Dach putting in the work

Black­hawks cen­ter fol­low­ing renowned trainer’s plan to be­come dom­i­nant by ad­ding lower-body strength

Chicago Sun-Times - - BLACKHAWKS BEAT - BY BEN POPE BPOPE@SUN­TIMES.COM @BENPOPECST

Kirby Dach had a solid, yet un­spec­tac­u­lar rookie sea­son with the Black­hawks. Aus­ton Matthews won the Calder Tro­phy, given to the NHL’s top rookie, with the Maple Leafs and has emerged as one of the league’s big­gest stars in his fourth sea­son.

No one could pos­si­bly com­pare the at this point, right?

Well, renowned Chicago trainer Ian Mack will.

“[Dach is] 19, and then Aus­ton Matthews — an­other one of our guys — he’s 22,” Mack said. “I would say those two guys are light years ahead of most peo­ple their age, just from a ma­tu­rity level and what they’re willing to fo­cus their time and at­ten­tion on. They’re head and shoul­ders above ev­ery­one else I’ve met their age.”

That’s high praise for Dach from Mack, who may not be well known by NHL fans but who has be­come one of hockey’s fastest-ris­ing and most rec­og­nized pri­vate train­ers be­hind the scenes.

Mack’s work with Pa­trick Kane — keep­ing Kane an elite of­fen­sive pro­ducer as he ap­proaches age 32 — has gained the most at­ten­tion, but Mack also trains Jonathan Toews and Brent Seabrook.

Seabrook, who had Dach stay at his house this past sea­son, brought the rookie cen­ter to meet Mack in Fe­bru­ary, and the trainer was im­me­di­ately im­pressed by Dach’s ma­tu­rity.

Dach, too, was im­pressed by Mack’s ex­per­tise.

“I just saw the way that Kane moved out there on the ice,” Dach said dur­ing his end-ofyear in­ter­view. “I wanted to learn what this guy is all about, and I went and saw him, and I re­ally liked the stuff he’s do­ing. He’s re­ally, re­ally helped me out.”

Mack worked closely with Dach dur­ing the NHL shut­down, send­ing him pre-recorded work­outs and in­struct­ing him through FaceTime.

That rou­tine con­tin­ued into train­ing camp in July and the play­offs, dur­ing which Dach was one of the most im­proved and im­pres­sive play­ers on the Hawks.

“For him, this was a mini op­por­tu­nity for him to get a lot of things in line that some­times you don’t have enough time to do when you’re younger,” Mack said. “This gave him a lit­tle bit of an op­por­tu­nity to get square with him­self, find good habits, find bet­ter rou­tines, start work­ing on his in­di­vid­ual de­vel­op­ment.”

The big­gest pri­or­i­ties are as fol­lows: First, Dach needs to add weight onto his 6-4 frame in a smart, ef­fec­tive way.

Sec­ond, he needs to in­crease his mo­bil­ity in spite of the added weight.

“He was con­cerned that ev­ery­body wanted him to just bulk up, and he was go­ing to be re­ally big, and he was go­ing to lose some speed or agility,” Mack said. “We’re teach­ing him how to be strong and sta­ble while still be­ing able to move through his full range, and then be­ing able to ex­plode quickly out of it. We wanted to make sure we were build­ing up for his sport as op­posed to him just gain­ing weight.”

This fall, Dach is still go­ing to gain some weight — Mack said he’s still work­ing to de­ter­mine his ideal num­ber for next sea­son. Dach weighed in at 198 pounds this past sea­son.

But there’s a de­tailed sci­ence to that weight gain.

“You just want to make sure he’s gain­ing weight in the right ar­eas,” Mack said. “A lot of peo­ple’s mo­bil­ity comes from hav­ing trunk sta­bil­ity, or hav­ing a stronger lower body or a stronger core. Then, from those sta­ble po­si­tions, they should be able to move around pretty well.”

That lower body strength will help Dach pro­tect the puck and claim it back from op­po­nents and in board bat­tles. It’s a cru­cial part of his emer­gence as an elite two-way cen­ter.

Even beyond the work­outs, Mack has re­formed Dach’s life­style to fur­ther ac­cel­er­ate his hockey de­vel­op­ment.

When the two first paired up in Fe­bru­ary, Dach was staying up late while play­ing video games. Now, he’s go­ing to sleep ear­lier and longer, track­ing his daily sleep sched­ule and met­rics in a log for Mack to re­view.

“He’s pretty data-driven and suc­cess­driven, so if you show him a road map and ‘game-ify’ it a lit­tle bit, he’s all in,” Mack said. “If you can show him, ‘Hey, look, when you sleep more, you’ll per­form bet­ter,’ he’ll sleep more. For him, it’s not sac­ri­fice.”

While Mack and his com­pany, Tom­a­hawk Sci­ence, are tech­ni­cally not affiliated with any NHL team, the Hawks do pro­vide some in­put for his work with their play­ers.

In this sit­u­a­tion, the Hawks asked Mack to pre­pare Dach — con­di­tion­ing-wise — to play 20 or more min­utes per game next sea­son.

Based on Dach’s re­mark­able pro­gres­sion since be­ing drafted 15 months ago, that re­quest and pro­jected role isn’t par­tic­u­larly sur­pris­ing. But for Hawks fans al­ready drool­ing over Dach’s seem­ingly lim­it­less po­ten­tial, it’s ex­cit­ing news none­the­less.

And af­ter Dach fin­ishes what will ba­si­cally be a sec­ond 2020 off­sea­son un­der Mack’s guid­ance, he should be ready to ex­cel.

“He wants to be stronger on the puck, be more ag­gres­sive and shoot more,” Mack said. “So if we can keep him strong, sta­ble and able to move quickly from those po­si­tions, he should be able to cre­ate enough space to get that shot off.” ✶

GETTY IM­AGES

Kirby Dach (77 white) is just as good as Maple Leafs star Aus­ton Matthews, ac­cord­ing to Dach’s trainer, Ian Mack.

GETTY IM­AGES

Kirby Dach (left), cel­e­brat­ing his goal with Pa­trick Kane in Game 2 of the Black­hawks’ first-round se­ries against the Golden Knights, plans to add weight and in­crease his mo­bil­ity this off­sea­son.

Aus­ton Matthews

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