The Sharks training camp opens up less than three weeks from today. Rookies begin practicing for the Pacific Division Shootout, featuring promising prospects from San Jose, Anaheim, Phoenix and Los Angeles, on September 7 (the tournament will be held at Logitech Ice from September 7-11).
However, for the last few weeks, several Sharks, and other NHL regulars, have been gathering at Logitech Ice for regular ice sessions (although these are not available to the public). The annual "Captain's Practices" feature no coaching and very little fanfare, but it is the unofficial beginning of hockey for the 2005-06 season.
"It's great being out there," said Scott Thornton. "We skated all season last year, but with no end date or goal. It's exciting to be coming back and having the sore muscles.
As more players arrive next week to put kids in school and to adjust from an overseas time zone, the games of shinny will move from half ice to the full sheet.
"We don't have a lot of guys yet, but it is more conditioning and getting the skill back," said Thornton. "The tempo will start increasing and we'll get rid of the bad habits."
"Captain's Practices" usually start out as hard skating affairs, with very little contact, but players do skate full throttle.
"Guys will start throwing the body around next week," said Mark Smith. "There's no real hitting, but guys begin running into each other and start playing the body. You're not looking to kill a guy, but to get the feeling for protecting the puck and taking the hit."
But these are still professional athletes and the competitiveness can take over.
"If it's a one-on-one battle, you want to go hard," said Smith. "Bragging rights are on the line back in the lockerroom. Patty (Marleau) and I chirp each other pretty good. We like to give it, but not hear it."
KOROLYUK PUSHED BACK Forward Alex Korolyuk's arbitration hearing was pushed back to Friday from the original Wednesday schedule.