Admirals Training Camp Blog
During training camp, Admirals Head Coach Jon Cooper and members of the Admirals staff will do their best to bring you daily updates from Admirals training camp in St. John's, Newfoundland. Their goal is to keep Admirals fans back home updated on how training camp is going. With opening night in less than a week, the Admirals staff and players are quickly preparing for the upcoming 2011-12 season.
DAY SIX – JON COOPER UPDATE, SUNDAY, OCTOBER 2, 2011
Good evening from St. John’s, where we’re enjoying our last few hours of Newfoundland before getting on a bus to go to the airport at 3:10 tomorrow morning!
Today, we woke up and had breakfast before an 11:00 video meeting. It was a good learning session for the guys, as it was our first chance to watch video and visualize what they’re doing right and wrong in our systems.
After the meeting, we headed to the rink for our final preseason game. I felt the guys had pretty good jump to start the game. We were working hard, but our execution was off. That prevented us from generating much offense. Actually, both teams were a little bit sloppy.
It was encouraging to see how the team reacted to being down 2-1 in the second period. Getting that tying goal before the second intermission was huge. Then we came out very strong in the third period.
A couple of things really stood out from this game. Dustin Tokarski was very good, which was encouraging. He didn’t have much of a training camp in Tampa because he was injured, so having a performance like he did this afternoon (30 saves on 32 shots, #1 star) was great to see. Secondly, we won the special teams battle today (3/5 on the power play, stopped all 5 IceCaps power plays), and that was the difference in the game. That’s something that we really are going to focus on this season.
Above and to the right is a photo of the team with the Mary Brown’s Trophy. The IceCaps and Mary Brown’s teamed up to present the trophy to whichever team won more games in the three-game preseason set.
I can’t say enough about the city of St. John’s and the province of Newfoundland. Everyone involved has been great to us. Having training camp here was a really positive experience. We have a lot of turnover on our team this season, so it was a good opportunity for the guys to bond on the road. Even with the tough travel, I’m really happy that we chose to do this. We’ll be a better team because of this camp.
It’s time to get some rest before a long day of travel tomorrow. Thanks for reading these blogs. I hope you enjoyed getting some insight on training camp despite it being a couple of thousand miles away.
We are really looking forward to getting home to Hampton Roads this week and dropping the puck on the regular season in front of a packed house at Scope. We’ll see you there on Friday.
DAY FIVE – JON COOPER UPDATE, SATURDAY, OCTOBER 1, 2011
We pulled into our hotel last night just before 3 a.m. The players in the back of the bus probably didn’t see it, but we had a great Maritime driving experience last night with a lot of fog between Gander and St. John’s. It was a little nerve-wracking for the coaches up front. But the bus driver Jimmy knew what he was doing and got us there safely.
This morning, a local gym in St. John’s was very kind to allow the entire team to work out. Afterwards, the players had lunch and headed to MileOne Arena, home of the IceCaps. They got all the way dressed except for their skates. We then hopped on a bus for a 20-minute ride to a practice rink where we laced up the skates and hit the ice for an hour-long practice.
Today, we focused mainly on systems. While it might not have been as intense as previous practices during camp, the boys still got a good sweat going. After practice, we took off our skates and got back on the bus to St. John’s. I’m not sure how the seats on that bus will be smelling for the next riders!
Later in the day, we had some team bonding by playing paintball. It was a lot of fun for the guys and allowed them to get out their aggression after last night’s loss. Pierre-Cedric Labrie, who is probably one of the best paintball players on the team (he owns his own paintball gun), happened to get caught in some crossfire and took a little paintball shrapnel to the back! “Stumpy” (Lightning Development Coach & Admirals Assistant Coach Steve Thomas) said P-C’s back looked like he had fallen on a pizza!
We got back to the hotel around 7:00. The guys went out to eat, while the staff took their last opportunity for a meal at The Keg until we’re back in St. John’s in November.
We’ll have an early breakfast tomorrow then a team meeting to break down video. Tomorrow’s game should be interesting. Winnipeg sent down a lot of players to St. John’s today. It’s also the final preseason game for both teams. We’re still evaluating our team as we inch closer to opening day. Talk to you after the game.
The Admirals will play their final preseason game on Sunday afternoon at the MileOne Centre in St. John's, Newfoundland. The puck drops at 12:30 p.m. EDT. The IceCaps broadcast is available online at thisisnewfoundlandlabrador.ca. You can also follow along at facebook.com/NorfolkAdmirals, twitter.com/NorfolkAdmirals and twitter.com/AdsGameUpdates.
DAYS THREE AND FOUR – JON COOPER UPDATE, FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 30, 2011
Wednesday night wings update: Julien BriseBois signed the waiver and ate the wings. When he was through, it looked as if he had just finished a five-mile jog - it was an impressive sight to see! To our amazement, he could have eaten even more!
On Thursday afternoon, prior to the team's preseason opener, the team held a pre-game skate. The skate was spirited which was good to see. After that, it was a normal game day at the hotel. Prior to departing on our hour-long drive towards the arena in Grand Falls, I snuck off and made the stop at Tim Horton's, which is mandatory for any Canadian.
The team opened the preseason last night with a 5-2 victory over St. John's. Throughout the game, the team's basic habits were really strong. The team worked hard and used speed to its advantage. For the first two periods, we were the better team. Tokarski was solid in net, turning aside all six shots he faced. St. John's came out hungry in the third period. Pat Nagle was strong despite allowing two goals in the first ten minutes. We weathered storm and came out on top.
In tonight's game, we inserted four guys into the lineup who didn't play on Thursday. St. John's came out very strong in the first period. Jaroslav Janus was a workhorse between the pipes to keep the game scoreless. The game was fairly even from then through the final two or three minutes of the third period when penalty trouble bit us. St. John's scored a couple of power play goals and added an empty netter to claim a 5-2 win in a game that was much closer than the score indicates.
On a side note, the last day of the Major League Baseball regular season on Wednesday night was exciting to witness. I admit that I stayed up until three o'clock Newfoundland time watching all of the action. Being an hour and a half in front of East Coast, everything happens so late here. I do have to give credit to Canadian TV, though. They showed all of the live baseball action. I didn't have a real favorite in the fight for the playoffs, but I was sort of pulling for the Rays. While in Tampa, we went to a Rays game. I definitely have an appreciation for the drama. Hollywood could not have scripted it better.
We're now on the bus leaving Gander and are headed back to St. John's. It's back to work tomorrow with an off-ice workout at 11:00, then an on-ice practice to follow. We need to get better. If all goes well, there might be a fun team-building exercise later in the day. Pictures to follow.
DAY TWO – JON COOPER UPDATE, TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 28, 2011
Dinner at the Keg last night was a blast. We were looking forward to it as soon as we found out we’d be in St. John’s for camp and it didn’t disappoint. Great steak, great environment, we had lots of fun. Here's a photo at right that shows (L-R) General Manager Julien BriseBois, Strength & Conditioning Coach Mark Cinq-Mars, our server for the evening, Video Coach Brian Garlock (AKA "Gar") at center, Athletic Trainer Brad Chavis (AKA "Chavy"), Equipment Manager J.W. Aiken (AKA "Dubs") and Assistant Coach Mike Flanagan (AKA "Flags"). Our server informed us that there is a place in St. John's called George Street that has the most taverns per square foot of any street in North America. Maybe after our final game on Sunday we'll get a chance to sample more of the local culture.
This morning we woke up and hit the ice. Right now we’re in the process of installing our systems and working on our special teams. I must say today was a very physical practice with a quicker pace than yesterday. Chavy had a few more ice bags out after today's practice than yesterday. The guys were crisp, but we're still not near where we need to be yet.
That being said, we have 15 new guys on the squad and with that comes a lot of trial and error. As a staff, we’re trying to get a feel for everybody’s skill set to put them in positions to succeed. Everybody has their strengths and weaknesses and we have to put together a group that will be strong night in and night out. This is why we’re up here.
We’re on a bus to Gander right now where we’ll be playing a few games over the next couple of days. There’s no better evaluation tool than games. With about a week left before opening night, we’re looking for new talent to emerge and we’re also looking at building cohesive lines with guys that have been here. We have a fine line to walk when it comes to playing time for everybody and building team chemistry with the guys we know will be on the ice at the Scope next Friday night. As you can see in the photo at left, Chavy (left) and Flags (right) are enjoying the scenery on the four-hour ride to Gander!
When we play our first game in Gander, we plan on being very liberal with the playing time. On Sunday, we hope to have a more solid set of lines play. We want to give everybody a chance to show what they can do, but we've also have to prepare for the season, so we're trying to reach the place in between.
During our pre-camp research, we stumbled across a place called Jungle Jim's in Gander. From what I’ve heard, Jungle Jim’s is well known for their hot Buffalo wings. Apparently the wings are so hot that you have to sign a waiver before eating them! Our General Manager Julien BriseBois is a huge wing fanatic and we plan to bring him there for dinner. All staff eyes will be on BriseBois to see if he signs the waiver. Stay tuned – we'll have another update for you on Friday morning or early afternoon.
The team will have a brief practice tomorrow morning before beginning their preseason schedule with the first of three games in St. John's at 6:00 p.m. EDT. Stay tuned to norfolkadmirals.com, Facebook.com/NorfolkAdmirals and Twitter.com/NorfolkAdmirals for details on following the action from St. John's and more updates as the Admirals count down the days until Opening Night at Norfolk Scope.
DAY ONE – JON COOPER UPDATE, MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 27, 2011
Greetings from St. John's, Newfoundland, where we have begun Admirals training camp. We landed in St. John's last night after spending a few weeks in Tampa Bay rookie camp and training camp earlier this month.
By beginning training camp in Tampa Bay, the players and coaches were able to experience the life of the NHL for a few weeks. Being able to attend an NHL training camp in Tampa Bay was beneficial for a number of reasons for both the players and the coaches. First of all, when we stepped in the arena it felt like hockey season, but when we stepped outside, it was warm and summer-like! Another benefit of working with the Lightning organization are the great people who work there. At right is a photo of me with Hall of Famer and Lightning founder Phil Esposito. Mr. Esposito had me on the Lightning radio broadcast as an intermission guest during our preseason game in Orlando. We snapped this photo afterwards.
The most important thing about Tampa camp this season has been our comfort level. The familiarity of the coaches this year compared to this time last season made arriving at camp this season more comfortable for everyone involved. The coaches are all the same and we are all very comfortable with each other and the way we run things. The experience that we all learned last season will most certainly transfer over through camp and throughout the upcoming season and make us better as an organization.
Sunday was a tough day. Every coach and general manager dreads the day they have to trim the roster. The one thing that makes it tough is that there is a whole bunch of character with the players in the Tampa organization. Not only is there a lot of character, but there are a lot of characters that are extremely well-liked. When you genuinely care for players, it makes it that much harder to let them go. But the bottom line is it's their goal to make the Tampa Bay Lightning and Tampa is doing what they think is best for their organization. Part of that is to put the guys in the minors where they can get playing time and develop. Our job as coaches in Norfolk is to make these guys ready to be Tampa Bay Lightning players in the future.
After taking Sunday off and the players learning of their assignments to Norfolk, Monday was a long travel day for everyone heading to St. John's. The team departed the hotel in Tampa at 11:30 a.m. and took off from Florida around 2 p.m. After about a two and a half hour flight to Toronto, everyone had to go through customs. Luckily for us, no one got held up in customs and we had a few hours to kill in Toronto. Our flight from Toronto to St. John's took off about 7:45 p.m. and landed at about midnight, Newfoundland time.
Everything went well on the flight from Toronto to St. John's, with only one bag getting lost. But of all the bags to get lost, it was General Manager Julien BriseBois who didn't have his bag when we landed! After a few phone calls, it was found in Toronto. BriseBois was guaranteed to have his bag in St. John's sometime this afternoon. We'll see how that goes!
The weird thing about St. John's is that it is an hour and a half ahead of Norfolk, so the time difference is going to take some getting used to. For instance, television shows that usually begin on the hour begin on the half hour here. We're playing our first preseason game on Thursday at 7:30 St. John's time, but that will actually be 6:00 in Norfolk.
The team's first practice this morning went well. The players took to the ice this morning at 10:30 a.m. and even though it was their first practice as a team and everyone was a bit sleepy-eyed from the travel, it was an encouraging, up-tempo practice held at a good pace. Everyone on the ice was fairly sharp, but we still have a long ways to go before we open the season next week against Charlotte. We still need to build our speed and endurance, while maintaining our energy. We have a good group of guys, and today was a very encouraging start to camp.
We're looking forward to going to the Keg Restaurant in St. John's tonight. The Keg is a big Canadian steakhouse. We were really hoping to be able to sneak off to The Keg in Toronto yesterday, but our flight was a little delayed and we couldn't get there and make it back to the airport in time. So the Admirals staff is really looking forward to a good steak dinner tonight!
That's it from St. John's today. We'll have another update for you from St. John's soon. Thanks very much for your support, and we look forward to seeing you all at Scope next week!