Even a dedicated rink rat like Ryan O’Reilly needs to take a little time away from the game during the summer months.
After the longest hockey season of his career, which included an exhibition slate, playing in 81 regular season games and six playoff contests (not to mention the rigors of the NHL Combine, the NHL Entry Draft and development, rookie and training camps leading up to the season), O’Reilly realized how important it would be to decompress during the offseason.
“I’ve never really played that long of a season, so for me, it came down to regrouping in order to keep that hunger you need to have,” said O’Reilly. “After the season you definitely need to relax, have fun and do the friends and family thing before you get back into it and prepare for training camp.”
How much time a player takes off following the season depends on the individual and often comes down to their age and their health status. Older players, or those who experienced a little more than bumps and bruises during the course of the season, may need more time to recharge their batteries than skaters in their late teens or early twenties, or those who were relatively healthy at season’s end.
There can also be differences in training methods, as some players begin skating and working out at the same time, while others choose to hit the gym at the beginning of the summer, but elect to wait a while before lacing up the skates.
O’Reilly decided the best approach would be to take about a month off completely before getting back into his routine.
“I had to watch what I was eating, but that was about it,” O’Reilly quipped. “After that month, I started to get into it hard and have been ever since.”
Overall, O’Reilly characterized his summer as pretty laid back aside from his daily workouts. After sticking around Denver for two weeks at the conclusion of the season, he went home and spent some time with friends and family in Ontario. His most exciting moment may have been when he and his brother, Cal, bought a home together on Lake Huron.
There, the brothers spend time working out together daily while also enjoying the fruits of living on the second largest of the Great Lakes. Also staying in the house has been Joey Hishon
, Colorado’s first-round selection from the 2010 NHL Entry Draft and a good friend of O’Reilly’s.
“It’s great, because it’s right on the lake, so we do some paddleboarding and just have some fun,” said O’Reilly. “I’ve also been skating about two times a week with my brother and Joey. We’re out there just kind of scrimmaging, but it actually gets pretty intense and everyone is trying to win.”
The long summer months have also afforded O’Reilly some time to look back and analyze his rookie season, something he didn’t have much of a chance to do between September and May due to a tightly packed schedule.
“I remember being at home at the start of the summer and just thinking back on the year and how important it was,” said O’Reilly. “Getting used to the guys, getting a feel for things and getting the opportunity I did was really just a great experience. It’s amazing how fast it went by. I remember everything about training camp like it was yesterday.”
His NHL initiation now in the rearview mirror, the center is anxiously awaiting his second professional season. And now that his mind is essentially cleared of the unknowns that hung over his head a year ago – which included where he would be playing, what the coaches expected from him and the small matter of playing in the NHL as an 18-year-old – it should make his job a little easier heading into training camp.
Free of those unknowns, O’Reilly should now be able to take the lessons he learned from his rookie season and build on them.
“Playing in the NHL is just about that commitment, playing your role every day,” said O’Reilly. “There’s not one game that you can go out there and relax, take a day off or try to do something new.”
For someone with a relentless work ethic like O’Reilly – a player known to be among the first on the ice and the last one off during practice – that kind of commitment should hardly be a problem.