Walk into the Penguins locker room after a game, and you’re bound to see the players trading their equipment gear for workout gear and beelining to the exercise bikes, treadmills and weights.
It doesn’t matter that the players just grinded out three intense periods of hard-hitting, fast-skating hockey – finding success at the NHL level means putting in an extraordinary amount of work off the ice.
And this week, Pittsburgh strength and conditioning coach Mike Kadar will try to instill such habits into the Penguins prospects at the team’s annual development camp.
|Pens prospects doing squats |
“I think the biggest thing is how to become a professional hockey player and how to do the proper things correctly,” Kadar said. “That all stems from how we lift, how we present ourselves and how you come in and test. All of those things are going to play a part, as will the on-ice activities where they’re learning the systems and learning the Penguin way.
“It’s all kind of a combination on becoming a professional athlete and a professional hockey player.”
The prospects in attendance at camp are no slouches. They’ve all put in incredible efforts to be successful at elite levels of hockey, whether that be juniors, college or the American Hockey League.
But Kadar says the biggest difference from amateur hockey to professional hockey is the requisite work ethic, and that’s what he and the rest of the staff will communicate this week.
“We always put together a sheet after testing for our young guys that has the NHL standard for every test and where they fall in,” he said. “It’s all segmented and color-coded in terms of whether the prospect is above-average, average or below the NHL standards. That gives them a good idea on where they need to get to. It’s a little notch higher than where the kids are typically at right now.”
That testing took place bright and early Tuesday morning, as the players had to be ready to go by 7:30 a.m. The players’ performances give Kadar and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton strength and conditioning coach Joe Lorincz a baseline they can work with for the foreseeable future.
While they have yet to establish baselines for camp rookies, their expectations for the players who have been through the testing before are very high.
“They already know how we train,” Kadar said. “They already know how we eat. They already know how to act and how to be a Pittsburgh Penguin. So there are high expectations, especially on the second, third and fourth-year kids.”
Now that the testing is finished, the 28 prospects will be split into two workout groups each day for the remainder of camp.
Those smaller groups will then be split in half – one will do lifts with conditioning, while the second will partake in skill development sessions of stickhandling and shooting in the Penguins’ shooting room.
When the camp ends, Kadar will give each prospect a fitness program that covers all realms of fitness. He believes that if they follow it, they’ll be in great shape by the time they arrive in Pittsburgh.
But Kadar knows he can’t constantly monitor the prospects, so he encourages them to use any available resources at their disposal to make them the best they can be.
“These players are from all over the world,” he said. “You can’t keep track of whether they’re using your program or not. To me, it doesn't really matter as long as I’m in communication with their strength coach or they’re doing things properly.
"I encourage players to go and get their own strength and conditioning coach, just so they have someone to work with so they are in good shape by the time they get here instead of trying to do it on their own.”
Kadar knows his role in this camp is part of the whole arsenal given to these players in hopes of helping them find success in Pittsburgh.
“We’re trying to get them better in every aspect of hockey,” he said. “All the realms of fitness and nutrition and on-ice systems, how to become an athlete and how to become a Penguin.”
Gibbons at the abs/core station (left); Sill does the wyngate test (right)