Throughout the 90-minute training camp practice at the Bay Center last Thursday morning, new head coach Kevin Hasselberg ran his team through a series of intense drills.
Goaltenders were forced to stop shots in short space – the goals separated at center ice by only a few feet — and players were put into situations where they had to battle for the puck in the corners of the arena, the so-called dirty areas of hockey.
The purpose of all it, of course, was to put an emphasis on the small details of the game. Hasselberg said things such as communication, proper posture and keeping your head up to make plays have to be emphasized if a team is ultimately going to be successful.
“If those things aren’t implemented early, it turns players into robots. We don’t want robots on the ice,” Hasselberg said. “We need them to be able to think the game so they are forced to make decisions and express their creativity. So far, they have done that.”
The three-day training camp took place last week and was followed up with a preseason game against Columbus on Saturday. A total of 22 players were in camp and the roster is now down to 18 after cuts.
“I’m extremely excited. We’ve had a lot to teach them and the players have been extremely receptive,” Hasselberg said. “The guys have given everything they have even though we haven’t gone easy on them. We’ve probably started off a little harder on them than I would have liked but marks to them for keeping the pace up and doing their best regardless of the task.”
Pushing the players hard isn’t all that much of a surprise. This is Hasselberg’s first year at the professional level – he coached junior hockey in western Canada prior to being hired – and he’s in charge of a team that is coming off its third Southern Professional Hockey League title in four years.
“This is my first opportunity at the next level, but this is what hockey is all about. You want to challenge yourself and put yourself in uncomfortable situations and see how good you can be,” Hasselberg said.
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