WHA Hall of Fame

From an Alberta Oilers game program, how the Oilers have tried to gain an edge on conditioning:

In This Corner ...

Alberta Oilers should be prepared about the same time they make their next visit to Madison Square Garden.

It'll be Louis vs. Schmeling, Dempsey vs. Tunney, Marciano vs. Walcott and Clay-Ali vs. Frazier all over again.

That's if the program is a failure.

If it's a success, Oilers hope it'll be something like Russia vs. Japan in Olympic hockey.

What the Oilers have done in an effort to stop the slide which swept the club from first place to fifth is hire a boxer to teach them how to play hockey like the Russians.

“No wonder they're in fifth,” you say?

Actually, it makes some sense.

Oilers have hired Johann Louw, a recently retired Canadian boxing champion, to direct a Russian-like physical fitness program for the club. If any of his boxing talent rubs off, so much the better.

“It's something I'd talked about before the start of our training camp,” said Coach Ray Kinasewich.

"But the problem was to find someone who was qualified.”

“I mentioned some of the things the Russians did to get and keep their players in shape that I figured we could adopt.”

“The stomach seems to be the one part of the body a hockey player first allows to get a little out of shape. The arms and shoulders are other areas that need work. In playing and practicing the game, there aren't many activities that help keep those areas in shape and strong.”

“I didn't really have any idea what exercises we'd do but we figured it would be a good idea to look around and see if we could find someone qualified to handle that area.”

“I spoke to Bill Hunter (Oiler General Manager) about it and he thought it was a heck of an idea.”

“When Johann retired from boxing a third of the way into our schedule, we spoke to him about it.”

Kinasewich and Assistant Coach Glenn Hall had several meetings with Louw before starting the program.

“We found our players to be suffering a little in confidence. The lack of confidence and production was our major concern.”

“Johann decided to dwell on this specifically. He said this is a part of what he wanted to do.”

So the program began and Oilers spent several complete practices without so much as putting on skates. They could be seen running up and down the stands in the arena and throwing medicine balls into each other's chests.”

“The players actually enjoy it. They like the break from the routine of practices. I personally have seen a remarkable change in players.”

Johann decided to use exercises he's used in boxing, partly because he was familiar with them and partly because he knew they worked,” said Kinasewich of the soft spoken Edmontonian fighter who came to Canada from South Africa to obtain a degree at the University of Alberta.

“It's a variation of exercises that he always plans in detail. He treats them as a team and as individuals. The results are amazing. Al Hamilton and Bob Falkenberg are examples and Rusty Patenaude and Eddie Joyal work hard, have had good results and say they enjoy it.”

“It breaks the routine. Players look forward to it.”

“We want the club to be at 90% efficiency physically. If they obtain that then it's a proven fact that they'll be sharper mentally as well. At the start of the program, I'd say we were operating at 75 to 80% efficiency.”

“I'm 100% convinced this is the way to go. We plan to assign a program for each player in the off season and, for those living in Edmonton, we plan on having sessions twice a week.”