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Don't mess with Old Man Strength Print
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Written by Justin Bourne   
Wednesday, 29 September 2010 12:11
Justin BourneToward the end of the on-ice portion of my hockey career, I was convinced I had acquired something I always wanted. Most would call it aggression or think it resembled strength, but I'm certain it was something better: Old Man Strength.

I believe Old Man Strength is real. And I think there's a lot of savvy NHL veterans that deploy it with regularity against young buzzsaws that bomb around trying to do ten things at once.

MIDWEEK MUSINGS
It's not "old man muscle" for a reason – it has nothing to do with raw power – I think it's a learned type of force, something that you can figure out. Maybe it's even teachable. We'll know soon enough, 'cause I'm about to pass along to you what I picked up.

Most of our Dads had old man strength. In fact, our Dads still have old man strength. There is no feasible reason why at 6-foot-2, 200 pounds, and 27 years old I couldn't beat up my father (if for some reason I had to), but I still feel like he'd just grab my wrists with his 55 year old hands, I'd hang my head, and we'd be on our separate ways. No one would even get hurt.

That's an embarrassing statement from a young hockey player. But when your Dad is an old hockey player, you have to assume he's pretty much figured out how to use the muscles he has.

He's not using a grip-strengthening device, and he doesn't have superhuman strength, so this is my theory: It's about condensing wasted movement and energy, and concentrating it on one particular thing – like a snapshot, a punch, or a body check.

As you get older, you realize that if you're in a physical confrontation, it's pointless to not use every muscle fiber in your body. It sounds obvious, but when you're younger, you still have inhibitions about how and where to apply force, like you're not sure what the right amount of effort is. You almost feel self-conscious, for some reason.

Watching fights between young players is like watching a cartoon fight. There seems to be a little more method to the madness with experienced fighters.

Watching fights between young players (take the WHL, for example) is like watching a cartoon fight: A complete cloud of smoke with the odd limb becoming visible before all of a sudden someone emerges from the fracas with a black eye. There seems to be a little more method to the madness with experienced fighters.

The older you get, the more comfortable you are become going "all-in" with your strength. Combine that with the fact that some older players have mastered the "I'm not trying that hard" facial expression, and they occasionally catch the young bucks off guard.

There's another part of it, too. I'm finding myself now, in rec hockey, lifting opponents' sticks with mom-lifting-an-upside-down-car-cause-her-baby-is-in-it strength. I'm not necessarily stronger than these players, but I have a confidence in my abilities against guys I happen to think I'm better than. Because of that, I've eliminated all hesitation (the way an NHL vet like Bill Guerin might against a rookie). You simplify: one job, no multi-tasking. Just lift the damn stick, then on to the next thing.

While actual muscle strength can put a ceiling on how intense your old man strength can be, there are some mighty wiry adult men out there that are sneaky strong.

When I played college hockey five years ago, I could bench-press more than I do now, but those muscles were rarely utilized properly. All my coaches ever wanted me to do was to just play with a little bit more of an edge – it just took me awhile to figure out how to do it.

How to do it is by cutting out excess, the way that pruning limbs off a plant growing outward helps it to grow upward. You eliminate the waste, and you have the essence of Old Man Strength: minimizing, going all-in, doing it without hesitation, and just trusting in what you know. 

Rod Brind'Amour, Mark Recchi, Chris Chelios – these guys had plenty of real strength that they used on the ice, but it goes beyond that.

They have Old Man Strength.

Front page photo of Michael Del Zotto doing what looks like a burdensome sit-up courtesy Getty Images

Comments (2)

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Old man strength?
I would take old man strength over steroids any day! smilies/tongue.gif
Sam , September 29, 2010
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I've been trying for some time now to formulate a concrete theory on the wildcard variable that is Old Man Strength; which is oh so real. I've thought of sending it in to Mythbusters, but I could never get my thoughts straight on what it really is by description. I think you've done the best anyone could about clearing up the definition of this enigmatic gamechanger.
SDC , October 01, 2010

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Last Updated on Wednesday, 21 September 2011 10:18