"It's a whole new year," Carolina Hurricanes head coach Rod Brind'Amour said on Monday afternoon.
That, in many respects, is so very true and perfect in its brevity and earnestness.
It is indeed a new year, as the calendar finally and mercifully flipped to 2021. It is a new season, with 56 games on tap for the 2020-21 regular season slate. And with that comes a collection of new challenges, new protocols, a new practice facility, a new division, new opponents and new normals.
But the most fundamental aspect of it all - hockey players playing hockey - is what makes everything new, everything uncertain, everything abnormal, feel, well, normal again.
"The first day of camp was good. High pace, good intensity," Jaccob Slavin said. "Guys were working hard to make sure everyone is in game shape."
Video: "Everything is just heightened."
That feels normal, right? Pace, intensity, focus, purpose - by now, that's the expectation of a training camp led by Brind'Amour, who is entering his third season as head coach and is 16 wins away from 100 with the team.
This season, though, is going to be anything but normal or familiar. It's going to be weird, and it might very well be a little difficult at times. But, it's a hockey season all the same, and each season begins anew with training camp, which is being held at the Canes' new practice facility at Wake Competition Center.
This year, training camp is smaller; there are just 38 players in town, and they practiced in two groups, with Brind'Amour leading the NHL group and Chicago Wolves bench boss Ryan Warsofsky heading up the younger squad. This year, training camp is shorter; there are just eight days of practice and no exhibition games on the calendar.
"It feels a lot similar to what we went through pre-bubble, just putting your team together as quick as you can and pushing each other to make sure we're at the top of our game in a few weeks' time," Jordan Staal said.
Video: "We're getting our legs and speed under us."
In a sense, jumping in headfirst might help combat the random oddities of it all. The Canes are at an advantage, too, because 21 of the 23 skaters that practiced with group C2 on Monday were in the bubble with the team in August. Forward Jesper Fast and defenseman Joakim Ryan, two of the team's offseason signings, were the only new faces on the ice.
That allowed Brind'Amour and the coaching staff to spend less time teaching and more time picking up where they left off some four-and-a-half months ago.
"I liked the familiarity of everything, to be honest," Brind'Amour said. "We jumped right into it. We'll make sure we cover everything, but there's no tiptoeing into this one."
That's true of both training camp and the season, which begins with a two-game set in Detroit in a mere 10 days for the Canes.
Video: "There's no tip-toeing into this one."
Brind'Amour spoke to his team Sunday afternoon about fighting for inches, the difference maker in such a competitive and balanced league. That battle for the smallest advantage is even more magnified in a regular season that features 26 fewer games.
"The start is going to be huge," Slavin said. "We can't have any lapses throughout the season. Every game is every important. We have to make sure we're ready, and I think we will be ready."
It's a new year and a new season, and the Canes are looking to make their third consecutive appearance in the postseason, which would be a first for the franchise in North Carolina.
As it is each and every season, the first day of on-ice activity at training camp was the first step in that journey.
"Roddy has done a great job of making sure guys are ready to go," Staal said. "He's a detail coach, and he demands execution and work ethic. Guys in the room are willing to buy into that."
That, if nothing much else about the circumstances of the day, was a refreshing dose of normalcy.
Here's to a whole new year.