BRANDON — There was a time, Vinny Lecavalier said, that training-camp locker rooms were more like staging areas for Friday Night Fights.
Players, he said, literally would decide before going on the ice which teammate they would fight — not because of some feud but because they wanted to impress the coaches with their pugilistic skills and, perhaps, win a roster spot.
"It was hostile," the Lightning captain Friday said of his early years in the league. "Guys wanted to show what they could do. Coaches were looking at players, 'Okay, he can fight.' "
It is a scene coach Guy Boucher wants no part of, so much so he is prohibiting his players from fighting in training camp scrimmages today and Sunday at the Ice Sports Forum.
"We're telling them we don't want fights," he said. "If it does happen, it has to be something drastic, like a major cheap shot and the guys don't want to take it."
Other than that, the gloves stay on. The reason? Simple.
"They all have our logo," Boucher said. "They're all part of the Lightning."
Injuries, too, are a concern. It takes only one misguided punch off a helmet to break a hand.
The culture of the game also has changed. Fighting no longer is integral. Tampa Bay played last season without an enforcer.
More to the point, Boucher said, "we're looking to create a family atmosphere where guys work hard and respect each other. We don't want to get into an extermination camp. We want to get into a training camp."
The last major brawls in Lightning camp probably were in 2008, when Zenon Konopka, in the year's first scrimmage, fought Evgeny Artyukhin and Matt Smaby. Adam Hall also fought Radek Smolenak.
Hall said he believes that was part of an atmosphere fostered by then-coach Barry Melrose:
"Barry liked a more physical kind of camp. He just liked that style of play."
Said wing Ryan Malone: "He threw a puck out there, and we tried to run each other around."
But Konopka, now with the Senators, said he simply was following the old script in which the new guy tries to get noticed.
"A lot of times there are players who are not on the map, never mind penciled in. They're not even on the radar," he said by phone from Ottawa. "So it's pretty important to let those guys have an opportunity to show everything they can bring to the lineup."
Konopka said he understands any team's no-fighting edict, though with a caveat:
"It's really important, if you're not going to have fighting, you'd better make sure that anyone who has any kind of chance to make the team gets in an exhibition (game) or two."
The way Boucher sees it, anyone with a chance to make the team deserves to show his skill in a game situation without having to look over his shoulder. A scrimmage provides that.
"We want the young guys to feel comfortable being who they are and not having to be somebody else and show something they're not," Boucher said.
Players can hit. But as Boucher added, "There are plenty of people to fight outside our team."