Flames players skate again with a new spring in their step
Lockout resolution gives new meaning to incessant skating at WinSport
Mike Cammalleri lifts the cage on his helmet to take a drink of water during a break at an on-ice session at WinSport on Monday. The Flames forward recently lost his three front teeth after the puck came off Steve Stamkos’s stick during a pickup game in Toronto.
Photograph by: Lorraine Hjalte, Calgary Herald
For four mornings a week, for nearly four months, it has looked exactly like this.
A couple of dozen hockey players, most of them members of the Calgary Flames, taking orders from the Dinos coaches at the WinSport Ice Complex.
Monday had been the same.
But different. Really different.
It was the first time skaters had taken to the ice since the successful construction of a collective bargaining agreement by the National Hockey League and its players.
“It’s fun and exciting, yeah,” Michael Cammalleri said after the intense session. “It’s easier to push yourself. There’s no doubt that, as much as you love to play at times, it got somewhat tedious out there, just the same old practices and not knowing if it was going to be for anything. Having a direct goal in mind is really exciting to work toward.”
Added Lee Stempniak: “Everyone was moving a little faster. It’s been a long process and it’s been hard to stay on top of things, not really knowing when to peak. But with an end date in sight, everyone’s ready to go.”
Details still need to be hammered out.
For instance, when does Flames camp open? This weekend? Monday? But in the grand scheme of things, it hardly registers.
“You’re kind of waiting for the final word, but it’s relief,” said Chris Butler. “It’s nice to be out here, to be around the guys. Camp’s around the corner and the season is not too far behind it.”
What is known is that prep-time for the Flames, and 29 other clubs, is going to be shorter than ever. Just a handful of days and perhaps no pre-season action.
For a team that’s overhauled its staff — by hiring head coach Bob Hartley and assistants Martin Gelinas and Jacques Cloutier — the task is obvious. Getting up to speed with the boss.
“It’s going to be a lot of information — and a lot of information quickly — and we’re just going to have to learn on the fly,” said Butler. “You look at a guy like (Alex Tanguay). He’s been under Bob Hartley and he can be almost a liaison for us and help us through some things. There’s some older guys — (Jarome Iginla, Miikka Kiprusoff) — you really don’t have to worry about being ready to play. They’re veterans and they’re professionals. They know how to prepare whether it’s a short camp, a long camp, whatever.”
Good thing, because, with a short camp and a cramped schedule, conditioning is more of a factor than ever. Some developments, however, are inevitable.
“Hip flexors, groins are probably going to go,” said Karl Alzner, a member of the Washington Capitals. “There’ll be probably quite a few bumps and bruises from hits, too. When you get hit, you don’t remember how hard that actually is. Guys are going to get hurt, but we’re just going to have to take care of it.
“Guys are probably going to be having a pretty tough time for the first month, I’d say.”
Meaning teams will need to walk a fine line — trying to stay healthy, but going full out to bag wins during a sprint-distance schedule.
“If you really analyze it, it’s like a playoff race right from the start,” said Mark Giordano. “Obviously, every game is going to be huge. The team that gets into the season, that gets going right away, is going to have the best chance of obviously securing a playoff spot and going from there.”
Added Henrik Karlsson: “You can’t fall back at the beginning, every game is going to matter so much for our team. I think it’ll be really interesting. Especially the Western Conference, it’s such a tough conference.”
— With files from Kristen Odland
Follow Scott Cruickshank on Twitter/CruickshankCH
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