CALGARY -- Mike Babcock took a page out of the coaching playbook from some of his peers in other sports to put Canada's Olympic hopefuls through a unique workout Monday morning at the Canadian Olympic orientation camp.
Since ice isn't available to the coaches and players because of the prohibitive costs to insure all the NHL contracts at Canada's Olympic orientation camp, Babcock instead used advice he got from Michigan State basketball coach Tom Izzo and Detroit Lions quarterbacks coach Todd Downey to put the 45 players in attendance through a ball hockey-style walk-through.
LINES FROM MONDAY'S ORIENTATION CAMP
Eric Staal - Jonathan Toews - Rick Nash
Logan Couture - John Tavares - Steven Stamkos
Martin St. Louis - Mike Richards - Jeff Carter
Andrew Ladd - Ryan Getzlaf - Corey Perry
Marc Staal - Drew Doughty
Dion Phaneuf - Brent Seabrook
Jay Bouwmeester - P.K. Subban
Alex Pietrangelo - Travis Hamonic - Dan Hamhuis
Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Patrick Sharp
Milan Lucic - Matt Duchene - James Neal
Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - Jordan Eberle
Taylor Hall - Jordan Staal - Dylan Walchuk (University of Calgary)
Duncan Keith - Shea Weber
Karl Alzner - Mike Green
Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Dan Boyle
Marc Methot - Kris Letang
Hockey Canada had a crew put a fiberglass surface complete with lines and markings over the the international ice sheet at Markin MacPhail Centre, and Babcock then divided the players into two groups. Each workout was aimed at giving the players firsthand experience with some of the systems and overall style of play the Canadians plan to utilize when they get to the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia, and play on the bigger ice sheet.
"Tom Izzo is a Hall of Fame basketball coach who wins year after year after year," Babcock said. "He's a serial winner. He's always in the Final Four, has a great program. When I phoned him, he was thrilled to talk to me and had a bunch of ideas for me. We talked back and forth. He was able to help me understand the process so we could present something to the players so they could learn but also so I was confident enough that we could do this.
"And then Todd Downey, the quarterback coach of the Lions, he was the same," Babcock continued. "He was fantastic. Actually, he was brilliant. He had so many good ideas for me. It's easy for me to come out and run stuff when you're on the ice. That's what I do for a living. This isn't what I do for a living. So I didn't know how it was going to be."
Babcock was thrilled with how the walk-through turned out.
"We thought this was an excellent day for our team and our coaching staff in taking a step," Babcock said. "I think the guys had a lot of fun. I talked to a few of the key guys, and they told me it was good. We'll talk about it [Monday night] and we'll revisit it again [Tuesday] and have another good day and take a step. I think it sets us up good. I was extremely pleased."
The players, wearing Hockey Canada-issued shirts, hats, shorts and sneakers, began by lightly jogging through the drills -- but soon enough the competitiveness took over; they were going faster and getting a bit more physical with their sticks.
San Jose Sharks center Logan Couture even fell in the corner and slid on his stomach, but he got up and was fine. Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price said he took some shots off his ankle and joked that his save percentage wasn't very good.
"It was a little tough to move out here, it's pretty slippery so I had to watch the groins a little bit, but it's good," Colorado Avalanche center Matt Duchene said. "Obviously it gives us all an idea of the systems we're going to be playing. It's kind of like what football players do just doing walk-throughs. I think it's beneficial for everybody for sure."
The groups took breaks during the workout to go back into the video room, but the biggest benefit the players got out of the walk-through was actually putting what they saw on video into practice on the floor.
"It was nice that we were able to go through different situational things," Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos said. "It's one thing to watch it on the video and see clips, but getting a chance to actually physically go through it, even though we weren't on skates, it was nice just to get spacing, knowing which lanes we have to fill. It was a very productive day."
Babcock said it was also important for him to get out on the floor and teach because he never feels he gets enough out of watching a video clip.
"Let's not kid ourselves, I would rather be skating."
-- Canada coach Mike Babcock
"I don't learn very good by watching TV," Babcock said. "I'm a schoolteacher by trade. You go through all these different ways of teaching, they've got to grab onto something. Plus, it's fun. They're out here joking around -- bad pass here or pick up there, little things like that. I thought it was very, very good."
Babcock indicated that he may actually take the walk-through back to his team in Detroit and use it in the hotel on the road in lieu of a morning skate.
"You'll see the Red Wings doing this in their hotel one day for sure to work on the power play," Babcock said. "I thought this was great. It wasn't hard. No one got hurt. There was no wear and tear on the body. It was fun, and it was different. The National Hockey League is 82 games and it's a grind. There was nothing wrong with this. It was good."
Still, though, Babcock wishes he didn't have to use the walk-through Monday to get his systems in place.
"Let's not kid ourselves, I would rather be skating," he said. "I'd learn way more about these players, but it was fun and it keeps you guys [the media] entertained, too."
The media, ironically, was busy analyzing and Tweeting out the lines Babcock and his assistants put together. They are listed below, but Babcock warned not to read anything into them.
"We made sure that you couldn't read too much into the lines on purpose," Babcock said. "I want every one of these guys knowing they have an opportunity to be an Olympian. 'I played with Crosby, I'm on the team,' no. Don't read into anything that happened here [Monday]."