"Fun Run" was one of the more memorable episodes of the nine-season run of "The Office."
Thursday, the Blue Jackets went on a run, but very few would call it fun.
The annual camp-opening two-mile run, which head coach John Tortorella challenges his charges to finish in under 12 minutes, was held Thursday at Grandview Heights High School's football stadium.
It's a mental test as much as it is a physical one, as it's designed to see which Blue Jackets can push through to the end. It's also a wake-up call in a way, as it conveys that the players are expected to arrive in camp in excellent physical condition.
And no, it's not fun.
"I don't think hockey players like running," forward Oliver Bjorkstrand deadpanned before the race.
Nonetheless, there was a winner. One year after being edged out by defenseman Doyle Somerby -- imagine all 6-foot-6 of Somerby booking it at 10 mph for two miles -- Alexander Wennberg finished with the best time of 11:02.
The consensus among players before the run was that the Swedish contingent would have the best chance to finish high up the ranks simply because it's part of the junior culture in the country for players to run as part of their training.
In some ways, that might have been proved by Wennberg's top time, though beforehand, while he admitted he wanted to get back to the top of the leaderboard, it was more about simply finishing strong.
"At the end of the day, everyone is just trying to survive," he said. "When it's so hot, you just have to find a good pace and try to stick with it."
Complicating matters was that the temperatures were unseasonably warm Thursday in Columbus, with the high topping 90 degrees and humidity hovering around 50 percent.
"If I want a tan, it's perfect," Pierre-Luc Dubois said. "For a run, it might be a little harder. It is what it is."
The run kicked off three difficult days of action for the Blue Jackets as camp began. Friday brought the annual skating test in the OhioHealth Ice Haus for the 59 players in camp, while Saturday will feature the first practices including scrimmages that will be open to the public from 9 a.m. to noon in the Ice Haus.
As veteran forward Zac Dalpe said, it's a gantlet intended to test first the lungs (the run), then the legs (the skate test), then finally the brain Saturday as the exhaustion sets in. But through it all, players have maintained later in the season that the physical conditioning sets the tone for the season and helps in the final minutes of close games.
"Training camp was a lot harder than that shift at the end," Seth Jones said last December after he helped kill off a win vs. New Jersey. "That's why we go through all that stuff before the season."
Gustav Nyquist has gotten the memo.
Though he's only been a Blue Jacket since July 1 when he signed a four-year deal to join the team as a free agent, Nyquist is familiar with the culture and foundation that has been built in Columbus.
He also knows the talk around the league after a number of high-profile free agents left. And much like the longtime Blue Jackets who spoke at media day Wednesday, he's not focused on what is gone but what is still ahead.
"I don't think we're worried about what people say about us," Nyquist said. "We're going to go about our business and we know we're a good team that is going to take a step in the right direction and not backwards. Guys leaving, it just gives other guys opportunity, and a lot of those guys are younger guys that are only going to grow and get better."
Nyquist was added to play a top-six role and provide scoring, as he's coming off a career-high 60-point season split between Detroit and San Jose. The ninth-year veteran may not have been part of the building process over the past few seasons of playoff appearances, but he's ready to help make sure that three-year string doesn't end now.
"I'm excited to be here," he said. "I think it's a team that's on the right path. There's a lot of young guys that are only going to take steps and improve. They're already great players. Being here is an exciting time for me."
Injury News is Good
Columbus is relatively healthy as camp begins.
It was previously announced that Liam Foudy and Stefan Matteau would miss time as they deal with injuries, but those are expected to be the only players limited as camp begins.
Defenseman Ryan Murray also said he feels good as camp begins after he missed the last three months of the season with injury. Injuries have been a bugaboo for the 26-year-old throughout his career, and Murray said he made a few tweaks to his offseason training regimen over the summer.
But by and large, he kept his approach similar to last summer, after which he had a breakout season in which he was one of the top-scoring 5-on-5 defensemen in the NHL.
"Right now, I'm pretty happy the way things have been going and feeling," he said. "We'll see how it goes from here."
Winger Josh Anderson also said he's nearly 100 percent after suffering a shoulder injury during the postseason vs. Boston. While the injury lingered into the summer longer than he expected, Anderson has passed his physical and feels he's good to go.
Also, forward Markus Hannikainen is expected to arrive in Columbus on Friday evening after clearing up an immigration issue and should be on the ice when for Saturday's practices.