Chicago Blackhawk Patrick Sharp is a poster boy for good genes. Exceptional athletic talent. Check. Exceptional looks. Check. Exceptional intelligence. Well, his acumen on the ice and cogent comments on WTMX-FM’s "Eric & Kathy Morning Show" (where he has a weekly gig when he’s in town) speak volumes about his sharp mind, no pun intended.
Surprisingly, Sharp, a versatile forward who shifts between left wing and center, also is a poster boy for good, old-fashioned hard work. The physical kind, as in weight training, running and jumping to improve his strength, balance and speed. And he’s very grateful to his taskmaster, Chicago Blackhawks strength and conditioning coach Paul Goodman.
"He changed my life. When I came here, I needed to improve in every area and focus on getting stronger and faster. His individual workouts are a big reason for my success on the ice," Sharp said.
Sharp admitted that getting traded to the ailing Blackhawks from the playoff-bound Philadelphia Flyers midway through the 2005-06 season was his wake-up call. "I could have been much better, but I didn’t put a focus on training then. I wasn’t lazy; I just didn’t realize that the off-ice stuff made me better on ice," he said.
Sharp got the message loud and clear. "I woke up and started training harder. I realized it’s up to the individual player to put the work in, and I do that now," he said.
That amounts to daily practice during the season and a couple of precisely targeted workouts dreamed up by Goodman during the week but never on a game day. "Playing takes so much out of you," he said. In the offseason, he works out two hours every morning — religiously, again with exacting exercises prescribed by Goodman.
Such as? "Hockey is all about balance and core. There are unlimited exercises you can do for that, and Paul and I start every workout with it," he said. His go-to tools are medicine balls in varying weights. "We do tosses and throw them around in different ways," he said. And his go-to standard for cardio and strength training: "Weight complexes. They’re the hardest thing to do, but I feel great afterward."
Complex training — a type of weightlifting that involves a number of exercises performed in succession using the same exact weight — is meant to replace traditional cardio sessions and overcome the body’s tendency to adapt to repetitive endurance activities. The goal is to complete all of the specified reps for each exercise and immediately move to the next without a break. This increases metabolic rate so the routine becomes a high-intensity interval training cardio session.
Goodman’s strategies have been so effective that Sharp has made extraordinarily speedy recoveries from an injured knee last March, returning to the ice a week ahead of schedule, and an emergency appendectomy three weeks before the 2011-12 season opener Oct. 7. He missed only two weeks of training camp and started the season on time.
"Coming back (from injuries) really has the most to do with self-discipline and how much you want to get out of your workout," he said.
The trade from Philly to Chicago also changed Sharp in another way: His jersey number changed from 9 to 10, an irony given the media attention he gets here for his model-perfect looks (Chicago Magazine named him one of Chicago’s most beautiful people last spring). It turns out keeping his favorite number, which he chose to pay homage to his favorite player, former Dallas Stars forward Mike Modano, wasn’t an option. “It was retired for Bobby Hull, so I went to 10 because that’s the number my brother always used to use,” he said.
And yet another change: Sharp added about 6 more pounds to his workout, lifting new daughter Madelyn Grace, delivered by mom Abby on Dec. 9.