The Lightning players were humbled to see 5,500 fans at The Forum cheering for them when they took the ice for their first training camp practice. After a 113-day NHL lockout, they had no expectations of a large turnout.
"It was flattering to see the amount of fans that were here today," said team captain Martin St. Louis. "We understand what the fans have gone through. We have gone through it with them."
All the spectators provided a unique atmosphere at practice. "Oh, it's different," said coach Guy Boucher. "I have to watch my language, I can tell you that." Boucher shouted PG-rated orders in the first workout he was allowed to be with the team since the lockout. Some players had been skating with each other a few times a week in Brandon. Sunday's practice was at a much quicker pace.
"It's hugely different. Now guys are trying to push each other as hard as possible," said forward Adam Hall.
"But [Boucher] understands how hard is our hardest right now," said St. Louis. "You build that stamina and you can go harder and harder as we progress here."
But there is little time to spend on conditioning in a six-day training camp. Every team will cram a 48-game schedule into the next three and half months with no preseason games.
The last time the NHL played a shortened season was in 1994-95, when Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman was playing. "What really stood out to me that year was it was like playoffs from day one," he said. "You play virtually every second day."
At least Boucher thought his players arrived to camp in shape this year. "I got what we call the 'fat club.' The first year I was here, we had quite a few in the 'fat club.' But today, we have one." Boucher said, declining to name names.
But Boucher believes being "in shape" and in "game shape" are two different things. "I'm not going to kid myself. It takes three weeks to a month to really put a system on the ice and execute it consistently," he said. "In five days, I can't expect us to come out in a perfectly ordered fashion."
All training camp practices are open to the public. Camp continues in Estero at the Germain Arena with practices Monday through Thursday. The team will return to The Forum for a final workout Friday. The Lightning open the season at home against the Washington Capitals on Saturday 7p.m.
200 South Parker Street, Tampa, FL 33606
Can’t find something?
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2013 Media General Communications Holdings, LLC. A Media General Company.