By Todd Reicher
Fall has just made its debut, and already we’re talking about hockey. The 2010-2011 season is only a few weeks away, and the Rockford IceHogs had their first practice Sunday, Sept. 26, at the Rockford MetroCentre.
For those few media members in attendance, there were very few familiar faces. In fact, this first practice session only showcased two players who had previously donned an IceHogs uniform: winger Kyle Hagel and prospect goalie Joe Palmer. Other players were mostly tryouts looking to gain a spot with the IceHogs this year.
The one-hour practice seemed like it was more of an hour-long wind sprint than a practice. The coaches had these players up and down the ice while only stopping to change the drill every 10 minutes. By the time the hour practice was over and the players were coming off the ice, they showed signs of the exhausting practice, and the long day.
One of the tryouts, Defenseman Scott Fletcher, gave a brief rundown of their day up until the 1:30 p.m. practice: “We’ve had a difficult day, wake up early, a few hours of physicals, a fitness test, and then practice.” It was evident, as there was not one spot of dry clothing or skin on Fletcher’s body.
When asked about the rigorous practice, IceHogs Head Coach Bill Peters said: “It’s good for these guys to get out a day before the rest of the guys get out [of Chicago]. It lets them get their feet wet and get any nerves out of their system, if any.”
But most players do their best to stay in shape in the offseason and find different ways of doing so. Hagel said he stayed in shape by “taking boxing lessons, doing some plyometrics, and skating with a local junior team.”
The Chicago Blackhawks have yet to make their final cuts for their roster, but some of the cuts have been made, and those players have been assigned back to Rockford. Saturday, Sept. 25, the Blackhawks reassigned forwards Wade Brookbank, Brandon Bollig, Rob Klinkhammer, Chris DiDomenico and Brandon Pirri, and defensemen Jonathan Carlsson, Simon Danis-Pepin, Ryan Stanton, Shawn Lalonde and Ivan Vishnevskiy. However, since these players had been attending the eight-day Blackhawks training camp, they did not participate in the Sunday practice and were rewarded with a day of rest.
But one thing is for sure, the team will be a much younger group than in previous years. “We’ve got potentially three guys that are 19 years old this year,” said Peters.
The goal is to get these younger prospects time to develop in the minors early and get them ready for the NHL.
“Getting guys in Chicago—that’s what it’s all about, to get those guys ready as quick as possible,” Peters said. “Get them to go up and stay up in Chicago.”
The IceHogs will have their second pre-season game Wednesday, Sept. 29, as the ’Hogs battle the rival Chicago Wolves at 7:30 p.m. at the Allstate Arena. The team returns back home Friday, Oct. 1, to take on the Milwaukee Admirals at the MetroCentre.
The first regular-season game will take place Saturday, Oct. 9, at 4:35 p.m., when the ’Hogs face the Manitoba Moose.
From the Sept. 29-Oct. 5, 2010 issue