As hard as it may be to believe, with the temperatures routinely soaring in the high 90s lately, it’s just about time for hockey season to start up again.
|Jere Lehtinen |
With training camp less than three weeks away, a fairly large contingent of Dallas Stars players are back in the Metroplex working out and skating at the club’s practice facility at the Frisco Dr Pepper StarCenter.
After an off-season of dryland training, most of the Stars were thrilled to get on the ice and enjoy the company of their teammates again.
“It’s fun to see the guys and get back to work a little bit,” defenseman Philippe Boucher said. “It’s just getting in shape, but it’s fun. I skated just a few times, so it’s good to get back out there, get the hands going, get a sweat, be with the guys in the locker room. Even though this is not real training camp, it feels like we’re getting closer - it’s getting exciting.”
Some had busier off-seasons than others. Defenseman Mattias Norstrom, who was acquired from Los Angeles at the trading deadline in late February, had to take care of some extra business related to moving his family to the Metroplex.
“Right after the season, back to California, to Los Angeles, got our house sold,” he recounted. “We got our furniture moved out, then I flew with the family to Sweden. Then I flew back here the end of May, to Dallas, to meet up with the moving company and then moved the furniture into the house and then back to Sweden. As soon as I was back there, I started the summer workouts. You try to catch up with family and friends over the summer, and all of a sudden, you’re planning your trip back again. That’s how fast the summer goes by.”
“I went back home to Montreal for a few months, went to see family and stuff,” reported center Mike Ribeiro
. “Really stayed home training and enjoyed myself with the kids.”
Defenseman Trevor Daley
, who underwent surgery on his shoulder following last season, remained in the area rehabbing his injury with the team’s training staff, led by head trainer Dave Surprenant and strength and conditioning coach J.J. McQueen.
“Most of it’s been rehab and the other of it’s been off-ice training,” Daley said of his off-season. “I’ve just been here working with the training staff here, with Soup and with J.J., so it’s been great.”
After working out alone for so long, he was happy to see his teammates return.
“I’ve been here all by myself all summer,” said Daley, who also made several appearances at the Stars’ prospect development camp in July. “I’m telling them, ‘Thanks for coming back, guys, for leaving me all summer,’ so yeah, it’s good to have them all back.”
All the players followed customized off-season workout programs, most designed for them by McQueen, but few of them included any skating drills.
“A lot of leg workouts, not a lot of upper body,” said Ribeiro, who returned to the Metroplex several weeks ago, of his summer regimen. “I really focused to get stronger, not really bigger, but stronger, and I think I’ve been doing that.”
“I’ve done a workout that I’ve been doing for a few years now,” added Boucher. “It includes weights and circuits and track-work and things like that, but there’s nothing like being on the ice, so it’s good to have a few weeks to really go out there and skate.”
The sessions that began Monday morning are run by Dwight Mullins and former Star defenseman Craig Ludwig, the new coach and assistant coach, respectively, for the NAHL’s Texas Tornado. The sessions are voluntary and run by Mullins and Ludwig because NHL rules prohibit anyone from coach Dave Tippett’s staff to accompany the players on the ice until the official opening of camp.
“Just strictly trying to get a jump-start on a little conditioning for them, so that Dave and his staff can kind of jump into it a little bit harder than normally,” Ludwig said. “I think you try to get them as close to pre-season shape as you can. We’ll go about nine times before they get started.”
Ludwig purposely designed an up-tempo workout that included lots of skating and shooting drills and ended with a three-on-three scrimmage.
“I think it was probably a little bit tougher today than they thought,” Ludwig said. “I think it’s good for them. They only skate for about 40-45 minutes, a little four-on-four, five-on-five stuff, let them get into a little bit of timing, let the goalies see the pucks. We never did that in the past, and we’ve been doing this for a couple of years now, and they all seem to want to do it the next year, as long as they get some good results out of it.”
“It was pretty good,” Boucher said of the fast-paced ice time. “The guys in here, we know we need it and the more you do now, the easier it’s going to be in a few weeks, because training camps are never easy.”
One of the benefits to the early skating sessions is that besides helping the players work their way back into shape and shake off the rust of several months off skates, is re-kindling the camaraderie of all of them working together towards a common goal together.
“One of the reasons I came early was to train here and work hard,” Ribeiro noted. “Here I train, I skate, I run, so I do a lot more with J.J. getting ready for the season. It feels good. Back home (in Montreal), I trained alone, and it’s always fun to come to the rink and hang out and be with the boys and train and see everyone here. I guess it’s more fun to come to the rink and work out than to go to the gym.”
Having the players start going hard now also means that Surprenant, McQueen and the equipment staff led by equipment manager Steve Sumner, are also easing back into things.
“If these guys get any kind of groin pulls or anything like that, they can get to it early and then they don’t have to hopefully bleed it into the season,” Ludwig noted.
It was clear watching the ever-present smiles on the players’ faces that the guys were really enjoying themselves out there and were happy to be back.
“I’m excited to start the season, whatever comes with it, I’m be ready for it,” Daley said. “I’m definitely excited to start it.”
Among the players participating on Monday were Boucher, Ribeiro, Daley, Norstrom, captain Brenden Morrow
, goaltender Marty Turco, defenseman Sergei Zubov, former Star blueliner Brad Lukowich, who still lives in the area and will play for Tampa Bay this year, and forwards Jere Lehtinen and Stu Barnes.