With just under two weeks until the start of training camp, the 2009-10 Rangers are already coming together – arriving at the MSG Training Center over the past few days from multiple locations in Canada, the U.S. and Europe.
Most of the players who will be part of this year’s training camp were at the Training Center on Monday. They have all arrived in New York early to get a jump start on the 2009-10 NHL season, which they expect will be a very special one.
“Everyone is excited to get going and start the new season,” said veteran defenseman Wade Redden
after Monday’s informal workout conducted by the players.
John Tortorella’s first training camp as head coach of the Rangers doesn’t officially open until Sept. 12, but upwards of 30 players are putting themselves through unsupervised on-ice and off-ice workouts on a daily basis.
While the workouts and scrimmages are helpful in honing the players’ skills and in preparing them for Tortorella’s expected intense camp, they have also served as an important outlet for new teammates to connect with one another. These player-run workouts are, in many cases, important steps in team bonding, particularly for a team that has added so many talented new players over the off-season.
“I didn’t know anybody coming in here, except Matt Gilroy, so I’m glad I can come in here before camp gets started and meet everybody and get comfortable before the action starts,” said winger Christopher Higgins, who was acquired in a late June trade with the Montreal Canadiens.
Higgins is among a group of Rangers newcomers -- which includes All-Star winger Marian Gaborik
and forwards Donald Brashear, Enver Lisin, and Brian Boyle
-- who were among the first to begin working out at the Training Center. They will soon be joined by fellow additions Ales Kotalik and Vinny Prospal.
The Rangers veteran returnees have also been working hard to prepare for the season. Monday’s workouts at the Training Center included Ryan Callahan
, Marc Staal
, Brandon Dubinsky
, Michal Rozsival, Dan Girardi
, and Redden, among others.
Several of the Rangers top prospects, including Gilroy, Evgeny Grachev, Bobby Sanguinetti, and Michael Del Zotto
have been a part of the pre-training camp mix, as well. One of the most exciting aspects of this year’s Ranger team will be coach Tortorella’s public promise that the opening-night roster will include only players who earned their jobs out of camp, regardless age or prior NHL experience
“That’s been a lot of the talk surrounding the team this year and just how strenuous a camp it’s going to be,” said Higgins. “I think the guys want to be good to go before this all starts up. Everyone knows what’s to be expected. And coming in early just helps with that.”
Staal was so eager to get to the Training Center and take part in these early workouts that he left the Canadian Olympic Team’s orientation camp as soon as it was over and drove all the way from Calgary to New York in a two-day span.
|Rangers players all expect to go through a rigorous training camp under head coach John Tortorella, as they strive to be the best-conditioned team in the NHL. |
Though he admitted it was a long and painful journey -- especially the two-hour wait at the Holland Tunnel that capped off his trip -- Staal stressed that it was well worth the effort to join his Rangers teammates.
“I’m excited to get this going, it’s been a long enough break,” said Staal. “I want to get back at it, and obviously a lot of the guys want to get things going, too.”
Although Tortorella and his staff won’t be allowed to start working with the players until Sept. 12, the new coach has to be pleased to hear about how hungry his players are to succeed in the coming season.
Many of the returning Rangers are looking to put last spring’s playoff series loss to the Washington Capitals further in the rearview mirror, while the newcomers are seeking to make solid first impressions.
All of the players are energized by the freshness that comes with a new NHL campaign.
And it all starts collectively at the team’s training site in Westchester, far in advance of even the preseason.
“We’re finding out already how everyone meshes and how the chemistry works, which is pretty cool,” said Staal. “This is a really exciting time.”