The Washington Capitals can look forward to longer practice sessions next season. The present demanding drills on the ice will be preceeded by a program of exercises designed to increase upper body strength.
That was the one area of weakness discovered during the past two days, as Ottawa fitness experts Dr. Hal Hansen and Dr. Al Reed repeated the tests they had administered to the Capitals during training camp at Dayton, Ohio.
Hansen and Reed formulated the individual programs the players, pursued last summer, and their recommendations were instrumental in coach Tom McVie's rugged practice requirements during the season.
"By repeating the testing, comparing values now with training camp, we could see what the effects of the season are, Reed said. "They showed that the program is excellent, right on. If you don't have a coach who has given a team the proper work to keep them going, you'll lose that initial conditioning. They didn't lose it.
"The percentage of body fat, the maintenance of weight were excellent. Upper body strength was not stressed, and there has been some strength loss since training camp. We're going back and work to come up with a comprehensive program in that area."
"We will have a program, whether it's isometrics or strength, we don't know quite what," McVie said. "But I will be there to make sure the exercises are done. Some guys work out on their own and some don't. Some guys overwork. We want to get all the guys dancing to the same drummer.
"Once, nothing is going to change. Maybe we'll be a little tougher. But we're going to get into a bodystrengthening program off the ice. We'll move the practices up an hour, have the players report early and go through exercises for 20 or 25 minutes each day.
"Our average upper body strength is probably as good as any other club, but we want to be better. We simply haven't progressed in that area. The guys can do the same pushups, but the lateral movement in the arms and shoulders indicates a drop off.
"Everything else was extraordinary. The average body fat was around 12 per cent, and that's supposed to be perfect for a hockey player. Endurance and recovery time were extremely good. We're on the right track. We're just scratching the surface on how much we can do.
"The ideal situation would be to coach the Russians. They work all day long, live in the same community.But we can't get into anything that spartan."
Not that McVie wouldn't like to. At season's end, he will go th Ottawa to assist in formulating the new strength program. He might find himself surrounded by the enemy on this visit.
Hansen and Reed, after eight years of researching hockey conditioning among junior teams and individual pros, wrote to all the pro clubs last year, presenting their theories. Only the Capitals responded. Washington's success in the conditioning area, Reed said yesterday, has been a stimulant for business.