View From the Booth...Training Camp Tales

Hello again, hockey fans, and welcome to an all-new edition of "The View From The Booth." We are now just slightly more than two months away from the start of the season. Training camp is also right around the corner for the Monsters and Avalanche. The Monsters will be here in Cleveland the last week of September for their camp, which will come a few days after the Avalanche hold their camp in suburban Denver.

Speaking of training camp, it got me thinking about something that's been in the national news for the last week: defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth of the NFL's Washington Redskins. Here's a guy that is signed to a contract for $100 million. I mean to make that much money and play any sport would be every guy’s dream, right?

The guy came to training camp so out of shape that for nearly a week he has not been able to make it through a series of runs that every player knows they have to do when they arrive at camp. It's two 300-yard shuttles, back and forth, 25 yards at a time. The first time the players do this it has to be done in under 70 seconds. Then they get a three-and-a-half minute break in between. The second time the run is done they have to do it in under 73 seconds. Well, after six days of trying, Haynesworth, who is paid millions upon millions of dollars, could not complete it. To me it's an embarrassment that this guy, who is paid all that money, can't come to training camp in shape.

That's why I still say hockey players are the best conditioned athletes in all of professional sports. I've talked to several of our players, some of them you can listen to on our website in our "Summer Interview Series," and first and foremost for them and virtually every pro hockey player is conditioning and training for the upcoming season.

Players are always in the gym, on the ice, running, lifting weights, doing yoga, etc. Some of them workout six days a week for up to four hours a day. Call me crazy, but isn't that what a pro athlete is supposed to do? Last season with our team made me realize a lot of things about pro hockey. I had spent the last five seasons in college hockey, and I learned that players have to be 110 percent committed to the game, their nutrition and their physical conditioning. As I often do, I tip my hat to hockey players for their commitment to their jobs and playing the greatest game on earth.

Moving on to some other hockey-related topics now.

There is a new head coach in the American Hockey League who has taken a similar path to that of our second year head coach David Quinn. His name is John Hynes, and he was named the new head coach of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. Like Quinn, Hynes gained valuable experience as the head coach of the USNTDP teams in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The USNTDP is the top development program for 16 and 17-year-old American players. Like Quinn, Hynes is also a former Boston University player and assistant coach.

I have to say Jack Parker, who is still going strong as the Boston University Terriers head coach, has to be proud of the men that have moved on to become head coaches. Joe Sacco, former Monsters and current Avalanche head coach, David Quinn, who is entering his second season here in Lake Erie with the Monsters, and John Hynes have all come out of Boston University. That’s a pretty impressive list just naming those three men.

I watched an interview with one of the Avs top young stars the other day. It was on the NHL Network, on their feature show called "Off The Ice." Calder Trophy finalist for Rookie of the Year this past season Matt Duchene was interviewed. Now I know Matt has never spent a day here in Lake Erie, but I still try to keep tabs on him and as many of the Avalanche players that I can. I guess it's just the hockey junkie in me. Anyway, the interview was good and the one thing that stood out to me was why Duchene wears number nine. He's not even 20-years-old, but I was very impressed by his knowledge of the history of the game and the history of the number nine he wears. He talked about how great of a player Henri “The Rocket” Richard was, and that's a big reason he wears number nine. I thought that was pretty cool.

Duchene also talked about one of his other idols, former Avs superstar Joe Sakic. I always liked Sakic for the way he played and carried himself as a true professional and that is something that is pretty clear about Matt Duchene. He may still be a teenager, but he's a true pro in every sense. I hope I get a chance to meet him one day.

There are reports about former Avalanche star Peter Forsberg returning to the ice in Sweden for MoDo, a team he played for last season. I thought in his prime Forsberg was the best player in the NHL, even better than Jaromir Jagr, who as a star at pretty much the same time. I just thought Forsberg was able to dominate a game at both ends of the ice and always made an amazing, clutch play when the game was on the line.

How about 40-year-old, former number one overall pick Mike Modano? All signs are pointing toward him playing at least one more season. However, it will not be in a Dallas Stars uniform, as the two sides parted ways weeks ago. Instead, Modano appears ready to return to his home, Detroit, to play with the Red Wings. Reports are that he will soon sign a one-year deal worth slightly more than a million bucks per season. I think it's a good fit for both sides, as Modano will end up being the third-line center and get to play in his hometown after 20 years in the Stars/North Stars organization where he became the highest scoring American born player over the course of those two decades.

Here's the only question I have: What number is Modano going to wear? Number nine was Gordie Howe’s and is hanging from the rafters at Joe Louis Arena. So is the number 19 that Steve Yzerman wore. Modano has donned number nine his entire career. It will be strange to see him in a Wings uniform and not wearing his familiar number.

And how about the Chicago Blackhawks? They won the Stanley Cup with goaltender Antti Niemi back in June and now he's a free agent after winning his arbitration case for nearly $3 million per season. The Hawks decided to cut Niemi loose and turn to another former Dallas Stars' player. Marty Turco will be the number one guy in the net for the Hawks this coming season. A very bold move by the Hawks, who have close to 10 players gone from their team that just won the Cup.

Niemi won close to 30 games for the Hawks this past season, while losing less than 10. Turco was slightly over .500 this past season. But Turco's price tag was smaller than Niemi's for the cash-strapped Hawks, who have let go of, or traded away, several key players from their Cup-winning team.

A very similar situation also happened in Buffalo earlier in the week when Sabres young gun Tim Kennedy won his arbitration case against his hometown Sabres. Kennedy had a very good season in 2009-10 with the Sabres and was awarded $1 million for the coming season. Instead, the Sabres will apparently buyout Kennedy's contract, and that will cost them roughly $330,000. I don't get it; Kennedy is a hometown guy and is a player on the rise in the NHL. Sometimes that's just the nature of pro sports and business, and more times than not, it's about the greenbacks.

Still to come in our "Summer Interview Series" here on LakeErieMonsters.com is forward Patrick Bordeleau. Part one is expected to debut this week with part two slated for next week. Interviews with Matt Ford and Travis Gawryletz are also available in the video archives on the front page of our site.

Next week I will be out at our Monsters Hockey Clinics on Monday at The Pond in Chagrin Falls and Tuesday at Hoover Arena in Strongsville to help out on the ice and shoot some videos for our website. For more info on the clinics, you can reach Youth Hockey Specialist Ben Shank in the Monsters hockey offices at 216-420-2000.

Have a great month of August, hockey season is just around the corner!

Sincerely,

Ben Holden

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