It was a few minutes before 8:55 a.m. on Friday when the first group skated onto a fresh ice sheet at PNC Arena.
And with that, the Carolina Hurricanes’ 2014-15 training camp was underway. The two groups – one featuring 26 players and the other, 25 – each skated through nearly an hour’s worth of various up-tempo drills before spending a good 15 minutes on power play breakouts and positioning, which was led by assistant coach Rod Brind’Amour. The two group sessions sandwiched a 30-minute scrimmage between the sides.
All of this amounted to what was a high-paced, energetic day one on the ice.
“There’s a tone, for sure. I think everyone felt it today,” forward Jordan Staal said. “There was an excitement coming into today.”
“It was good. A lot of pace. Not a lot of standing around. Not a lot of sitting at the whiteboard,” forward Eric Staal said. “It was up-tempo and detailed, and it was a good first day.”
“I thought it was good,” head coach Bill Peters said confidently. “We got some work done today.”
That they did.
Both groups hit the ice with a purpose and a plan. That was by design.
“He comes in with a presence, a plan and an idea, and that’s what you want,” Eric said. “You want to follow someone that shows that confidence and exudes that confidence. He’s done that early.”
“You can tell he’s got the details down. It’s right away right to the point, get it done and move forward,” Jordan said. “With the way he’s explaining things and with the fast-paced drills, it really gets your body and mind going trying to keep up. It’s a good pace that our team needs to be playing and practicing at.”
“It was just one practice, but it was high-tempo,” forward Jeff Skinner said. “There wasn’t a lot of standing around, which was nice. At the start of camp you want to get your lungs going and your legs under you.”
The onset of training camp certainly exudes a certain excitable on-ice atmosphere every September. Adding to that exuberance this season is the chance for each player to prove himself in front of a new coaching staff and a new front office.
“It’s been talked about a lot around here, that everyone has a fresh start and clean slate,” Skinner said. “Coming into camp, it’s a new season, and everyone knows where they stand.”
“You want to put your best foot forward in front of the coach and show what you can do,” Jordan said. “That counts as a fresh start.”
“What you want to show is that you’re ready to compete and ready to work. I thought our group did that today,” Eric said. “You want to perform as hard as you can regardless of what you’re doing.”
And the scrimmage? It ended in a 1-1 tie with goals from Alexander Semin and Jared Staal. It also got a little physical. Skinner tried to slip through the defense at one point, but Ron Hainsey gave him the shoulder.
“I tried to scrape by him there and he shut me down,” Skinner said. “That’s what you want at camp is competitiveness.”
“It got a little competitive, which is good,” Eric said. “You want that.”
“I thought we were a little bit sloppy, and that’s expected. You’re coming off playing summer hockey and informal skates into a scrimmage. Realistically, it’s not going to be perfect,” Peters said. “I thought the intensity was fine, but the execution could have been better.”
Today was just the first day, and Peters said the players got better from start to finish. Tomorrow, they’ll take another step in the three-week journey to Opening Night on Oct. 10.
“It’s competitive,” Peters said. “You’ve got to earn your opportunity, and when you get your opportunity, you have to take advantage of it.”
The Canes will be on the ice at PNC Arena again on Saturday morning, running through the same schedule as today but with Group B on the ice before Group A. Though the vast majority of training camp sessions are open to the public, the NC State football game forces tomorrow’s session to be closed. But, don’t worry – we’ll have any and all updates for you here and on our social media platforms.
The Canes’ first preseason match-up comes a day later, as Columbus visits town for a 1:30 p.m. faceoff on just the third day of camp.
“You know the schedule. Columbus is in the same boat,” Peters said. “In a perfect world, you’d have more practice time and be able to implement more things, but you just can’t cover it all in two days. It’s not realistic. And we don’t want to slow down and teach to the point that we’re standing around at the whiteboard.”
So, the coaching staff will teach what they can and see what they have come Sunday.
“Everyone has that excitement to start camp and start the season,” Eric said. “Everyone is on a clean slate and a new page, and it’s an opportunity to show what you have.”