The Capitals were warned about the conditioning test they would endure on the first day of main training camp. Even a few months of preparation doesn’t make the test easy, though.
Players completed five sets of suicide sprints, each consisting of four and a half lengths – a length is considered goal line to goal line -- of the ice surface, with two minutes of recovery time between each set.
Times were measured on three occasions during each round – after two lengths, after four and a final time at the finish – to illustrate a player’s gradual fatigue. At the conclusion of the entire test, blood was drawn for a lactate test that helps measure the intensity at which players exerted themselves.
“There’s no place to hide. You can certainly see who’s in shape and who isn’t,” said General Manager George McPhee. “I think it sets the right tone. We’re going manage hard, coach hard, play hard, practice hard this year.”
Be sure to check out my story for Sunday’s paper for more on the conditioning test and how Alex Ovechkin fared but here are a few items that didn’t make it into the hard-copy edition.
So what makes this test so difficult?
“It’s just the fact that it’s the stops and starts,” Karl Alzner said. “When you go down and back it’s pretty simple. When you go down, back, down, that’s when your legs start to burn and you’ve got to put another one and a half lengths in.
“Even just doing it two times, the lactic acid builds up,” Alzner continued. “When they make you do it five, your legs just get so tired you don’t have that strength to push anymore and guys start slowing down.”
In tests like this there are always players who complete the sprints with relative ease – noted speedster Jason Chimera nearly lapped the other members of his group but was still tired at the end – and those who struggle a little bit more. But every player will finish the test (including Roman Hamrlik, who will take it at a later date) and enduring the tough skating session can bring players together.
“Guys kind of commiserate about it and kind of pull each other through it at the same time,” said Mike Knuble, who earned praise all around for leading his group. “For me the test is not something to lose sleep over it at all, but it’s fun to rally around each other and pull each other through it. There are guys that sprint through it, float through it like nothing and other guys really have a tough time with it. You rally around them and try to get them through it -- it’s part ball buster part team bonder.”