WILMINGTON, MA – So how was your Sunday morning?
The 29 Boston Bruins Development Camp prospects received an early wake-up call yesterday, as they arrived at Ristuccia Arena in Wilmington before 8:00 a.m. to prepare for an impromptu session of physical testing.
Bruins Strength and Conditioning coach John Whitesides and a few assistants directed the morning testing and administered drills and tests that served as a preview for many of the prospects to what awaits them should they receive an invite to training camp in September.
The B’s hopefuls were split into two groups, with the first group beginning their stretching at around 8:15 a.m, and the second group warming up an hour later.
Whitesides coaxed each group out to the back of the rink, where a tight four-lane track runs the length of the building. After going through half-speed sprints, shuffles and shuttles, the players came inside to have their height and reach measured and recorded.
The simple measurements gave way to the first few tests of the day – the pull-ups and vertical jump. Unfortunately for the prospects, the Bruins employ the highest of standards for the pull-up drill, often repeating his count when elbows are not extended completely or chins fall short of the bar and with their palms facing out, many of the athletes could only muster 10-15 repetitions.
But the tests are as much an indicator of will power and effort as they are of strength. Even a simple test like the vertical jump can become quite trying when performed under the watchful eye of Coach Whitesides and his staff.
However, the atmosphere in the weight room was very supportive, as the players tried to motivate each other to jump an inch or two higher, or finish one final pull-up.
The marquee test of the morning was the 300-yard shuttle – a drill that, when conducted in 88-degree temperatures, can push even the fittest of athletes to their limits. Players must sprint 25 yards down the track, turn around, and sprint back for a total of six sets.
The Bruins expects all players to finish the shuttle in less than 60 seconds, for a pace of five yards per second. Once completed, they are rewarded with a three-minute rest to lower their heart rate, but must then repeat the drill in less than 60 seconds yet again.
In September training camp, all Bruins are required to do the drill three times within the time limit, but Whitesides repeatedly pointed out that he is doing the players a favor by putting them through this drill.
After all, he told the prospects, if you were given a math test two months in advanc -- and had the answers -- there would be no excuse for failing when the real test comes.
Luckily for the young hopefuls, Whitesides showed some mercy on Sunday, and only asked them to complete only one circuit.
Those who were unable to participate in the shuttle were not spared from the grueling conditioning test though, as they faced a similar challenge on the stationary bike. Players assigned to the bike were required to burn 500 calories in less than 25 minutes, while maintaining a power output of 300 watts.
For those of us who aren’t physicists, that’s about equal to biking as fast as you can for 25 minutes without any rest and did we mention this was all before the players laced up for a two-hour practice?
After finishing their on-ice practice and scrimmage for the day, some of the players shared their thoughts on the morning testing.
“It wasn’t too bad,” said B’s third round pick Matt Grzelcyk. “I had done it about three weeks prior so I kind of knew what to expect.”
“We just got a taste of what it was going to be like for camp,” added goalie Malcolm Subban. “[Now] we know how to prepare and be ready for it.”
Union forward Daniel Carr, one of the seven invites at camp this week, offered perhaps the most candid reflection on the demanding tests.
“Thank goodness we didn’t have to do three,” Carr said, referencing the 300-yard shuttle.
“That’s all I can say about that.”