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Folding sweaters, recreating shapes part of team building for Tampa Bay Lightning

MONT-TREMBLANT, Quebec — Look at a three-dimensional drawing and recreate the shape using blocks.

Fold sweaters in a specific way.

Not exactly the tasks you would expect a hockey team to perform during training camp. But those were two of the challenges Lightning players faced Tuesday at this stunning resort area 70 miles north of Montreal.

"Thinking stuff," captain Vinny Lecavalier said.

Coaches preferred to call it "team building" as players, they hoped, worked together, learned about each other and began creating the chemistry among them some teams find so elusive.

"If you're hoping for chemistry and you wait for it to happen, you've got one chance out of I don't know how much that it will happen," coach Guy Boucher said. "I've been on so many teams, 'Hey, this team has great chemistry.' It's not something that happens. You work at it."

With Tampa Bay in Mont-Tremblant and Quebec City for a seven-day trip that includes its final two preseason games, there seemed no better time for bonding to begin.

Coaches generally work together on such projects, but the mastermind is assistant Dan Lacroix, who said he has organized such adventures since he was an assistant for Moncton of the junior Quebec league.

Players still talk about last season's paintball outing. And Lacroix after each victory during the season takes pictures of the team's DNA and Warrior award winners (given to the game's top players), and displays them in the locker room.

"So for every win in our season, there's a picture of our success and who paid the price that night," Lacroix said. "Those are the little things that create the team environment, that sense of togetherness and belonging."

And players say last season's locker room was one of the tightest they have experienced.

Tuesday, Lacroix got help from a local company that sets up corporate events. It even created an award for the winning team: syrup in a small glass container shaped like a maple leaf.

Players were split into five five-man teams to tackle eight challenges that began two hours after a tough 90-minute practice in front of about 500 at the Mont-Tremblant Arena.

Frisbee golf and shooting a slingshot were just for fun.

Win a challenge and a team earned a piece of hockey equipment it carried around in a bag as it jogged around town from station to station. The team with the most equipment — Lecavalier, Pavel Kubina, Adam Hall, Blair Jones and Brett Connolly — won the syrup.

The equipment was donated to the Tremblant Minor Hockey Association.

"It's spending time together. It's laughs," wing Marty St. Louis said. "You can't duplicate that."

And if you don't believe players could possibly take all this seriously, consider Lecavalier broke away from a television interview to run, arms raised, into the room where the winning team was announced.

"It's different from just going playing golf," Lecavalier said. "It's about working together, talking, communicating. I love it."

"That's what it's about," Lacroix said. "Get a few smiles and a few good conversations going. All in all, it was a good day."

MOVES: Forwards Mike Angelidis, Michel Ouellet, Alex Picard, Trevor Smith and J.T. Wyman, and defensemen Richard Petiot and Mike Vernace cleared waivers and were assigned to camp with AHL Norfolk.

Folding sweaters, recreating shapes part of team building for Tampa Bay Lightning 09/27/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, September 27, 2011 8:36pm]
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