Alexei Kovalev is a Russian-born NHL star who currently plays for the Montreal Canadiens. This DVD is his training video for hockey players, and it also involves a lot of tips for getting your body in shape. Kovalev helped my beloved Rangers win the Stanley Cup in 1994, so I'm all for anything he's involved with.
Disc one of the DVD is split up into two main sections: the hockey drills and the body exercises. On the ice, Kovalev talks to the camera, explaining what he is about to do, and then he does it with continued voiceover narration. In the training sections, his personal trainer, Tommy Sheehan, joins him and narrates while Kovalev performs in the background, which is made to look like, of all things, the middle of a soccer field.
A hockey fanatic may want to watch this DVD just to see Kovalev's skill, but other than that, only hockey players in training need watch the on-ice stuff. I imagine that veteran hockey players are well beyond caring about the basic techniques he demonstrates, but amateur hockey coaches and youngsters could really learn something. The exercises, however, can be used whether you care about hockey or not. They work on virtually every part of the body, including legs, torso, and arms, so virtually anyone can enjoy these and get in shape with them, not just hockey players. Keep in mind that they are not cardiovascular; they are strength builders.
The DVD is put together pretty well, but the angle feature is utilized too much; I found myself frantically pressing the angle button on my DVD remote, trying to see everything while the angle icon was still on the screen, before the video moved on to the next section. This feature is really unnecessary, but you can experiment if you want to. Also, the DVD gives you another icon to allow you to skip back and forth between related hockey skills and exercise techniques. This is a little too choppy to be worth it. I would imagine that, like many exercise DVDs, the best way to handle this one is to watch the whole thing and pick out the parts that work for you.
Kovalev is an excellent hockey player, and he has a great personality, but he certainly isn't news anchor material. His narration is flat, and he still hasn't completely mastered the English language, especially its inflections. It doesn't really matter, though. I'm certainly not going to pick on a guy his size.
What follows is a breakdown of the sections of Alex's DVD:
Controlling the Puck: this has 13 sections, ranging from stick handling while on your knees, to bouncing the puck up and down on the end of your stick. It's all designed to increase hand-eye coordination puck feel. Good stuff.
Shooting Techniques: this has four sections, and Alex demonstrates proper wrist shots, slap shots, and even one-handed shots.
Skating Techniques: this has eight sections, and here Alex discusses the proper way to hold one's body for hockey skating. This has a lot of the classic "weave in and out of cones" exercises.
Game Situations: this has five sections, and it is really the coolest part for hockey fans and players. Alex talks about the best way to get out of tricky spots on the ice when you have the puck and are pressured by the defense. He uses some other skaters to demonstrate.
Band Training: this has 16 sections, and Sheehan explains the benefits of using an elastic band to train, claiming these encourage strenght to maintain body postion (very important for any hockey player). These exercises involve pushing and retracting, all with the added resistance of the band.
Band Training with Bench: this has six chapters, and it's the same idea as the previous section, but it increases the difficulty by including a workout bench to add distance.
Movement Training: this has 11 sections, and they involve things like special ways to walk and bounce that increase an athlete's balance.
The DVD is packaged in a single-wide case, but it has two discs. It also comes with an Alex Kovalev trading card and a double-sided, 18x28 poster, with Alex on one side and his training tips on the other.
The video looks great, and it was supposedly shot with 24 different H.D. cameras. The 1.85:1 image is enhanced for 16x9 T.V.'s, and it's all pretty to look at, especially upconverted. The lighting was handled interestingly, with deep shadows outside the active area, rather than just giving the viewer a flatly lit rink to look at for two hours.
While all the special features are in standard stereo, the main presentation is in English 5.1-surround sound. When a video pretty much consists of a couple people in front of the camera talking at you, there is only so much surround possible. However, the DVD editors have done a good job using the back channels to emphasize sound effects, like whooshes, as well as the blood-pumping music. There is also a stereo track in English. Unfortunatley, there are no subtitles on the main disc.
While disc one contains the main show, disc two has some interesting special features for any hockey fan.
"Mr. Kovi" is a classy documentary about Kovalev and his career in the United States, Russia, and the Olympics. It is 53 minutes long, but it isn't enhanced for 16x9 T.V.'s, even though it's presented in 1.85:1. I wish more media attention was paid to pro hockey players in the U.S. because then I could have great documentaries like this on all of my favorite players. There are no subtitles in "Mr. Kovi."
There is a trailer for the DVD itself, and there is a short making-of featurette. This one is 12 minutes long, and pretty much showcases Kovalev messing around during the show's filming.
There is also a Gift of Life Foundation promo, which is two minutes long.
All of the proceeds from this DVD will go to the Children's Gift of Life Foundation, which helps children who have heart disease. So go buy it. It gets a "Recommended" for any Kovalev fan, any young hockey players, and anyone who wants to get in shape but can't decide which video to go with.