Frozen Pond Diary: Making the cut

A Clipboard exclusive – we get an inside look at North American Junior hockey through the eyes of Mike Gionta. While playing for the Queen City Steam of the Central States Hockey League, Mike will share his weekly experiences with the Clipboard. He doesn’t mind being called the cousin of Brian or Steve, but on the Clipboard he is Mike Gionta.

It started back in June. Actually it started before then on May 17th. That was when the Central States Hockey League draft was held.

I wasn’t expecting to become a part of this, but coach Don Biggs and the Queen City Steam had other ideas.

I got a phone call that afternoon telling me I had been chosen in the 2nd of 20 rounds.

The CSHL is a Junior A hockey league, with teams ranging from Cleveland, Ohio to Dubuque, Iowa. The Queen City Steam is located in Cincinnati, OH. Getting drafted in this league does not guarantee anyone a spot on a team.

Spring Rookie Camp was held on my senior prom weekend. Knowing I had to miss my prom for this team, I was going to make sure that there was not a chance of me getting cut. As the weekend of rookie camp went, I worked my tail off making sure I stood out to the staff. When the weekend came to a close, I found myself with a contract to play on the Queen City Steam for the 2008-2009 season.

I left Cincinnati that weekend with the words of coach Don Biggs in my head: “If you aren’t where we expect you to be by training camp, we will be happy to send you home.”

Ironically, I was never told what was expected of me, funny I know. However this saying has been my motivation to keep going and improving in the off season.

Every week with 5 days of intense training can become stressful on the body and mind. My routine goes as follows.

On Monday, 9am-10:30am I work with a personal trainer for hockey specific strength exercises. Instead of using weights my trainer uses sand bags. The reasoning behind this is that using the sandbags will work the grip muscles in addition to the group of muscles I am working on. When I first heard of the idea of using sandbags I was a little confused because I didn’t think it would be that beneficial, but after doing it I realized that it is one of the toughest strength work outs I have ever done. Afterwards I usually go skate till 1pm, or I will choose to take a 2 mile run on the beach.

Tuesday, I run on the beach around 9am. After that I go lift from roughly 10:30am-12:30pm. This lift focuses on the legs, it is a mix of heavy weight training and ply metrics. Later on at night I travel to Buffalo and skate with the Wheatfield Junior Blades of the Golden Horseshoe Junior “B” Hockey League.

On Wednesday, I go to a power skating coach in Oakville, Ontario from 1pm-2:30pm. The power skating focuses on technique and efficiency of my skating stride. I get a light lift from around 5pm-6pm. The light lift focuses on only core muscle and core stability. Then I skate with the Buffalo Stars of the Empire Junior “B” Hockey League.

Thursday, I do an explosive agility workout with my trainer from 9am-10:45am. By this day I am close to being burnt out, so I take the rest of the day off to relax.

On Friday, I meet with my trainer for another rough sandbag workout from 9:30am- 10:30am.

I have had an occasional summer showcase tournament with various teams on weekends. I am gearing up training camp which starts August 8th. I have never worked so hard for something in my life. I feel that I had made many sacrifices to be able to play for this team. I don’t feel that I could have done this without the support of my family and friends continuing to push me to achieve a higher goal. It takes a lot out of you to work this hard, but having them around makes it a bit easier to fight through.

4 Responses to "Frozen Pond Diary: Making the cut"

  1. Reynell   July 30, 2008 at 10:00 pm

    I think this is a great contribution and I look forward to reading about the daily grind of an aspiring professional athlete.

    This and other blogs like it should be required reading for high school student-athletes. Most don’t realize the grueling work ethic one must have to make it professionally. Many of them will even question different tactics to strength training and don’t realize the added benefits of such strategies.

    Great stuff and looking forward to the next one.

  2. JD   July 31, 2008 at 8:48 pm


    Thanks for sharing your experience. Great stuff. Sounds pretty intense. Good luck!!!

  3. Casey   July 31, 2008 at 11:01 pm


    You make a great point: too often we dismiss things before seeing them through – particularly high schoolers. Poking holes in something is a whole lot easier than working at it.

  4. Smitty   July 31, 2008 at 11:31 pm

    Great stuff Mike!! Keep working hard and I can’t wait to read more.

    Gotta agree with the board. I don’t think most people truly understand the commitment it takes to make it in professional sports. There are going to be missed events, missed times hanging out with friends. It all comes down to in the end, what matters more to you.

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