Tampa Bay Lightning coach Rick Tocchet praises players, rips flabby media (in fun, of course)
The visuals were very similar to season's past; Lightning players on their knees or bent over their sticks, trying to catch their breath after fitness testing on the first day of training camp. But while those previous seasons were punctuated by the overall weight of what players were put through by then-coach John Tortorella, Saturday's power point was about sport specific exertion.
Where Tortorella had players do multiple 15-lap skates, coach Rick Tocchet had players do four one-lap sprints. Where Tortorella included a three-mile run in his bag of tricks, Tocchet used six sets of five sprints from the goal line to the near blue line.
"It's just totally different," center Vinny Lecavalier said when asked to compare Tocchet's program to Tortorella's. "It was just as hard, but this was more specific to a hockey shift, which was good. When you do sprints or 22-second laps, you teach your body to be quick, and that's what you want. You want to be quick and recuperate and go back to doing another sprint."
What both coaches seem to subscribe to is not forcing players to do stop-and-start drills right away. Players need time to strengthen their skating legs under tougher conditions than they are used to while working on their own. Starts and stops too early invites groin problems, something the Lightning, under Tortorella, hardly had to endure.
The sprints have their own challenges.
"You can make it as hard as you want to make it," right wing Marty St. Louis said. "If you go all out, it's hard. It's a test, but they have a purpose. It's conditioning. You care how well you do, but at the same time, it's conditioning."
Of all the players out there, you had to feel bad for defenseman Matt Smaby, not because the big man was struggling, he wasn't any more than anyone else, but he was in a group with St. Louis and center Steven Stamkos, two of the team's best and quickest skaters. How is that for fair?
Anyway, Tocchet said he was pleased with how the players handled the tests.
"It looks like the guys have worked hard (over the summer)," he said. "Their shirts are off, I don't see any fat guys around."
Then came the kicker: "Just some media guys."