By all accounts, too much time has passed since the New York Islanders were all together at Northwell Health Ice Center.
For a season that ended in early April and one point shy of the playoffs, the start of training camp couldn't come soon enough and after 157 days, the Islanders gladly reported for the first day of training camp.
"It's the start of a new year, it's exciting," John Tavares said after doing physicals and a media circuit. "For myself and my team there's a lot that we want to rebound from and get better from."
A new year brings some new faces behind the bench and Head Coach Doug Weight has said it won't be business as usual when the on-ice portion of camp starts on Friday. Weight has promised a tough training camp and with new assistant coaches Luke Richardson, Kelly Buchberger, Scott Gomez, Fred Brathwaite and Chris Terreri on the team, there's a lot of new people to impress and new insights to be gained.
"He's brought in a lot of people that he trusts and Doug's done his homework," Thomas Hickey said. "It's exciting, all the people that are here are going to be in line with his philosophy and the way that he wants to play and coach. It's very professional, not that it wasn't before, but it's a new look for us and guys are excited to get going."
The Islanders are welcoming a rigorous camp, especially if it translates into more early season wins. Last season's slow start haunted them in April - when their 24-12-4 record after Weight too over left them one point out of the playoffs - so starting off on the right foot is front of mind.
"Obviously you can't make the playoffs in the first 10 games, but you can definitely put yourself in a position where it can be tough to get in there which we did last year," Cal Clutterbuck said. "You have to make sure you start off well and I think the teams that traditionally start well are the ones that work the hardest in training camp. That's what I think Dougie is trying to emphasize."
Unlike last season, the Islanders will have full attendance at training camp. The World Cup of Hockey kept the captain, top-two goalies, a top penalty killer and the head coach out for extended periods. While winning the World Cup was a worthwhile experience for Tavares, he understands the importance of being together for all of camp.
"It's great to be here with all your teammates that you're going to be with all year from Day One," Tavares said. "Start the grind and build that camaraderie and that closeness you need to have success."
Overall, there are fewer new players at this year's camp. Jordan Eberle is the most notable import, acquired from Edmonton for Ryan Strome in June, but the open spots on the roster - like Travis Hamonic's minutes on the blue line - are expected to be filled by the organizational depth. Andrew Ladd, Jason Chimera and Dennis Seidenberg are settled in heading into their second years as Islanders, so there's less of a learning curve for them on the first day.
The hard work begins on Friday with the first practices of camp, followed by the first preseason game Sunday against the Philadelphia Flyers at NYCB Live, home of the Nassau Coliseum.
"We're excited to get the whole group on the ice," Tavares said. "Get everyone playing along together and finding their roles and rhythm and getting into the right frame of mind to start the season."