One of the toughest aspects in professional sports is a rebuild. The process tests the patience and loyalty of a fanbase, organization and the athletes as growth and development are prioritized. Such is the case for the Arizona Coyotes, who currently sit last in the NHL standings. Making matters worse is that several of their key players have sustained injuries to start the season such as player Jakob Chychrun.

It can be tough to see the bigger picture as the tally in the win/loss column grows on the wrong end, but when you’ve faced the adversity that 23-year-old NHL defenseman Jakob Chychrun has, it’s not too difficult to believe better days are ahead.

“You have to have a short memory,” Chychrun says. “For me, personally, I think it’s just a matter of controlling what I can control, staying positive every day and just enjoying working with my teammates, going to the rink every day, putting your skates on and trying to get better as a group.”

Drafted with the 16th overall pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, the Boca Raton, FL, native suffered a series of setbacks to start his career. In his rookie season, Chychrun had surgery to repair a ligament in his left shoulder. He then tore the meniscus in his left knee after his first season and a torn ACL in his right knee the year after that. He treated each of those setbacks as learning lessons and in a testament to his resiliency and talent. Last season, he set career highs in goals (18), assists (23), and points (41) and was one of only five Coyotes to play in all 56 games.

While navigating a rebuild can be tough on any competitor, Chychrun’s firsthand experience in fighting through physical adversity makes him an ideal candidate to help lead the struggling Coyotes through the process. Chychrun explains the mindset needed for such a task.

NHL defenseman for The Arizona Coyotes Jakob Chychrun performing a single arm landmine press
Kelsey Grant/Arizona Coyotes


The biggest thing is you have to always have full belief and confidence in yourself and in your abilities. You have to be your own biggest supporter. I wouldn’t take back any of those hardships, surgeries, or adversity that I’ve faced in my life. At the end of the day, you’re able to learn so much about, not only yourself as an athlete but as a person as well and what you’re capable of when you’re faced with adversity.

As crazy as it sounds, I think the injuries have really helped my career. You would think two major knee surgeries and a few other injuries would be a big setback. At the times they happened, they are but I’ve gained so much knowledge and worked with so many people who have helped me get back and given me so much knowledge on things I can get better at; how I can better prepare and take care of myself, and how to stay healthy. It sucks in the moment but when you embrace it and never lose confidence in yourself, believe that you’re going to come back better than you were, that’s most of the battle.


Family has always been everything to me. They’ve been by my side since Day 1. There’s no one you can rely on like your family. They’re always going to be your biggest supporters. My mom and dad were always with me when I was going through surgeries and in the early stages when it’s tough to take care of yourself. They’re definitely the ones that can keep your spirits up at a time like that. There are long days of rehab but once you’re done with it, it’s nice to have your family there to get your mind back centered and go back to normal life. Having my grandpa, who is my biggest fan and my role model is very important. I look up to my grandpa as much as anybody. He turned 85 years old this year and he still plays hockey once a week with me during the summer time. It’s a special bond I have with him and my dad. The three of us get together on the ice in the summer and they’re a great support system.

NHL defenseman for The Arizona Coyotes Jakob Chychrun performing a bulgarian split squat with dumbbells
Kelsey Grant/Arizona Coyotes


Obviously, you do miss the game when you’re out and not able to be with your teammates on the ice. I’m very goal orientated and driven. I think staying positive and just focusing on what I can control each day helped me get through tough times and knowing that I was going to come out better on the other side of it. My dad always told me, ”The only thing you can control is how hard you work each day.” You can’t control whether you get injured. Each time I got hurt, I was pretty emotional for about 24 hours, and I embraced the suck of knowing what the process is going to look like and how long a recovery it would be. I just let that all come out of me during that first 24 hours. Once I’m able to get that out of my system, it’s like a 180 mind-switch and I go right into my driven mode to come back better than I was before I got hurt. I think the way I’m wired helped me with those injuries.

Coming back from the first [knee injury] seemed like a breeze compared to the right one. I didn’t have much pain when I came back, and I was really able to just take off and go. The right side was an ACL repair and they had to take my patellar tendon and use that as my new ACL. I had a lot of tendonitis because of that. I dealt with that for a long time. It takes a full year before you feel normal. When I got back to playing, it was a lot longer warmups and activations before every practice, game, and workout. I would really have to make sure I was prepared for activities to make sure my knee was in a good place and wasn’t going to hurt. It takes a long time for the healing to take place and for it to feel fully normal.


Hockey is a pretty unique sport when it comes to training, I think it’s one of the few sports in which you really need to be a well-balanced athlete, [especially in] the gym and in your workouts. You really need to have a strong lower body, really strong core, strong upper body and have great cardio. It’s not an easy sport to train for, but at the same time, I think that’s what makes it fun and keeps it interesting. You don’t run out of things to work on. I think the big things for me over the years, when it comes to weightlifting, your basic lifts are key. Different variation of squats, a lot of deadlifts and Olympic lifts translate well to being athletic. With my knee surgeries, I have to find ways to get creative with cardio. I used to do a lot of running and now I have to be a lot easier on my joints. I’ve done a lot of pool workouts over the last couple of years. I think it’s such a great tool for your health and fitness and you can do so many things in there to get weight off your joints.

As far as some of my favorite workouts, I would have to say rear-foot-elevated front squats with a safety squat bar. I like doing overhead snatches, like an Olympic lift with the barbells. The last would probably be a sumo or Romanian deadlift.


We’ll do a lot of lifts after games. They’re not crazy lifts. They will be full body, about two to three sets of three or four exercises. If there are games where we’re not lifting after, I like to do a bike ride on a pretty low setting and flush my legs out that way. I’ll also do a lot of stretching, foam rolling and that helps me stay on top of things. We use our tubs a lot for contrasting with hot and cold. That will also help flush some lactic acid out as well.

The Hockey Workout: Olympic Lifts and Massive Hits

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