Hockey players like their routines. From their nutritional regimens to the order in which they put on their hockey gear, there is usually a prescribed standard of action involved.
As part of their offseason workouts, players usually begin skating in August in advance of mid-September’s traditional start of training camp. When the NHL locked out its players September 15th, it meant the start of the 2012-13 season would be delayed for an indeterminate period of time.
Some Nashville Predators stayed in town to continue to train while others scattered throughout the hockey world to take jobs in other leagues while the NHL and the NHL Players’ Association worked toward agreeing on terms of a new collective bargaining agreement. Sunday’s announcement that such an agreement had been reached meant that the players’ time in workout limbo had come to an end.
A short training camp is expected to begin this weekend in advance of an anticipated January 19th start to a shortened 48-game regular season.
“You can always practice and skate and bag skate as hard as you want, but it is nothing like getting into a game,” defenseman Scott Hannan said. “I am sure we will have some practices here that will be pretty tough, but at the same time, we have to go through a lot of systems. Guys have been working hard, so we will be ready to play.”
Hannan will be one of the few new faces on the Nashville roster this season.
Normal training camps last several weeks and involve preseason games. Those games give the coaches an opportunity to evaluate the players in close to real game circumstances, but they also allow the players to get their bodies used to giving and receiving body checks again. No preseason games will be played this year.
“We’ve had a solid group of guys here that have been skating,” captain Shea Weber said. “Our skates have been pretty good. We have done drills and worked on a lot of things. We’re not perfect by any means. We still have some work to get into game shape. Playing against each other 3-on-3 not hitting is a lot different than battling and the intensity. There is still a little bit of work, but I am sure that is the case with all of the teams and we are going to get there.”
Predators head coach Barry Trotz realizes that the compressed schedule will present challenges for his team as well as the others in the league.
“You are going to have guys that are going to get fatigued a little bit more,” Trotz said. “You are going to get guys that are probably going to get injured a little bit more. A lot of these guys really haven’t been hit. They talk about the game intensity for a long time and all of a sudden, they are going to be back in it. Guys that have been playing are going to have a little bit of an advantage in term of conditioning and I will say hardness, their bodies are a little hard to take contact and all of those things. Teams that have a lot more of those guys are probably going to have a little of an advantage.”