Day 1 of the Buffalo Sabres’ 2012 Development Camp may have ended on the ice, but it certainly didn’t start there. A very early morning start awaited all 39 prospects participating in the week-long event, beginning with a not-so-pleasant 4:30 a.m. wake-up call by a group of Navy SEALs who were about to put the young players through the most rigorous and exhausting conditioning regiment of their lives.
“That was an interesting, early morning, this morning,” said forward Luke Adam, who split last between the Buffalo Sabres and Rochester Americans. “I don’t think I’ve been up that early since I probably had to catch a plane somewhere.”
The intense training didn’t start, though, until the players were forced to make their beds and tidy up their rooms to a level of cleanliness that was acceptable to their instructors. They were then organized into a single line according to height and shuttled to Woodlawn Beach, where they endured a series of crunches and push-ups before a marathon swim in the tepid waters of Lake Ontario. All this before another 75-minute on-ice workout in front of the organization’s coaches, management and fans that were treated to their first taste of hockey at the First Niagara Center since April.
Not the typical start to any development camp one would argue, but it was an experience that the players say was very beneficial for both the physical and mental aspects to the game.
“It was definitely intense, but it really puts hard work into perspective,” said forward Marcus Foligno, who spent a few hours the night before researching Navy SEAL training and watching YouTube videos in order to mentally prepare himself. “What we all did this morning makes you understand how to push your mental ability and make you train your body that you’re not tired and bust out a few more reps.”
Aside from the obvious physical components this type of training offers, today’s workout really focused on mental toughness with the idea that intellectual strength is just as important as physical prowess.
“It’s a lot of mental training. I don’t know if it’s as much a hockey player as it was a person,” explained Adam. “They said ‘we’re not training you from the neck down; we’re training you from the neck up’”.
Another important element the early morning start gave the prospects was that it provided a sense of team unity, which is of course vital to any team’s success. It’s team-building exercises like these that foster togetherness and forge a collective group of individuals by a common bond.
“It was a tough morning, but it was also good. It’s a good opportunity to push yourself, and these are the kind of things that bring teams together,” said Corey Tropp, whose second pro season was also shared between Buffalo and Rochester. “It’s all about working hard. I don’t know if two weeks ago I’d tell you that I’d be jumping in the lake at five in the morning, but it was fun. It was a good time…maybe good time is an overstatement. But it was a good bonding experience. It’ll be good for all the guys. It will help us come together, and show some of the younger guys how hard you actually do have to work, and how hard it is.”
Although camp is scheduled to run through the remainder of the week, the prospects still have a long journey ahead as each day starts with another arduous workout long before the sun rises over Western New York.
“We didn’t know what to expect in terms of the intensity coming into camp, but we’ve had one day of it already, so I think we have a pretty good idea of what the rest of the week will look like,” said Tropp.
Forwards Jacob Lagace, Christian Isackson, Shawn Szydlowski and defensemen Mark Adams and Brady Austin were the only players not to take part in Monday’s on-ice sessions … A crowd of approximately 500 fans took in the first day of camp at First Niagara Center. The players will be back on the ice Tuesday and Wednesday starting at 10 a.m. Admission and ramp parking are free both days … The Blue & Gold Scrimmage will take place Thursday at 6 p.m. Tickets are $10 each, and can be purchased at the First Niagara Center box office or online at Tickets.com.