse and it has similar dynamic vs static physical demands. It also has a similar physical component, hand eye skill requirement, and mental toughness.

A Team sport that is popular in Europe, particularly Scandinavia. Pavel Barber, many of you may follow him on Instagram, is an excellent floor ball player and it is not a coincidence that his stick skills with a puck are exceptional as well. The overall dynamic and static demands are similar too, as there is a lot of sprinting involved.

Another popular game in Europe, similar dynamic, and static muscular demands. Fast passing among teammates during game play. Throwing and catching are basic athletic skills and very prevalent in team handball.

Similar static vs dynamic requirements, short bouts requiring extremely quick reaction skills. Precise movement requirements and manipulation of a non-appendage extension of the body.

Gymnastics (floor routines)

While all gymnastic disciplines can be extremely beneficial, not all are complimentary due to body build requirements and non-desired joint overuse. Floor routines do have similar dynamic and static muscular requirements. The exercise components of a floor routine can enhance agility, balance, control, and speed.

Dynamic and static demands are similar if not higher, and the work to rest ratios are similar.

Less Complimentary sports

Active vs rest ratio in competition is not the same, although it can be at certain periods of the game. Similar hand eye requirements are complimentary. It is a sport that is traditionally Spring/Summer but does overlap seasons. It is a popular sport in the North, like hockey, so many hockey players play both. It has the potential to be in the best category but when examining the pure exercise demands it falls short. Typically, less expensive than hockey and in popular locations minimal commute to play. It is also a sport that can be recreationally played with family and friends easily.

Dynamic and static demands are similar. Work to rest ratios are not the same, however. Easily accessible and can be inexpensive. Another great sport for casual play any day.

More of an endurance sport, dynamic and static demands not very complimentary. Easily accessible and inexpensive in a noncompetitive capacity. Can be played any day with friends and family. It is extremely popular internationally, as such, many youth hockey players play both.

Great for overall fitness and is played during the hockey off season. The Dynamic vs static demands tend to be different, except for free style short distance.

Although the high dynamic and static demands of rowing are complimentary, the seated position is not ideal for a hockey player.

Jumping and striking are key basic athletic skills. The team communication in Volleyball is beneficial as well. However, overall, the dynamic and static exercise components are not very complimentary.

Cycling is a traditional hockey training sport. However, the seated position works against the hockey players physical development by shortening the hip flexors. Dynamic and static demands are similar in the lower extremities. Cycling can be a great compliment to hockey if we consider the negative aspects and compensate.

Rugby and Australian Rules Football and

Dynamic and static exercise components are similar. Work to rest ratio is not comparable. High impact on the shoulders can put one at risk for additional shoulder injuries.

Least Complimentary Sports

Cross Country Skiing

Great for overall cardiovascular conditioning but does not have complimentary exercise components.

Great for overall cardiovascular conditioning but does not have complimentary exercise components. High risk of injury and high cost.

Although numerous benefits exist, including significant hand eye coordination with a non-appendage extension and occasional short sprints to catch or when running bases. It is in the least category based on its exercise components.

No need for additional information


High static exercise components but not enough dynamic to be considered complimentary.

Although there are significant similarities in muscle usage with shooting and certain golf swings, overall, it is not complimentary. Golf requires a lot of attention to detail and body awareness, a high mental acuity and mental toughness. Many hockey players golf but it would not be classified as complimentary based on the exercise requirements.


While there is some mental decision making required, overall, not complimentary.

Cross Country Running

Hockey is a majority anaerobic sport, long distance endurance sports are not complimentary, however, they are great for overall fitness and cardiac health.

Majority static exercise, not enough dynamic to be complimentary. Can be fun and good for overall fitness.


Choose sports that the player is interested in, enjoys, and offers complimentary components and variability in terms of physical requirements. As the players get older, it makes more sense to shift them into more complimentary sports, if competing leisurely. If competitive in another sport, and enjoy that sport, then continue with that sport. In most circumstances, competitive athletic development enhances an athlete’s development more than shifting into a new “more complimentary” sport would.

More to consider

When choosing to participate in additional sports, which absolutely should be encouraged, particularly for players under the age of 15, consider the player's personal well-being first.

12U & younger players should play all sports accessible to them. At this age overall athleticism is the focus as it is a prime skill acquisition window. Academic workloads tend be more manageable allowing for the opportunity for the athlete to explore other interests and cultural experiences while participating in additional sports. Furthermore, players at this age tend to derive most of their social time and social learning through team sports. From my experience, as players get older their social interests tend to diversify and this requires more time allocation. It is always hard to observe a talented athlete walk away from the game because they feel they are missing out on social experiences due to their athletic time commitments.

I believe the best way to ensure players achieve success, find happiness, develop lifelong healthy habits, and minimize regretful or harmful decisions, is through education and extremely efficient, open, two-way communication. Be sure to listen to them, have them speak to many people, but in the end help them make the best decisions by listening to them.

It should be noted that a complimentary sport does not need to be a structured team commitment that carries an additional financial burden. Playing other sports through play with friends and family in daily life reaps similar if not greater rewards, especially in season. Keep in mind a player’s desires, if she has multiple friends on her soccer team whom she enjoys playing with, then tennis would not be complimentary for that athlete. Soccer would be complimentary because that is the sport where that player will benefit most at this juncture of her life.

In the end, get out and play. One hour of vigorous activity daily should be a minimum for athletes- individuals who enjoy competing through sport and dedicate themselves to improving the quality of their life through athleticism.

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