29 fun things I learned at BioSteel Camp

Watch as Tyler Seguin goes five-hole to score the first goal at the BioSteel Cup 4 on 4 tournament.

We spent all week at BioSteel Camp at St. Michael’s College Arena in Toronto, where more than 20 NHL superstars, prospects and role players sharpened their game and competed against each other in preparation for training camp.

Watching the drills and speaking to a dozen or so players, we learned a few things at Camp. Here are 29 of them.

1. Paul Bissonnette is a four-time champion.

Team Seguin hoisted the 2016 BioSteel Cup Thursday after winning the camp’s four-on-four tournament. A valued member of Seguin’s squad, BizNasty will now have his name etched on the Cup four times.

“I want to thank Tyler Seguin for believing in me and picking me last overall,” Bissonnette said. “This is usually where I peak in the season.”

2. Connor McDavid gets preferred parking but is not above doing menial chores.

Every day at Camp, McDavid’s white Porsche Panamera was parked in Spot 1, right in front of the rink’s doors. BioSteel’s biggest star absolutely flew on the ice. His speed is remarkable up close, but you already knew that.

“You see all the cool stuff he does on the ice. All the people that tune in to your social media or regular media channels, they all see how fast he is and this and that,” says trainer Matt Nichol.

“Some people may know how strong he is. He’s incredibly strong in the gym, and that’s a credit to him working with Gary Roberts. But one thing they might not know is when Connor finishes his workout here with me, he puts all of his weights away, he asks if he can do anything else to help with the cleanup.

“He asks really good questions. He wants to know why you do [exercises] a certain way. He asks about other players—how they train, how they prepare. He takes a very active interest in every aspect of his preparation. He doesn’t just do what he’s told. He wants to know why, and he wants feedback on how he did it. It’s not good enough that he did. Did he do it well? How can he do it better? To see a player at his level and his notoriety actively looking for ways to get better, it’s pretty exciting.”

3. Everything at Camp is a contest.

“There are 700 jobs available and there’s a whole bunch of guys that want the one you’ve got. Everything is a competition just like it is for them in the season,” Nichol says of his campers.

“There’s friendly rivalries throughout the season. But if that guy who’s a friendly rival of yours just did 10 chin-ups, what are you going to do? Nine? No. You’re doing 11. If that guy did the stickhandling contest in 55 seconds, you’re not doing 56. You’re trying to do 54.”

4. Taylor Hall isn’t above shoving Zac Rinaldo in order to win a keepaway battle drill:

Nice forearm shiver gives Taylor Hall a last-second victory over Zac Rinaldo in a spirited keepaway battle drill. #camp

A video posted by luke fox (@lukefoxjukebox) on

5. McDavid watched the Olympics every day.

“What stood out for me the most is what Penny Oleksiak did. For her to do that at only 16 is absolutely amazing. That’s pretty spectacular,” he says. “She’s a few years younger than me competing against athletes even older and on an even bigger stage, so what she did is even greater [than what I accomplished this year].”

6. Training alongside fellow camper McDavid for the third straight summer, Mike Cammalleri can’t help but notice the strides the Calder finalist has made year over year.

“It’s tremendous. He’s on his own level as far as the stuff you see him do. It’s been impressive to watch him grow up a bit and become what he is now and think about where that’s going,” Cammalleri tells me. He shrugs and shakes his head. “He does it all out there.”

Despite McDavid’s priority parking, Cammalleri says the future Oilers captain is just one of the boys.

“He’s a pretty normal guy. There’s really nothing to go on there. He’s just a nice kid,” says the 34-year-old. “He’s got a personality. He can take a joke; he can tell a joke. Just like any of the other guys, really.”

7. Raffi Torres is not ready to quit.

The rugged veteran was never so much as considered by the Maple Leafs last season even though they traded for him. Now the 34-year-old Toronto native is an unrestricted free agent. Multiple teams are interested in bringing him in for a camp tryout. If he fails to hang on in the NHL, however, Torres will hang up his skates and be happy being a stay-at-home dad for a while.

He has no plans to chase the dream in Europe.

8. October, schmoctober. These guys are all fired up in August.

Think not? During a shooting drill Thursday, Torres channeled his PTO power into a shot so hard it punched right through the glass behind the net and slammed against the rink wall

9. Seguin has unlocked the key to solving McDavid.

The captain of Team Seguin revealed his secret to shutting down the super sophomore prior to defeating him in the first game of the 4-on-4 tournament. Force Bissonnette (a.k.a. BizNasty2Point0) to shadow McDavid.

It worked! (Although Biz did commit the tournament’s only penalty.)

10. What it is to be “Wayne Simmonds tough.”

My favourite moment from 2016’s edition of Road to the Winter Classic is when Max Pacioretty turns to P.K. Subban on the bench mid-game and asks if Boston’s Matt Beleskey is tough.

Subban’s perfect response: “He’s tough, but he’s not, like, Wayne Simmonds tough.”

I asked Simmonds about that scene. He loves it.

“I wasn’t watching it, but someone sent me a clip of it. I thought it was pretty funny because P.K. was talking to Patches, and me and Patch fought our first year, too,” Simmonds says. “That conversation was hilarious. I don’t think P.K. even knew [we’d fought in 2009] because he wasn’t even playing with Montreal at that point. He was still in Hamilton. A funny conversation.”

The readership of hockeyfights.com gives Simmonds the win over Pacioretty in that fight by a score of 91%. Watch:

So, what is Wayne Simmonds tough?

“Sometimes I just see red, and it is what it is,” Simmonds says. “I grew up in a big family: four brothers, a sister, second youngest. Our household got pretty rowdy. It was a matter of sticking up for yourself and not allowing my brothers or sister to step on me.”

11. Dry your eyes, Edmonton. Cammalleri believes you’ll be pleasantly surprised by defenceman Adam Larsson.

“He’s a better player than people know, firstly,” Cammalleri says. “Secondly, a very good person and a really good teammate. Solid, big, hard Swede defenceman that’s tough to play against and a very good player. He’s a guy they’ll really enjoy. Just a fun, nice guy to be around and a fantastic teammate.”

12. The Red Wings appear to have a beauty in Givani Smith.

Repping for Team Simmonds, the 2016 second-round pick beat Malcolm Subban three straight times for a natural hat trick and a round-robin win. Lovely hands.

13. It’s pretty cool seeing pairings new and old.

In four-on-four action, Devils centre Joseph Blandisi set up new teammate Taylor Hall for a sweet snipe. A couple hours after getting traded from Florida to Arizona, Lawson Crouse scored a beauty on a line with fellow Coyotes prospect Dylan Strome. Also on the ice? Strome’s ol’ Erie Otters pal McDavid.

14. Kingston boy Taylor Hall made sure to attend the Tragically Hip’s big concert Saturday.

“They were a little before my time, but I certainly understand their significance and importance in the community of Kingston,” Hall says. “It was a special atmosphere. The whole city was alive. When Gord started tearing up on stage, it was pretty emotional.

Hall’s apartment was just a block away from the Hip festivities downtown, but he didn’t use his star power to call in a favour and score a ticket.

“I’m sure they have a million people asking them for tickets, and I know what that’s like. I try and be one of the spectators. It was an awesome show to watch,” he says. “It was crazy to see Kingston light up like that.”

15. Jordan Subban is more of a Drake fan than a Hip guy.

The Canucks prospect went to Buffalo to catch the Summer Sixteen Tour. “He faked like Rihanna was coming out but didn’t bring anybody,” Jordan says.

16. Subban delivered the best response when I asked what else he did for fun in the off-season.

“I got a girlfriend.”

17. Brother Malcolm Subban reacted to P.K.’s trade like a true Bruin.

“It was whatever,” Malcolm says. “He just got traded, it’s not that big of a deal.”

18. After a hard day of camp, Hall likes to unwind by quietly smashing major-league dingers:

19. Darnell Nurse is confident Rio was just the beginning of his sister Kia’s Olympic career.

“Man, it was a lot of fun to watch. I know she’s going to be highly motivated coming out of it, and we’re going to see her at a few more of these,” Nurse says.

Kia and the Canadian women’s basketball team finished in seventh place.

“The other teams have jobs to do, too,” Darnell reasons. “When you’re playing against the best teams in the world, not everything is going to be rainbows and flowers.”

Spoken like a true Oiler. (We kid, Darnell.)

20. Nurse thinks a captain-free year was no big deal, and McDavid is ready for the C.

“The leadership within the room, someone always stood up, whether it was something that needed to be said or leading on the ice. There’s leaders within a team, a bunch of them, whether they have the C or not,” Nurse says of Edmonton’s decision to go with a cast of alternates in 2015-16.

“I think it was pretty clear when Connor was on the ice last year that he was one of if not the best player,” Nurse says. “A guy like that goes out there and gives all he can every night.”

21. So, Darnell, how high should I draft McDavid in my fantasy league?

“I’d take him 1,” Nurse says. “That’s my teammate. I mean, that’s up to you. It’s your team. Follow your heart. But if it was my team, he’s going 1.”

22. Arizona Coyotes prospect Dylan Strome is feeling the heat.

“People always ask me: Would you rather be in the desert or in Antarctica? I would rather be in the heat than the cold. You can sweat and bear it. Doesn’t bother me: I love it,” Strome says. “I love it. I love the heat.”

23. Strome is unfazed by the ousting of GM Don Maloney, who drafted him third overall in 2015.

“John [Chayka] was the assistant GM when I got drafted, so I think he had some say in what happened. I have a lot of respect for Mr. Maloney for drafting me and he was very kind to me,” Strome says. “As for John, he’s a young guy and I think he likes the way I play. Hopefully I can prove to him and the staff that I can stick there.

“I’m ready for anything that comes my way. If they want to send me back to junior for another year, I’m going to be fully prepared for that. I’m going to be the best leader on my team [the Otters] I can possibly be and hopefully prove to them at the next camp that I can do it.”

24. Like Nurse, Strome firmly believes his BFF McDavid is ready to captain the Oilers.

“He probably was my best friend in Erie that year he was captain [2014-15]. He, Alex DeBrincat and I had a really good friendship. Very close. Connor was just close with everyone on the team—that’s what pushed his leadership. No one was ever excluded; everyone was part of the conversation,” Strome says.

“He brought everyone together, and that’s a testament as to why we did so well that year. I think it would be a good move for Edmonton. A young guy, but he’s been there for one year and I think he has their respect. He’s fit to be an NHL captain one day, and if that’s sooner rather than later, that would be great for him. I’d be really happy for him.”

Did he ever make a dressing room speech as Erie captain?

“When the time was right, he definitely got up and said what was needed to be said,” Strome says.

25. Seguin, who only squeezed into one playoff game, is finally healthy.

His sliced Achilles led to a calf issue, and the problems kept compounding, he explains.

“Probably the last couple weeks to a month I’ve been, OK, let’s go. I’m ready to rock and roll. Every day has been a new challenge. The thing with this injury I had, it’s been frustrating because no one could really give me a timeline. No one can say what’s going to happen or how’s it going to go. Now I’m feeling 100 per cent and that’s the exciting part,” says Seguin, who will represent Canada at the World Cup.

26. Seguin is kinda bummed linemate Jamie Benn is sitting out the World Cup but is keen to watch Team North America.

“They’re the one team I’m most interested to see. I think I’m only eight months away from playing on that team,” quips the 24-year-old. “They’re going to have a little swagger, a little chip on their shoulder, looking to take some teams down.”

27. McDavid believes defence will be Team North America’s greatest challenge.

“For us young guys, it’s going to be about keeping the puck out of our net. We have a lot of skill up front and unbelievable defencemen and a couple good goalies, but we’re playing against older guys who are much more experienced,” he says. “It’ll be cool to lace ’em up and see what we can do.”

McDavid says the greatest challenge in his rookie year was learning how to defend against the big, strong Western Conference centres in his own end.

28. Scottie Upshall is a trooper

The St. Louis Blues forward played the final two series with a broken, dislocated thumb he suffered in Round 1’s Game 7 victory over the Blackhawks and is just now able to handle a puck.

The loss to San Jose in the Western Conference final still feels fresh, Upshall says.

At camp, he asked Sharks forward Joel Ward how he’s feeling.

“Joel said he still feels banged up,” Upshall says. “It feels like just yesterday that we had a great playoffs in San Jose. They gave us the best hockey they’ve ever played.”

29. Upshall explains why the Blues’ captaincy was a two-horse race between Alex Pietrangelo, who was given the C Thursday, and Alex Steen.

“Petro is our best defenceman. Great guy. Great human being. He’s a natural-born leader. Steen, to me, is just a guy who wears his heart on his sleeve every night. He’s a big player for us, a big gamer. Both those guys have our room; they’re our leaders,” Upshall says. “Them and [former captain David] Backes, I felt it was their shared responsibility to be our leaders.”

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