No skating, just team-building at U.S. Olympic camp

August 26, 2013

USA Hockey officials, coaches and 48 players have gathered in Washington to hold orientation camp for the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia. But while there will be plenty of paperwork and meetings there the players won’t take part in any formal on-ice workouts.

Thanks to the sky-high prices to insure players’ NHL contracts the United States is foregoing any official on-ice activities during the two-day camp, which begins Monday. They’re far from alone. No hockey federation, including Canada and Russia, had players skate at their Olympic preparation events.

Instead, players will take part in off-ice workouts, meet with coaches, complete paperwork required by the International Olympic Committee, skate with children’s groups that are part of the USA Hockey development model and receive presentations from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency and NHLPA. They’ll also be a part of team building activities that include a team dinner, taking in the Nats-Braves Marlins game on Tuesday and hear a speech from gold-medal decathlete Dan O’Brien.

“There’s a whole bunch of administrative things that we have to do but it’s really getting to know each other,” U.S. General Manager David Poile said in a phone interview last week. “I’ve met most of these guys over the years but not everybody – it’s the same thing for our coaches. This is all about trying to get to know each other, put together some quality time in some meetings as well as social settings just to get to know your team as a manager.”

While it’s odd to consider hockey camps that doesn’t involve any organized practices, players understand that even if they were on the ice their true opportunity to prove themselves to management comes in the early months of the NHL season.

(Getty Images) (Getty Images)

Capitals defenseman John Carlson said even in late August most NHLers aren’t in peak form, but rather gradually ramping up so they can endure training camps and preseason to ultimately be ready for the start of the regular season in October.

“It’s a little funky that we won’t skate,” Carlson said. “But at the end of the day if we were skating people in hockey won’t really judge someone in the summer and how things would go in a camp.”

Karl Alzner is taking part in Canada’s orientation camp, which kicked off Sunday and runs through Wednesday and includes a golf tournament, dinner with the Canadian women’s camp invitees and other off-ice activities. He, like Carlson, doesn’t mind that they won’t be skating so that it won’t impact his preparedness for Capitals’ training camp.

“We’re still not in that game shape that you’d want to be in heading into a camp that is this important,” Alzner said. “It’s usually not until the end of exhibition that guys are starting to feel pretty good about themselves. They probably would like to skate, to have guys go through the systems and all that they like but at the same time they probably wouldn’t have their opinions changed by someone coming into this camp and not being in the best shape.”

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