Fans that have enjoyed a Minnesota Wild game from the Treasure Island Resort & Casino Club Level associate the area with cushy leather chairs, delectable meats from the carving stations and a wide array of beverage options.
Some Wild players, on the other hand, associate it with profuse sweating, aching muscles and near vomiting. And no, those symptoms are not the results of the wide array of beverage options.
This summer, Nate Prosser
, Clayton Stoner
, Chad Rau
, Jarod Palmer
and occasionally Josh Harding
wrap up their four-hour Monday and Wednesday workouts with back-and-forth conditioning sprints in the Club level.
Palmer summed up the group's feelings the best while hunched over and clutching his knees after his final sprint last week.
"I hate Mondays and Wednesdays," he gasped to nobody in particular.
His workout partners could only muster enough strength to nod in agreement.
The grueling workouts are led by Strength and Conditioning Coach Chris Pietrzak-Wegner, or "PW" as he is more commonly known for obvious reasons. PW arrived late last summer, so this is the first summer that he's had a chance to work with Wild players and prospects during the offseason.
Not coincidentally, it's an offseason that has been filled with talk from Wild management about players being in better shape to start the season, and a desire to eliminate the number of injuries that hampered the club since the first day of training camp last year.
Palmer, Prosser and Rau are all Minnesota natives living in the Twin Cities this offseason. Stoner and Harding are also in town for the remainder of the summer as both recover from hip injuries suffered last season.
The group gets together for off-ice training every week, Monday through Thursday. Tuesdays and Thursdays are relatively easy (for professional athletes), while Mondays and Wednesdays look about as much fun as getting caned by Don Cherry.
To sum up PW's description of Mondays and Wednesdays, they are "lower body" days. Obviously, the lower body is important for players propelling themselves at high speed on ice, but we're not talking about a couple sets of standard squats and lunges.
The day includes soft tissue work, flexibility routines, mobility, activation, dynamic, speed work, sled pushes, diagonal sled pulls, medicine ball work, lifting and then conditioning.
It's harder than it sounds.
"It's about explosiveness," explains Stoner. "As you can see in your video, we do a lot of leg strength and sprints. It's definitely intense, and as you can tell by our shirts, it's a good sweat."
Prosser and Palmer were both preparing for their senior seasons in college last year. They certainly worked hard in the offseason and went through some grueling workouts, but this year has taken it to another level.
"They're getting better," said PW, with a wry grin. "They're used to hard work, but it was different for them. It was tough for them the first couple weeks. They were dying."
While the prospects take part in the rigorous exercises to get in NHL shape, Stoner and Harding are using them to gain strength and recover from surgeries. But that doesn't mean they have it easy. The differences might be a very minimal weight decrease on a sled push, or in Harding's case, he was spared from Wednesday's sprints.
"It's a little different," said PW of the workouts for the injured players. "We just monitor those guys closely with the volume we're doing. They'll put in the workout and then both will have work done by Travis Green (the team's massage therapist)."
Stoner, who is working toward staying healthy for a season in which he's on a one-way NHL contract, says the workouts are just what he needs.
"I think this is very beneficial for my hip injuries," he said. "By doing these sprints, it's really good for building up those hip muscles. The thorough stretching really loosens up those muscles as well."
The players will be tested this week to see how they've progressed through the summer. As for other Wild players who are on their own for offseason workouts, they better be ready. The Wild will be implementing much more rigid strength testing at the beginning of camp. The really hard work will be done by the time players start filtering in prior to training camp.
We'll go hard for another two weeks or so, until the start of September," said PW. "Then, we'll start tapering it back. We'll have more guys in town and we'll do more circuits. Ice time will become more important as well."
The players will be happy when that day comes. Even though they're in the same building, the rink will feel like paradise compared to the Club Level.