Every player has his own workout methods during the summer. As this month's issue of Impact! has illustrated, much of the off-season conditioning is done away from the watchful eye of the team.
Fortunately, summer training is easily measured by the team once training camp begins. No longer is the NHL's exhibition season an opportunity for players to round themselves back into shape after a leisurely summer. Instead, training camp now demands that players show up in peak physical condition to challenge for ice time in an ultra-competitive setting.
It is here that NHL coaches determine who has put in the work during their summer hiatus, thus helping to decide who will get the lion's share of ice time in the coming season.
While each team has its fair share of fitness fanatics, here are 10 players who have proven through past performance that they can handle a heavy workload once the puck drops. Each might have different workout routines, but all share the ability to log beaucoup minutes for their team on a nightly basis by using their summer-time foundation to maintain peak physical condition.
Adrian Aucoin, New York Islanders -- A revelation since joining the Islanders to start the 2001-02 season, Aucoin used his conditioning base and an effortless skating stride to take advantage of the opportunity to raise his profile. Now, the 30-year-old defender, who was a seventh-round draft pick in 1992, logs 29 minutes a game for the improving Islanders.
Rob Blake, Colorado Avalanche -- Blake entered the League with the Kings as a stud defenseman with the potential to be great. Unfortunately, chronic injuries derailed his early years. Then he found Goodman's workout religion and has developed into one of the game's most durable defenders during the past five years. Blake, in his third full season with the Avs, averages more than 25 minutes per game in Colorado's wide-open system.
Rod Brind'Amour, Carolina Hurricanes -- Neither the biggest, nor the fastest player around, Brind'Amour has carved out a 1,000-game career by always being among the most fit players on the team. Now 33, Brind'Amour still is among the best-conditioned players in the game. He worked extra-hard this season to make sure he was fully recovered from hand surgery that cost him half of last season.
Chris Chelios, Detroit Red Wings -- At 41, Chelios routinely puts players half his age to shame when it comes to his physical condition. In fact, thanks to his summer workouts, Chelios might be a better player today than he was 15 years ago. Two years ago, at 39, Chelios earned consideration for a fourth Norris Trophy before losing out to teammate Nick Lidstrom.
Marc Denis, Columbus Blue Jackets -- Goalies are often left out of any discussion about conditioning because their physiques are usually hidden behind so much padding. Denis is slight behind his layering of padding, but there is little doubt he is in prime condition. The 26-year-old played in a League-high 77 games last year, facing a mind-boggling 2,404 shots -- a fitness test that only the sturdiest of athletes could pass.
Mario Lemieux, Pittsburgh Penguins -- When Lemieux decided to return to the League during the 2000-01 season after a long layoff, he got serious about conditioning to not only prepare, but also cut down on the risk of injuring his troublesome back. Working with former teammate Jay Caulfield, Lemieux put his injuries and a bout with cancer in the past to return, at 35, in perhaps the best physical condition of his career. In his three seasons back, Lemieux has scored 198 points.
Steve Rucchin, Mighty Ducks of Anaheim -- Rucchin had every reason to throw in the towel after having his previous two seasons severely curtailed by serious injuries. Instead, Rucchin worked extra hard to fight his way back and played in all 82 regular-season games for the Mighty Ducks. His reward? The franchise's first-ever trip to the Stanley Cup Finals, a trip that Rucchin had a major hand in authoring.
Gary Roberts, Toronto Maple Leafs -- Nearly having the game taken away from him turned Roberts into a fitness fanatic. Roberts suffered a potentially career-ending neck injury in 1996. Only arduous rehabilitation allowed him to return to the sport nearly two years later. Today, he is among the top conditioned athletes in the sport, often offering his insights and techniques to the younger players on his team. Roberts suffered a spate of injuries last year, limiting him to 14 games, but he returned for the Playoffs and played well.
Scott Stevens, New Jersey Devils -- Stevens has played in fewer than 70 games only three times in his 21-season career. And one of those seasons was in 1994-95 when he played in all 48 regular-season games. At 39, he is still an amazing physical specimen that relishes the heavy-hitting duties that are part and parcel of a rugged defenseman's repertoire. In fact, many of Stevens' famous freight-train hits have come in the last few years of his career, a testament to his dedication to maintaining an excellent physical condition.