While still playing for the Tampa Bay Lightning, defenseman Dan Boyle was asked what the secret was to surviving the grueling fitness tests that John Tortorella puts his players through.
"Fake an injury", Boyle said with a straight face.
We've all talked about how tough Torts' training camps are known to be. We spoke to John over at Raw Charge, the SBNation community for the Tampa Bay Lightning, and got some thoughts from him on what the Rangers will endure the next three weeks.
"There's boot camp, there's hell... and John Tortorella's training camp -- AKA ‘Camp Torturella' -- is somewhere in between."
John also said the players' had better have been paying attention at the end of season interviews. "Of the group he does have to work with, he physically pummels them to see who adhered to off-season training regimens that were provided during exit interviews the previous season, and those who didn't shine through during camp."
While the Rangers will have prospects and invitees in camp, apparently that is a change from the way Tortorella has done things in the past. "He likes a lean roster going into camp - not a load of prospects and invitees, guys with the best shot at making the final roster... At least that's how it'd gone in Tampa."
So what kind of tests can the Rangers look forward to? John tells us, "The first two days feature three to five mile runs, 15 lap speed tests on the rink, line drills, and more. Vomit is a mainstay. He works them into the ground and then sends them back for more."
Sounds like any fans attending training camp may want to wear a poncho.
From the aforementioned article above, Tortorella is coy about what he is looking for when he puts his players through this regimen:
"The players don't even know what I look at," Tortorella said. "That's the trick of it."
Players said the trick is of the mind.
"It's all mental," Martin St. Louis said. "Your body is going to try to tell you to shut down. You have to fight through it."
"It's the hardest thing I've ever done." said Boyle
The training staff for the Lightning had some methods to help the players prepare for the grind:
Head athletic trainer Tommy Mulligan said he suggested players' drink heartily starting Wednesday, including drinks that replace electrolytes. Potassium and sodium pills were distributed to help stop cramping. Protein shakes after Day 1 will help recovery and readiness for Day 2.
If the players survive, the payoff was huge, especially one that Ranger fans should pay special attention to.
In the 04-05 and 05-06 seasons, the Lightning lost 92 man games to injury or illness, the league average during that stretch was an incredible 517. In three seasons before Coach John Tortorella ran his first camp, the Lightning lost 296, 456 and 269 man games.
This article in the St Pete Times looked at the benefits of the demanding training camp, and spoke to a sports rehab physician from NYU who claims it's no coincidence:
"With a number that dramatic, it's more than just a coincidence or a lucky season. There's obviously more to it than that, and it probably has to do with the training regimen." claimed Dr. Todd Schlifstein.
The other apparent positive side-effect was the very low number of games lost to groin injuries. In the two seasons mentioned above, the Lightning lost 9 total man games to groin injuries, 7 to Sean Burke, who injured his groin after stepping on a puck during a morning skate.
I don't think I need to point out the possible upside here with the Rangers newest star attraction, do I? I'm sure this had a hand in why the Rangers felt so confident in signing Marian Gaborik.
The philosophy is to try and cut down on wear and tear injuries by controlling them. The Lightning didn't do the traditional start and stop skating drills under Tortorella.
One last thing from John at Raw Charge, when referring to the upcoming Lightning season under Rick Tocchet:
"Camp Torturella" may have been frowned upon and cursed, but the players lasted the season with the conditioning that was laid out over the off season and the stress-testing of camp.
John Tortorella said after his second or third game as Rangers coach that he was disappointed in the conditioning of his team. That is one issue he can correct, and it begins on Saturday.
So it sounds like the Rangers will definitely benefit from the excruciating task in front of them, providing they live through it.
Thanks again to John over at Raw Charge for his help with this.