It might be the beginning of summer, but for 10 New York Rangers prospects, what better time to start preparing for next season.
For the past four days, various players from within the Rangers organization took part in on and off-ice training sessions at the Madison Square Garden Training Center in Westchester, New York.
Participating in the four-day camp was: Hugh Jessiman, Cory Larose, Lucas Lawson, Steven MacIntyre, Lawrence Nycholat, Jed Ortmeyer, Rory Rawlyk, Ken Roche, Richard Scott and Fedor Tjutin (right). Also participating was free agent goaltender Scott Dickie from the Kitchener Rangers of the Ontario Hockey League.
Goaltender Dan Blackburn, in town for a few days, also made an appearance on the ice for Thursday's skating session, his first time back on skates since the end of the 2002-03 regular season.
For many of the players, the camp provided them an opportunity to prepare training for the upcoming season, a process that is much more lengthy and involved than in the past. For many players in years past, Training Camp was used as a time to get back in shape after an off-season of rest and relaxation. Those days are long gone. Today, each player that atends Training Camp in the fall must be in top physical shape in order to compete for roster spots.
For players such as Jessiman, it was the off-ice workouts that proved to be tougher than the on-ice sessions.
"I've been skating in a league in Boston, so I've been on the ice recently," said Jessiman, who along with 2003 third round choice Roche, currently play in a summer league in Boston against the likes of Tom Poti, Dan LaCouture and Keith Tkachuk. "It was some of the off-ice drills that were really challenging for me."
Each morning, Rangers Strength and Conditioning Coordinator Reg Grant put the players through various off-ice drills in the fitness room at the MSG Training Center that focused on strength, balance, quickness and agility.
Then it was time to hit the ice, where the prospects worked mostly on skills such as skating, stickhandling and shooting.
The four days in New York also provided the players, most of whom have never been to the Big Apple, to take in some of the sights and sounds of the city during their stay.
On Wednesday, the group toured Madison Square Garden and the Blueshirt lockerroom before sitting courtside for the New York Liberty - Phoenix Murcury WNBA game.
The following night, it was time to head to Queens, as the group was on the field at Shea Stadium to watch batting practice prior to the Mets - Florida Marlins game.
In-between meeting some of the Mets such as Tom Glavine, John Franco, Vance Wilson, Steve Trachsel, Manager Art Howe and Hall of Famer Tom Seaver, many players took the opportunity to call home to family and friends to boast of their whereabouts and share their experiences.
Rawlyk echoed the sentiments of all the prospects attending the camp.
"It was a great few days for us," he said. "It was a good chance for us to work out hard and also have the opportunity to experience a little bit of New York as well."
For the Rangers, mission accomplished.