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Team Building More than Fun and Games for Bolts

by Mark Pukalo / Tampa Bay Lightning
Ryan Shannon has been part of many team-building exercises with the other organizations he has played for, but he was about to experience his first with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Shannon said he had no idea what was in store for him, and he liked it that way.

“I know I’m supposed to bring comfortable clothes and some warm stuff as well,” Shannon said Monday.

Coach Guy Boucher and his staff don’t share what they have planned for the team ahead of time. This time they traveled to Mont-Tremblant resort, about 130 kilometers northwest of Montreal.

The resort has many open areas where the Lightning players could do things outside. Whatever the activity, the goal is to have fun, build more team chemistry and gain knowledge.

“When you’re on the road, you’re always together and that’s what we’re looking for,” Boucher said, earlier in the week. “We’re going to challenge them all kinds of different ways to try and push their minds and bodies on and off the ice so they can learn to go through adversity together.”

The team of Vinny Lecavalier, Pavel Kubina, Blair Jones, Adam Hall and Brett Connolly, which named themselves "The Tremblant Bears", won the team-building competition Tuesday, which included eight different stations.  Some tested the mind while others were more physical challenges such as frisbee golf and a slingshot challenge.  

The Lightning traveled 65 miles west of Calgary to the mountain town of Banff after a game last December and took a trip to Naples during their 12-game home stand in February. They also had a raucous day of paintball and spent a memorable day at MacDill military base among other activities.

Something was taken out of each escapade.

“As soon as we got here at training camp last year it was about enthusiasm and work ethic,” Lightning forward Teddy Purcell said. “We always work hard in practice and the coaches have awarded us with fun things to do and team-building activities. It just makes things more enjoyable. You come to the rink in a better mood and you get to know your teammates on a more personal level.”

There were many more new faces last season.

This trip will help the new acquisitions including Shannon, Bruno Gervais, Matt Gilroy, Tom Pyatt, Mathieu Garon and 2010 No. 1 pick Brett Connolly.

“We had a blast last year,” Lightning center Steve Stamkos said. “It was probably the most fun the guys had playing hockey and the best group of guys everybody played with. That’s how you build that chemistry, the friendship and bond that helps you out on the ice. People don’t realize how much it does help when you have a bunch of guys that are willing to do anything for each other. It starts on these trips. They’re fun, but there’s purpose to them.

“You can tell already [the new guys] are going to fit in. But this is just going to make it easier on them.”

Lightning defenseman Brett Clark said everyone has their own unique experience they bring back from each team building activity.

Veteran forward Adam Hall calls these trips and fun days with the team off the ice great tools in many ways.

“You build that chemistry of communicating,” Hall said. “It sounds funny, but if you’re playing paintball you get an anticipation of where guys move and calling guys’ names, recognizing where he is. I think there is a little bit of a translation out on the ice. You have more of an awareness of communicating. It just gets you more comfortable. There’s split-second decisions made on the ice where you need to be able to call a guy’s name and he just hears the sound of your voice.”

Purcell said everyone on the team appreciated their trip to MacDill last season.

“That was awesome,” Purcell said. “Just to meet those guys and see how much they battle kind of put a lot of things in perspective. It’s something a lot of the guys still talk about now.”

Everything counts. Boucher made it a point to give players extra days off to be with their families before road trips last season and used the time away to build chemistry. The Bolts practiced at Mont-Tremblant and Boucher gave them Wednesday afternoon off to “free their minds”.

Purcell said building the personal relationships through team-building exercises goes a long way when you are on the ice.

“Sometimes it’s very simple things,” Hall said. “It’s a long season and it’s important to get to know guys well enough where you get to the point that you want to fight for each other in here. It’s a lot more important than a lot of people realize.”

Undoubtedly, they will learn from their experience in Mont-Tremblant.

“They always keep us guessing, on our toes,” Hall said. “We always enjoy it.”
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