For the veterans, training camp is a little different than for the younger players.
Kings forward Scott Thornton and defenseman Rob Blake, whom between the two have played in 1,940 NHL games – plus another 204 playoff games, and we are not even counting preseason contests – have obviously been around for a while and know exactly what they need to do to get ready for the season.
“The first month after the season, it is about getting healthy again and taking some time off and letting all of the aches and pains work their way out of the body,” Thornton said. “Then it is about strengthening the joints and I do not do a lot of heavy lifting anymore.
“I do a lot of core training; most of my work is geared toward injury prevention as opposed to
|Robert Blake |
Both players explained that things are different than when they were younger as off-season conditioning programs are much more popular and off ice workouts are more prevalent than in yesteryear.
“The main difference I see from 10 or 15 years ago you come to camp in better shape. This year we have three days before our first preseason game and in years past I remember there being 8-10 days before our first game,” Blake said.
“I started skating much earlier than in the past. Typically I start about 10 days prior to camp, this year I have been skating about a month.”
Thornton made similar observations.
“The thing that has changed most over the last 15 years, guys are coming to camp ready to play. The break in period doesn’t happen any more, they have been training for weeks.”
In addition to off-season conditioning, teams have also placed more of an emphasis on the off-ice workouts. The Kings recently hired Strength and Conditioning Coach Chad Smith to oversee this aspect of training.
According to Blake, Smith places an emphasis on explosiveness and quickness, which has become more important in the game since Blake and Thornton were younger.
Both players still recall those days and can vividly remember their first camps and can relate to what a lot of the younger kids are going through.
“You can see it on their faces that first night,” Blake said of the younger players. “When we have our tests and we have our team meal and they are looking around and they do not know where to sit. I remember clear as day doing the same thing.
“That is a part of the learning experience. That is all a part of growing and learning.”
"I had some great leadership when I was young. I was in Toronto in Maple Leafs Garden," Thornton recalled of his rookie year with the Maple Leafs in 1990-91. "It was weird looking around the room and seeing some of the guys that I idolized. They were just super guys that were very friendly and made me feel welcome."
It has come full circle for Blake and Thornton as the veterans have a strong influence over the younger kids in camp and try to do their best to make the younger players as comfortable as possible, though much of the mentoring and bonding will come later.
“You just try and keep it loose in the dressing room and make yourself available and talk to the kids and make them feel like you have been playing with them for a couple of years," Thornton said. "If you can make them more comfortable in the lockeroom, they are going to be more comfortable on the ice.”
“We are so fresh into it,” Blake said. “You really don’t get to see the other guys too much since we are all split up. When you start to trim down the team, you get 30-34 guys, that is when you really start to bond. Then you get some road trips and it all comes together.”
The Kings have their first road trip Thursday facing the Ducks in Anaheim to open their preseason slate.
Thornton shares his thoughts on the preseason games.
“There are two ways to look at it. Winning those preseason games can be used as a momentum builder as it really gets you feeling confident and used to that winning feeling.
“But it is also another way to evaluate your young talent. As a fan it is your first glimpse of the future of the team. Watch the kids we drafted or traded for. Then you can follow them so you are familiar with the guys when they make it here and see how they have developed over the last few years.”
So whether it is about working hard to challenge for a roster spot, or getting yourself into playing shape and avoiding injury, training camp can be a different experience for veterans and young kids alike.