“It’s time for a good time,” Alan Jackson sang from the loudspeakers at CONSOL Energy Center on Monday morning.
It most certainly was.
Penguins head coach Mike Johnston used the Kids’ Open Practice as an opportunity to set the team’s entire session to music, which was a blast for both the players and media watching from the stands.
He’ll do this a few times throughout the season, mainly when there’s a couple of days off between games as it’s a prime opportunity for a conditioning practice. The music helps give the guys energy as they’re skating harder than usual.
“The players come out, they know the drills that we’re going to do,” Johnston said. “We try and focus on their execution, so they’ve got to individually focus on their execution. Then the other part of it is that it’s a change of pace. There’s a lot of energy in the building, I know there were fans here today, but generally with the music practices there’s a lot of energy.
“The guys can go through practice without a break. You’re bumped from one drill to the next. We went 43 minutes today, so it was a good pace out there, good execution. A really good atmosphere. So we’ll probably sprinkle a few of those in a month.”
Johnston began this particular practice when he was with the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League, something he picked up from Chip Kelly, currently head coach of the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles, when he was coaching at nearby Oregon.
“That’s what I picked up from Chip when I went to his practice with the Oregon Ducks during their training camp,” Johnston said. “He did his whole practice to music, I think he’s done it in Philly as well. It just created a really neat atmosphere.”
For today’s practice, Johnston had video coach Andy Saucier choose the playlist.
“But I told the players next time if they wanted to chip in, if there’s somebody in the room that was musically inclined that wanted to pick 43 minutes of music, they were welcome to do that,” Johnston smiled.
If he gets the job, Brandon Sutter already knows the first song he’d play.
“I’d probably go Callin Baton Rouge by Garth Brooks,” he said. “That would be my No. 1. That would probably be a pretty big hit with the boys, so hopefully (I can play it).”
The Penguins center said practicing to music was definitely a unique experience.
“It was a little different,” he laughed. “Not really used to that. I think we’re used to communicating and talking and getting a few laughs out there, but today there wasn’t much for talking. It was pretty loud, especially with kids screaming. It was a little different, but it was kind of fun.”
Here’s the full practice playlist the Pens used today…
Calvin Harris – Summer
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – Can’t Hold Us Feat. Ray Dalton
Avicii – The Days
Flo Rida – Good Feeling
Black Keys – Lonely Boy
Alan Jackson – Good Time
Calvin Harris – Feel So Close
Fitz and the Tantrums – The Walker
Klingade – Jubel
Flo Rida – I Cry
DVBBS & Borgeous – Tsunami