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Young Leafs Feel the Burn

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs

 by Matthew Iaboni

July 12, 2004


Nineteen Toronto Maple Leafs' prospects had strength and conditioning on their mind when they attended a three-day mini-camp in Toronto last weekend.


"It's great to see where I'm at and how I (measure) up to the other guys," said Prince George Cougars goalie Justin Pogge who was the team's first selection, 90th overall, in last month's NHL Entry Draft.


Aside from track work that included sprints, Friday's session at York University began with a couple of grueling challenges for each prospect - the VO2-Max test that determines the rate of oxygen uptake or consumption during exercise and the Windgate test that measures the maximum/minimum power output, mean power output and fatigue index.


Justin Pogge gives the thumbs up before taking the Windgate test.


On Saturday and Sunday, they went through sessions at the Reebok Station Seven Fitness Club where owner and Leafs' veteran Gary Roberts goes through his arduous program to remain one of the NHL's fittest players, even at 38 years of age.


Usually the Leafs hold a mini-camp around this time for the young prospects that includes strength and conditioning, but is not totally centred on it. This is the first time that a camp has been specifically held for strength and conditioning.


"It was (Leafs GM) John Ferguson's idea to bring this in," said Paul Dennis, Maple Leafs development coach. "What we're trying to do is bridge that gap and to do what they have to know: How to get stronger, how to have the proper fuels in their body in order to prolong the onset of fatigue and mentally how to fight through adversity when you don't feel like doing something."


Although the players went through some very difficult testing one of the main reasons for the camp was to allow the players a chance to learn proper techniques.


"We do some testing but a lot of it is educational," said Matt Nichol, Maple Leafs strength and conditioning coach. "We've also had some talks about nutrition and lifestyle." 


While they were pushed to their limits and didn't exactly relish some of the challenges, the prospects agreed the camp was of great benefit as they prepare for the upcoming season and look to enhance their chances of  eventually playing in the NHL.


The camp allowed Nichol a chance to meet the new prospects, re-acquaint himself with others and, after getting the results from the tests, set out individual programs for each player.


"The point of our testing is to identify the areas where they're weak are the areas they need to focus on," Nichol said. "Some guys are going to be very fit aerobically but maybe they're not as strong as they need to be or vice versa."


"It's very beneficial to us to learn the techniques and things that aren't going to get you to the next level but they're going to help get you to the next level," said Jay Harrison, the Leafs 82nd overall selection in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft who will be going into his third season as a pro.


"Your physical condition isn't going to get you on a team but it'll get you off a team in a hurry. You want to give yourself every chance possible to play and strength conditioning is just one of those things you can do."


Despite all the rigours they went through over the weekend, they were still able to have some down time, bonding even further by doing things like attending Saturday's Blue Jays-Angels game at SkyDome.

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