With the 20th Anniversary logo serving as a focal point at center ice, the 20th training camp in Carolina Hurricanes' history began on-ice Friday morning, and there was a palpable level of energy and hype surrounding the club.
One reason for the liveliness is the birth of a new hockey season, a tradition that never ages and never wanes in excitement. The other reason is the critically successful offseason the Canes had and the new faces that joined the team on the ice today. The potential is promising, and day one of camp marks the first step taken toward the Canes' goal of returning to the playoffs for the first time since 2009.
Here are some headlines from the first day of Hurricanes training camp.
Getting Back On the Ice
The clock on the lower ring of the PNC Arena videoboard read 8:47 a.m. when head coach Bill Peters gathered Team Dineen at center ice for the first drill of the new season.
From there, it was 90 minutes - split by a short intermission and flood of the ice - of elevated pace and visual instruction. Rinse and repeat for Team Kron afterward. A successful first day complete.
"Just the overall pace [was good], and I thought the execution was real good, too. I enjoyed today," head coach Bill Peters said. "I think we got a lot done, and I thought the guys put in a good effort."
"It was good pace out there, and everyone worked hard," forward Justin Williams said. "That's what you expect."
Video: Ward: "There's a buzz among the guys who are here"
"It was real good. It thought the pace was real high-tempo. Clearly guys are excited to get the camp going. A lot of preparation to get to this point," goaltender Cam Ward said. "We're excited with the group that we have in the locker room. We're really confident in the guys here to have a successful year."
This - the first day of camp, getting back on the ice with a defined purpose and interacting in the room with teammates and coaches - is what everyone was working towards during the long summer months.
"It's time time. Today flew by," Peters said. "When you don't have any players in to coach, those days get a little longer."
"There's a lot of excitement in the room between the guys and the staff," goaltender Scott Darling said. "This is what we've been waiting for. We've been waiting to get going. It was a lot of fun today."
New Faces in New Places
Today marked the on-ice debut for a number of new Hurricanes' faces, including Darling, forward Marcus Kruger and defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk, among others.
"No matter what, you want to come in and put your best foot forward. It's important to come in day in and day out, no matter what the schedule may be, you want to be working hard and doing what the coaches ask of you," van Riemsdyk said. "You don't want to take anything for granted. You want to be a hard worker and show them you're a guy who can be relied on."
Video: TVR: "You want to put your best foot forward"
"There are a lot of new faces and a lot of young faces, as well, who look like they've worked hard this summer to take another step," forward Jordan Staal said. "It's a good mish mash of guys. Hopefully we can jell together quickly and have a great season."
There was also a new-old face in a new-old place - Williams, signed as a free agent on July 1, made his return to the Canes' dressing room.
"It doesn't seem like yesterday, but it doesn't seem that far away," he said. "It's been a few years since I've been back here. … A little bit has changed, and a little bit is the same."
"He does have a lot of gray hair and some serious flow," Ward joked. "He's got a lot of energy like when I first saw him here in his first stint as a Hurricane. It's great to see him back."
Even for Williams, a veteran of 1,080 career regular-season games, day one of training camp is special, especially when you're rejoining a team.
Video: Justin Williams: "I love what they're doing here"
"I don't think it matters how many training camps you've been to, you're always a little jittery on the first day getting to know the coaches and players. It's all a feeling out process for me, even though it's my second time around."
"You know what he's all about. I don't think there are any surprises there," Peters said of Williams. "I think he's real excited about getting started and playing some games."
"It's great to see a familiar face, a guy who has a great past here. One of the best Hurricanes to put on the jersey is coming back. He's Mr. Game 7 for a reason: he comes up big in big games and big moments. I think it's good to add a veteran, a guy like that, to the room," Ward said. "Willy has a great personality to come in and lead by example."
Preseason Begins Monday
It's somewhat hard to believe, but the Hurricanes' seven-game preseason slate begins on Monday with a stretch of three games in three nights.
Game action, especially this early in training camp, is the ideal teaching tool for the Canes' young stable of players.
"Just give them enough to be dangerous for the first two, three games and then we'll go from there. Everyone is in the same boat," Peters said. "It's quick, but guys want to play. Guys are in great shape and keep themselves in great shape in the modern era. They'd rather play."
The Hurricanes will likely ice a few different looks early next week. As far as today was concerned, Peters cautioned against reading too much into line combinations.
Video: Staal: "There are a lot of guys that will help us"
So don't get too attached to combinations like Aho-Staal-Lindholm or Teravainen-Rask-Williams or Skinner-Ryan-Stempniak, all of which were seen today. But, that doesn't mean they won't at least get a trial run in the exhibition season.
"I just put them together just based on last year to get day one and two under the belt," he said. "We're going to give it two days of continuity and then start moving guys around."
I Got a Feeling
Earlier this week, I talked with Hurricanes Executive Vice President and General Manager Ron Francis, who agreed that expectations are higher this year than they have been in some time.
"I would say that's a fair assessment," he said. "We look at some of the things we did in the summer, and we think that makes us a better hockey team. We look at the fact that some of our young kids are going to have another year of maturation under their belt, and we're hoping for them to take another step forward, which makes us better. The leadership that became a part of our locker room - not just from a player perspective but from an off-ice, in-the-locker-room perspective - makes us better.
"We feel we have a chance to get in the playoffs and do some damage, but I'm sure there are a lot of other GMs around the league thinking the same way," Francis continued. "There's no guarantees and it's not easy, so we'll see how the season plays out, but we certainly like our chances."
Video: Scott Darling: "We've been waiting to get going"
The sentiment in the room today was very similar.
"All you have to do is look at the changes we made this summer. Kudos to the organization for the moves they made. It's created a buzz and excitement among the guys already here," Ward said. "You look at our drafted guys and guys turning pro this year, we've got a lot of skill and a lot of youth. It's an exciting time to be a Hurricane. Guys are happy to be here."
"Just reading the guys' comments … they know where we're at and where we are on the curve," Peters said. "We're definitely a better team on paper, but there's a lot of work to do between here and game one and here and game 82."
"I know that we have a good enough team to make the playoffs this year, and that's our goal," Darling said. "Anything less isn't going to be acceptable. That's what we're shooting for."