Sunday, December 17, 2017
Tampa Bay Lightning

Bonding quickly big priority for Lightning

TAMPA — At first, Lightning right wing Teddy Purcell said his team cheated to win the brain-teaser challenge during last season's training camp road trip to Mont-Tremblant, Quebec.

Then he changed his story and said the team simply "found some loopholes."

Bottom line, Purcell said, "Any time you get a bunch of competitive athletes together, we're always trying to find a way to win."

Whether the game was played fairly was not really the point. What counted was they worked together to get it done.

Coach Guy Boucher hopes the same mentality takes hold today through Thursday when Tampa Bay shifts training camp to Germain Arena in Estero.

The plan is for players, through team dinners, golf and other activities, to get reacquainted and integrate new players into the group — to bond.

And though there may not be a contest such as last season's — when players had to figure out a series of challenges such as re-creating a three-dimensional drawing with building blocks — there likely will be things to make players think.

"You have to talk. You have to interact," Boucher said. "That's the connection between individuals that makes those intangibles that make the difference between two teams that are equal."

Considering the Lightning opens at home Saturday against the Capitals, connections need to be made quickly, something Boucher said would be more difficult in Tampa or Brandon, where the Lightning has traditionally held camp at the Ice Sports Forum.

"By going away, there's nobody else that interacts with you," he said. "It's a bubble. You create the chemistry you need really quick."

"You just want to go to battle more for someone you know," Purcell said. "You push that extra distance. Some people don't believe it, but every athlete knows how important team building and cohesiveness as a group really helps you. It does really translate onto the ice."

Still, the organization clearly worried that moving the camp would grate on the fans still raw over the 119-day lockout. So, camp opened Sunday at the Tampa Bay Times Forum with Fan Fest.

About 5,500 attended to get autographs and watch a two-hour practice. Camp is back at the Times Forum on Friday, and the team will provide a free lunch.

"It certainly wasn't to displease our fans," Boucher said of moving camp to the home of the Lightning's ECHL affiliate, the Florida Everblades. "It's the opposite, so we can accelerate the process we absolutely need for Saturday."

"We don't have much time," wing Marty St. Louis said. "We have to come together quick. Getting guys away from home and having them spend a lot of time together solves that problem."

But not the problem of teammates who cheat or — ahem — find "loopholes" to exploit during team-building exercises.

"It was a friendly competition," captain Vinny Lecavalier said of last season's brain-teaser challenge, "but when they blew the whistle, you saw everybody running. Everybody was competing pretty hard."

That is the point.

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