It’s been a long summer waiting for the hockey season to return, but the day has finally arrived.
59 players were listed on the roster for today’s first training camp practice at the JetBlue Traing Facility at the Saveology.com Iceplex in Coral Springs. To start the day off at full speed, the players began with some on-ice fitness testing before they were split into two different practice groups. The on-ice testing included sprints and timed skates around the rink.
Captain Ed Jovanovski said that the team is excited to start the season and “everyone is on a clean slate, fresh and ready to go.” The team is also looking in great shape, considering head coach Kevin Dineen said that was an issue for the team last year.
“That was the message at our end of the year meetings,” said Dineen about coming into this camp in shape. “We’re all pleased with the results that showed the effort was put in this summer.”
The off-season conditioning definitely paid off as their speed and strength showed on the ice. While the players battle for a spot on the opening night roster, some will take their time getting back into practices as they prepare for the opener on Oct. 3. Players returning from injuries that skated today included Jovanovski, Kris Versteeg and Aleksander Barkov while reigning Calder Trophy winner Jonathan Huberdeau was held off following testing. Coach Dineen expressed his excitement for the progress they have made, especially Versteeg.
Jovanovski practicing on the first day of camp exceeded his post-surgery expectations, although there is still a lot to work on.
“I’ve been feeling pretty good,” Jovanovski said. “As these few weeks go on, I think it’s just going to get better.” Jovanovski also said it’s great getting back and seeing all the guys working together.
“It’s great to see the amount of guys that show up before training camp. We got some good practices together.”
He’s not alone about being thrilled to be back on the ice
“It’s like a kid in a candy store,” said Versteeg who had so much pre-training camp excitement; it even gave him a tough night sleeping. “You’re just excited to get here and get things rolling.”
As for his return after surgery on his ACL, he says he’s feeling strong and ready to go. After mentioning other pro athletes, such as Derrick Rose returning from ACL surgery, he said it tests your commitment to the game and returning back stronger than before.
“There are so many people that played a part in helping me get back to where I need to be,” Versteeg said. “You have to understand there’s always a risk there, but in the end it’s what you do. And you got to go in and play your best regardless of what was in the past.”
Training camp has just begun, but dates to look forward to this weekend are the inter-squad scrimmage at the Iceplex in Coral Springs on Saturday, Sept. 14, and the doubleheader vs. the Nashville Predators at the BB&T Center on Monday, Sept. 16.
Overall, it was an exciting day for players and fans alike that showed up for the first practice of training camp. Dineen said it had been a positive first day, and is ready to learn and start moving forward as the team forms. The several veterans returning and many young players vying for a spot on the opening night roster are moving the Panthers forward through training camp at full speed.
Training Camp Schedule
Sept. 13 – practice (9 a.m. – Noon) – Saveology.com Iceplex
Sept. 14 – practice & intra-squad scrimmage (9 a.m. – Noon) – Saveology.com Iceplex
Sept. 15 – practice (9 a.m. – Noon) – Saveology.com Iceplex
Sept. 16 – doubleheader vs. Nashville (2:30 p.m. & 7 p.m.) – BB&T Center
Sept. 17 – practice (10:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.) – Saveology.com Iceplex
Sept. 18 – practice (9 a.m. – 11 a.m.) – Saveology.com Iceplex; depart for Dallas 2 p.m.