Although any lessons surely would’ve been more visceral if I had been the one tossing around the medicine balls and trying to battle Raffi Torres for space in front of the net, I picked up a few things hanging around BioSteel Camp at Toronto’s St. Michael’s College this week. Here are the top 13 things I took away from the 2013 edition of Gary Roberts and Matt Nichol’s training camp before training camp.
1. Unlike a certain someone in Ottawa, Detroit’s other significant free-agent acquisition, Stephen Weiss, had no problem getting hold of some Detroit Red Wings gear.
In fact, you might have trouble ever getting it off him.
“So how come you got your Wings gear but Daniel Alfredsson didn’t?” I asked Weiss.
“I called our trainer there and asked for it. Maybe that’s why,” replied Weiss. “I just felt weird putting my Florida stuff on and wanted to get into the Detroit stuff as soon as possible and get used to it. It’s definitely different throwing that stuff on. It feels like responsibility.
“The first time I got the gear, I put the pant shell on, put the jersey on. It’s a little bit different feel with the tradition there. It’s going to be awesome.”
2. Connor McDavid, 16, impressed the NHLers he shared the ice with, but thank goodness there was no body-checking.
“You can tell he’s got the smarts, he’s got the speed, he’s got the hands and vision, so he’s going to be a good player,” Philadelphia Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds said.
Washington Capitals veteran Joel Ward, who explained that he hadn’t played against a 16-year-old since he was 16 himself, echoed the sentiment.
“He scored a pretty nice goal against us. His skill set’s unbelievable,” Ward said. “I’d never seen him play before, so I wanted to see what he’s all about. He’s a highly touted player, and you can see why.”
3. Paul Bissonnette is not threatened by Roberto Luongo’s rise as the NHLer you must follow on Twitter. And BizNasty is still the king of crushing social-media pests.
“It kinda made him go from zero to hero,” Bissonnette said of Luongo’s @Strombone1 account. “He’s funny. There’s tons of funny guys out there. We need more guys showing their personality.”
But no one reveals his own followers’ personalities better than BizNasty, who recently took one of his Twitter trolls to task.
“If you try to expose me, I’ll definitely expose you. It just so happened this guy was a criminal, too. I don’t get too many criminals trying to expose me on Twitter,” Biz said, “but this guy came looking for it and he got it.”
4. New Maple David Clarkson, an instant fan favourite, will soon launch a new charity initiative in Toronto.
“Charity work is close to my heart, so I’m going to start something here in Toronto in the next couple of weeks that I want to make very big,” Clarkson said. “I’m just on the path to working (the details) out. In Jersey I didn’t get a chance to do something, and coming back to play in my hometown, I want to do something that’s a bit bigger and help out.”
5. If you want to know goaltender Malcolm Subban’s weaknesses, don’t ask him.
“This year I focused on building my weaknesses as opposed to last year when I worked on my strengths. I wanted to improve my weaknesses to make myself more of a balanced athlete,” Subban said, explaining his offseason focused.
Which begged a question: “What are your weaknesses?”
“I don’t know. You’ll have to ask my trainer.”
6. If Mike Komisarek can land an NHL job, Hal Gill deserves one too.
He may be 38 and recently dumped by the Nashville Predators, but it’s tough to believe Gill, who stands taller than two metres without skates, can’t help out someone’s blue line – especially after seeing him make an impact on the ice and bust his ass in the gym.
“I find the older I get the more intelligent I get – not off the ice, but on the ice,” Gill told the Globe and Mail. “I feel like if you can read the play, it’s a skill game, it’s a fast game, but it’s still a thinking man’s game. To be honest with you, I feel better than I ever have.”
7. Mark Scheifele is ready to go right this second.
Tons of talent at the camp, but even amongst the likes of 40-goal scorer James Neal, the most beautiful offence usually came from the hands of Winnipeg Jets prospect Mark Scheifele. Anxious to see the 20-year-old get a lengthy string of NHL games under his belt.
8. Sometimes hockey players train by pushing a Mazda CX5:
9. You could do worse than taking Wayne Simmonds in your pool.
The Flyers forward was tenacious, tricky and torrid in four-on-four play, repeatedly undressing St. Louis Blues netminder Brian Elliott. The 24-year-old is steadily improving and is ticked off the Flyers didn’t make the cut last year.
“With the team we had, there’s no way we shouldn’t have made the playoffs,” he said.
10. NHL players are quick to discount doctors condemning their sport for its violence.
“I’d like to see if any of those doctors have actually played the game before,” Simmonds said. “Stuff happens in the heat of battle, but I wouldn’t say it’s overly violent.”
11. Walter Gretzky is a champ.
The man who spawned the Great One could be spotted climbing through the stands during BioSteel’s championship game, making sure every kid got an autograph and stopping to chat and take photos with anyone and everyone, a 74-year-old smile never leaving his face.
12. When the winners of the four-on-four scrimmage tournament are awarded the BioSteel Cup -- in this case, Team White, captained by Chris Stewart -- they celebrate like it’s the real deal:
13. But no one celebrates with more flair than winning goaltender Malcolm Subban, who pulled off the Ray Lewis.
“Malcolm played well, and if he wants to dance at centre ice, that’s his thing,” said Capitals prospect Tom Wilson.