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Ease them in? Please

Coach John Tortorella opens Lightning camp by letting his players know he won't tolerate poor conditioning.

By TOM JONES
Published September 13, 2005


BRANDON - Lightning goalie Sean Burke has been in almost 20 NHL training camps and said he has never seen this type of physical testing.

Defenseman Darryl Sydor said, "This is the hardest camp I've ever been in and I've only been here a half a day."

Captain Dave Andreychuk said the same thing and joked he should have had it written in his contract that he didn't have to show up until later this week.

Camp Torture-ella, also known as Lightning training camp, started Monday. Each player did five reps of three hard laps around the ice. That was the morning. At night, they went on a 3-mile run.

Today is the day trainers have garbage cans on the bench in case anyone throws up. And someone will after skating three sets of 15 laps.

"It will be nice to go on the ice with pucks," forward Martin St. Louis said.

St. Louis is one of the lucky ones. He appears to have worked himself into good condition before camp.

"You need to be in shape when you come here, and it's pretty obvious with the testing we do here that some guys just simply don't understand, and it hurts them," coach John Tortorella said. "Hurts them bad."

The 2005-06 Lightning season was barely a few hours old, and already Tortorella seemed to be in an irritable mood after several of his young players struggled through the testing. Tortorella didn't name names, but it was obvious in watching the testing that his list included defenseman Gerard Dicaire and, perhaps, 2004 No.1 pick Andy Rogers.

"Very pleased with quite a few of the athletes," Tortorella said. "Absolutely shocked and disappointed with some others. Again, they make their own bed. In general terms, after one test I think the older guys understand it. And it's understandable some of the young guys, the new guys entering their first camp (like Rogers), don't totally get it, and we expect that. This is a lesson for them. But guys who have been here and are looking to move up in the organization and not coming prepared absolutely boggles my mind, and it won't be accepted."

General manager Jay Feaster added, "Some of the guys who are coming in here battling for jobs didn't do themselves any favors today. You're not going to win a job (in the first two days of camp), but certainly you can dig yourself a crater and we have some guys who are are looking for ladders right now."

Ladders might not help.

"It's a bottomless hole for some of them as far as I'm concerned," Tortorella said.

Aside from a few slackers, Day 1 of Lightning camp went well, beginning with a team meeting at 7 a.m.

"Actually, everyone showed up at five to seven," Feaster said. "Already, everyone is on Tortorella time."

Immediately, Feaster and Tortorella set the tone. After a few smiles and pleasantries, the Lightning brass put the past in the past, telling the players to forget that they won the Stanley Cup in June of 2004, the last time NHL hockey was played.

"What has happened in the past is truly ancient history," Feaster said. "Now the objective is to come in here and have a solid training camp. ... We can't afford to get caught up in the hype. It's about having to do it again. You can't rely on what you did 18 months ago."

Tortorella's schedule starts with training camp, moves into the preseason, then slides into the regular season.

"Then we'll talk about what's next," Tortorella said. "The past? There is no past. We have one concern and that's what we're going to do each day we're together."

Today, as the grueling camp continues, what the Lightning might be doing together is getting sick.

"We prepare them as best we can as far as what to do over the summer," Feaster said. "It's obvious who has made a commitment over the summer and who hasn't. And you can't hide over these two days."