Perhaps more compelling than watching today's demanding skating drills was seeing players from other groups, gathered in the tunnel to see what was coming up next for them.
On the first "hockey" day of Blue Jackets training camp, there was a lot to take in.
It was a full day: the first groups took the ice for a scrimmage at 9 a.m. in the OhioHealth Ice Haus, and seven hours later, the final practice of the day wrapped up. There were the aforementioned scrimmages, regular old practice drills, and as coach John Tortorella promised over the summer, a lot of skating.
Tortorella repeatedly encouraged the players to "keep up the pace" and "skate through the line, do not glide!" on a day that was as mentally taxing as it was physically. Veteran players, camp tryouts, rookies, you name it…everyone got their first true taste of a Tortorella training camp today.
"The bottom line is, it's going to pay off," Tortorella said. "It's one of the things we can control as a coaching staff and players, is our conditioning level. A lot of other things in our game you can't. We are going to work. There's going to be a high volume of skating in camp here; that's why we have it broken down in small numbers and four groups, so they get more reps and [we can] push them physically."
Up, and back. And again. And again for good measure.
Pace is essential in today's game. The best teams in the league - and you need to look no further than reigning champions from three hours east - play a fast, crisp game and they have the puck more often than they don't.
The Blue Jackets want to get there and in short order, and this is the first step.
"We all knew what to expect," Boone Jenner said. "It was on us to work hard this summer. We knew what the situation was, coming in, that it was going to be a tough camp. It was tough (today), but it was good."
Like a few of his teammates have said, Jenner switched up his summer training to get ready for this training camp.
Some notes from today:
- David Savard said he's 100 percent ready to go after undergoing ankle surgery at the end of last season. This is an important year for him, now an established top-four defenseman who many think has more to give offensively.
- Sam Gagner has been in Columbus for nearly a month and has enjoyed his time here so far. After joining the Blue Jackets late this summer on a one-year deal, Gagner figures to get opportunities at center, on the wing and on the power play.
- The second scrimmage of the day (Group 2 vs. Group 3) was markedly nastier than the morning's edition. Checks were finished - some guys going out of their way to do so - and there was regular chaos at the net.
- Cam Atkinson was flying around the rink this morning in both the practice and scrimmage. That's no surprise from him, but he was noticeably quick and shifty today. What can we expect from Atkinson this season? Should be realistic to tease the 30-goal mark as he's done nothing but increase his goal output the last four seasons.
- Zach Werenski did not skate today but took part in off-ice workouts. If you recall, he tweaked a groin in Traverse City. Tortorella said he will not play in Sunday or Monday's preseason games, but they expect him to be full-go for practice on Tuesday.
- Paul Bittner, who had a chest muscle injury in the rookie tournament, was a full participant in today's scrimmage and skating workouts.