Rangers' camp a physical test

Tortorella's prescription for fitness is work, work and more work

Saturday, 09.12.2009 / 11:42 PM / Team
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Rangers\' camp a physical test
By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com

Rangers captain Chris Drury is a veteran of 10 seasons in the National Hockey League. He has played for four different organizations, skated in two Olympics, and helped the Colorado Avalanche win the Stanley Cup in 2001.

In other words, Drury has seen and accomplished a lot during his career.

Captain Chris Drury and his Rangers teammates are sure to be gritting their teeth under the intensity of head coach John Tortorella's training camp regimen.
However, he has never been a part of a training camp that has had as heavy an emphasis on physical conditioning and testing as the one he is currently involved in with the Blueshirts this year.

“I’ve been through a lot,” Drury stated after the first day of camp on Saturday. “But nothing like this.”

The first day of John Tortorella’s first training camp as head coach of the Rangers featured an exhausting sprint-skating test early in the day, followed by a three-mile run in the early evening. Strength tests and a wicked aerobic skating test follow on the second day of camp.

“It comes down to trying to push them to a different level of conditioning,” said Tortorella. “We want to test them and see how hard they can go.”

Tortorella broke the players up into four groups, and then into smaller groups of three at a time for the on-ice sprints on Saturday. Each sprint consisted of three 150-foot laps, with each player taking part in six sprints.

“The first two (sprints) were bad, obviously,” newcomer Christopher Higgins joked. “And the next three to (four) were equally as awful.”

Joking aside, Higgins and his Rangers teammates have embraced the challenge set forth by Tortorella. The head coach explained to his players over the summer what his expectations were, and what exactly would take place once camp opened up.

The players have arrived at camp prepared for all that Tortorella has in store for them. And in many cases, the players have been working out together at the MSG Training Center for several weeks to prepare for the tests, as well as to hone their skills on the ice.

“Everyone’s going through this together,” noted Higgins. “We’re pushing each other to be better players.”

Many of the players believe that Tortorella’s high expectations have already produced positive results, even before a single puck has been dropped on the ice.

“Overall, I think the guys feel better, that they are in better shape going into this season,” said Drury. “I am pretty sure that just about every guy started skating way earlier than they would have ever started heading into camp. I think overall everyone feels more prepared heading into the season.”

The Rangers will not scrimmage until Monday, the third day of training camp, which does not leave them much time before their first preseason game on Tuesday against the Boston Bruins at The Garden. That fact does not bother Tortorella at all. That is how seriously he is taking the team’s overall conditioning this year.

In general, the head coach was pleased with what he saw from his players after the first day of camp. He observed how, by and large, they took his message to heart and prepared themselves properly over the summer months.

“I saw some really good stuff,” said Tortorella. “It’s the first day. It’s a hard test. And it just gives us an indication of how (the players) have gone about their business over the summer.”

Tortorella was quick to point out that Saturday was only the first day of training camp -- the first day to evaluate the players on many different fronts. No matter how important first impressions are, the head coach is keeping an open mind regarding all of the players in camp.

“It’s not about making quick decisions with these guys,” Tortorella said. “To me it’s an accumulation as you go through camp in how you are judging these guys. You don’t want to knee-jerk here, both positively and negatively.”