After holding a successful Fan Fest event on Sunday, the Tampa Bay Lightning traveled south to Estero, Florida, home of the ECHL’s Florida Everblades, to open Day 1 of the team’s 2013 Training Camp.
The evening practice held at Germain Arena produced several hundred in attendance, while on the ice, the action was intense as head coach Guy Boucher said it would be as a result of the abbreviated camp schedule.
Four additional players, as well, from Syracuse of the AHL, also arrived in town to kick off training camp after being absent from Sunday’s Fan Fest activities.
The club will resume on-ice sessions on Tuesday beginning at 10:30, but here are some of the key takeaways from Monday night:
UPPING THE INTENSITY
Monday’s practice was typical of head coach Guy Boucher, where he constantly pushed the players to up the intensity, and as he likes to say, “be relentless.”
The players practiced drills, which did include pushups for sub-par performances, for the first hour on the ice before coming out to compete in a scrimmage during the second hour.
Defenseman Eric Brewer likened Monday’s practice to merely a continuation of Sunday, which was Guy Boucher’s first on-ice session with the team following the conclusion of the lockout.
Brewer did admit that the drills were tough, but after nine months of not playing collectively as a group, were more so necessary.
“Typically practice is practice and none of us are really scrimmaging until a couple of days into camp, but obviously with this year being a bit different, we jumped in right away to try and feel out the lines,” Brewer said. “I think it’s good though. I think we all could use it.”
As if this year’s shortened camp didn’t call for enough urgency already, there perhaps is even more pressure on the handful of invitees from Syracuse of the American Hockey League.
Among them are defensemen Keith Aulie, Radko Gudas, Mark Barberio and Matt Taormina, as well as forwards Cory Conacher, Tyler Johnson, Mike Angelidis and Pierre-Cedric Labrie, and they all are trying to prove themselves this week at camp.
While this week will undoubtedly afford them the opportunity to see what it’s like to train with an NHL club and surely help them improve as players, the invitees’ goal is also to make an impression on the Lightning brass in hopes of sticking around a bit longer.
Conacher, for example, who is one of the organization’s top prospects and is in camp for a second consecutive year, worked hard on the ice on Monday to try and accomplish just that.
Conacher spent the last four months playing with the Lightning's AHL-affiliate Syracuse Crunch before coming to camp.
“It’s a dream to be here,” Conacher said. “There are so many guys in Syracuse right now who could have been in my spot, so I’m just trying to represent the [Crunch] organization well and show the management here in Tampa Bay that I’m willing to take that next step.”
FAN FEST A SUCCESS
The Lightning reported Monday that Fan Fest, which took place on Sunday at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, was a huge success.
Approximately 5,500 fans showed up to receive player autographs, listen to hockey talk from team broadcasters Rick Peckham and Bobby “The Chief” Taylor, and of course, catch a glimpse of the Bolts’ first practice of the season.
And if there was any doubt, the players themselves were well aware of just how strong the fans’ showing was.
“It was incredible,” forward Adam Hall said. “I’m always so impressed with the fans in every single game we play. To hear that behind us, even coming out to practice, with the excitement and enthusiasm they bring, we’ve really got to give it up for them.”