With the puck drop to the 2019-2020 NHL season less than a month away, the ice at Montreal Canadiens training centre in Brossard was empty on Thursday. Players instead hit the gym as training camp kicked off.
Breaking a sweat under the watchful eye of team coaches, the fit athletes pushed themselves to their limits.
“It’s a tough day. It’s a lot of fun,” said left winger Artturi Lehkonen.
Nate Thompson, a veteran centre, is with the Habs this season. With over 17 training camps under his belt, the self-proclaimed prospect (who is 35) was happy for his fresh new start with the team.
“I haven’t seen anybody vomit yet so that’s a good sign for us,” Thompson said.
After missing the playoffs last year for the second time in a row, players like the young Jesperi Kotkaniemi took advantage of the longer summer and packed on some much-needed muscle mass.
“Yeah, I got a few pounds. It is a good thing,” the 19-year-old said, adding he hopes to make the playoffs this year.
A group of 57 players, a mix of rookies and veterans, underwent physical and fitness testing at the Brossard Sports Complexe. The testing focuses on strength speed and agility.
While the game has evolved over the years, so too has the training regiment for players.
It’s no longer about how much weight on the bar but how fast you move it, according to Habs director of sports science and performance Pierre Allard.
“The game has evolved so much. It is faster now. Guys are training to be fast and not as strong,” said Thompson.
Although little action over the summer meant few changes to the Habs’ roster, many players are optimistic about strong team performance this upcoming season.
“We have a fresh start,” said Jeff Petry, adding he hopes to get everyone on the same page early on in the season.
The Habs will be working all week and hitting the practice ice on Friday.
They are scheduled to open the season in Carolina on Oct. 3.