TORONTO – For hockey players still at the World Cup there’s an easy way to tune out happenings at NHL training camps.
“Shut off my phone,” joked Los Angeles Kings captain Anze Kopitar.
“I’ve texted back and forth with the guys a little bit, just someone asking how everything is going and how the guys are doing,” he added. “Other than that there’s really not a whole lot of communication about it and I’ll read some stuff online and see how the guys are doing, but that’s about it.”
Players from Team Europe and Team Canada have hit a strange spot where training camps, and exhibition games, are in full swing back home while they’re still here in the middle of the tournament championship series. Overall they want to focus on the task at hand – winning the World Cup – but also need to prepare for the upcoming season, which starts Oct. 12. It’s a balancing act that all have never dealt with before.
“When you’re here you’re focused on Team Canada and then once you leave the rink – I go back and I talk to guys back in San Jose and kind of feel like you’re missing out a little bit,” San Jose Sharks forward Logan Couture said. But you have to take care of the business here first and then we’ll be back soon enough.”
For some players, not being part of training camp could prove crucial for the upcoming season. Several are entering first years with new teams and won’t be able to start gelling with their teammates until after the World Cup. This could create a steep learning curve once they arrive so some took a proactive approach to this, knowing they could be gone for quite a while.
“Especially for myself and Frans Nielsen, a little history on the Islanders both going to Detroit but I think it would help me out that I moved to Detroit in the middle of August and skated with a lot of those guys and got to know the staff,” said Team Europe forward Thomas Vanek, who signed with the Detroit Red Wings last offseason. “I think that’s going to help me out joining the team late in camp I think, knowing most guys and know the coaching staff already.
There are also some players who are on teams that made coaching changes during the offseason. Because of this, Anaheim Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf has been in contact back home to make sure that everyone is on the same page in Randy Carlyle’s first training camp back with the team.
“I know what Randy’s about and what he’s doing there and hopefully he’s getting our team ready to where they need to be,” Getzlaf said. “He wants to get our team the best prepared he can and I have no idea, some of the changes and stuff he’s made throughout his training camp. But I have talked to a couple of guys and it sounds like things are being done properly there.”
Toronto Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock, who is heading Team Canada, also has this problem – as do his assistants who are all also NHL head coaches. Babcock believes it’s important for all involved in the tournament to keep tabs on their teams as an outlet away from this event.
“You have lots of time in the day. You can’t just be grinding 24/7. You’ll be worn out,” Babcock said when asked about this Tuesday. “I didn’t mind watching the Leafs on TV last night. It gave me something to do, That didn’t mean we didn’t do our pre-scout.”
There are also some players who simply have paid no attention to anything back home as they go all out to win this tournament.
“I haven’t read anything. I’m in Canada. I don’t hear about what’s happening in California. Right now I’m in Toronto and all I hear about is Blue Jays and the World Cup,” Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic said. “My camp started Sept. 4 so I’m already three weeks ahead of everybody else.”
The intensity of the World Cup has been so high that some players believe they’ll make a seamless transition when they get back to their NHL clubs. This has put their mind at ease as far as not being with their teammates at this point of the year.
“It’s like getting to play a couple of playoff games before the preseason starts,” San Jose Sharks defenseman Brent Burns said. “So it gets you in gear.”
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