Weren’t these practices supposed to be informal?
That’s technically what the Hurricanes are calling their annual on-ice sessions that precede the official beginning to training camp. However, with most of the expected opening day roster present, these supposedly impromptu get-togethers look a lot more like, well, regular practice.
It’s part of a new approach the Hurricanes are using to prepare for the upcoming season. While well-attended gatherings in August are nothing new, this year’s edition is focused less on skating and conditioning and more on exercises designed to get the players not just physically prepared, but mentally as well.
“We’d rather be smart about it and try to return to form as soon as possible, especially after such a long layoff,” said Hurricanes winger Erik Cole. “When you go out there and you’ve got to skate and bump bodies and think your way around the rink, it’s a different story than just doing laps and going up and down.”
Having just had a long summer in which to lift weights and ride the stationary bike, most on the team see the new format as a welcome change.
“This is obviously a little different, doing up-tempo practices, but I’d rather be doing this than doing scrimmaging,” said defenseman Glen Wesley. “We’re going to get enough of that during the season.”
This off-season comes as a polar opposite to the one the team experienced last year. For players such as Frantisek Kaberle and Cory Stillman, the mere 10 weeks of rest that came after their Stanley Cup triumph weren't enough time to recover from the injuries sustained during the long playoff run and the subsequent surgeries that came with them.
What came too fast last year now can’t seem to come fast enough. With a healthy lineup, more time on their hands and last year’s disappointing ending to the season still fresh in their minds, this year’s squad has been anxious to lace up their skates once more.
“Myself, I’m kind of sick of being in the weight room for four months,” said right wing Justin Williams, who is coming off his first All-Star season. “It’s good to be here to refocus on hockey.”
Due to the intense physical demands that training camp places on players’ bodies, these early sessions, regardless of how they are structured, have always been important in helping the players to make the transition from off-season to in-season.
“People don’t use training camp to get in shape, because you already have to be in shape,” said Williams. “The more you prepare, the better off you’ll be in the beginning.”
That beginning will come on September 13, when the players will report to the RBC Center
for the first time to undergo physicals.
The first pre-season game at home against the Washington Capitals comes only three days later.
“As we build toward training camp, the intensity continues to grow,” said Cole. “We’re working towards something [when the regular season starts] on October 3, so hopefully we’ll be ahead of the game by the time we get there.”