Training. Learning. Preparation. And… stand-up comedy?
Throughout the week-long NHL Development Camp, the Blackhawks took a unique approach to an event typically reserved for rigorous physical and mental training, designed to prepare prospects for many different aspects of the pros.
The Blackhawks’ approach: stay off the ice, concentrate on getting stronger mentally and physically, and have some fun too. From boxing classes to Spikeball games to breathing exercises to stand-up comedy and a Cubs game, the young Blackhawks took the opportunity to rest and recover from on-ice practices.
The decision to follow such a program, which was announced by GM Kyle Davidson, came at the perfect time for many prospects. A few of Chicago’s most prized possessions played on the Seattle Thunderbirds WHL team that fell just short of a Memorial Cup. The trio of Kevin Korchinski, Nolan Allan, and Colton Dach ended up playing 19 postseason games after a challenging 68-game regular season in the WHL. With multiple other prospects’ seasons ending around the end of May or later, it was time for a break.
Though they spent their time off the ice, Blackhawks prospects learned a number of skills that directly translate to hockey. Forward Paul Ludwinski commented on the breathing exercises they were taught, and said they could easily be incorporated to help his game:
“We did this one, when you get on the bench, it’s not the only thing you can do but it’s in-in-out and it’s supposed to send a message to your brain to calm you down… That one we practiced a bit and also just five seconds in, five seconds out to slow things down after stuff at practice, in game or when you’re working out.”– Paul Ludwinski
The team’s boxing lessons seemed to draw rave reviews as well, with prospects saying they learned how to hold their own in a fight. Every hockey fan knows that a team that knows how to fight usually has an advantage in momentum during games. The lessons, led by head coach Luke Richardson, were an opportunity for prospects to learn as well as teach what they know to others.
Davidson believes the team won’t be disadvantaged at all when it comes to staying off the ice:
“They get so much time on the ice that I don’t necessarily believe that extra four days of ice is going to change anything one way or another. Just give them a little break from instruction on the ice and take it off ice, and teach them some different things that they wouldn’t be exposed to likely at their amateur team and not too much when they turn pro.”– GM Kyle Davidson
Trouble in Paradise?
The new camp strategy wasn’t appreciated by every prospect, however. First-overall pick Connor Bedard voiced what seemed like frustration with the program:
Headlines around social media have taken his frustration and run with it, but I wouldn’t read too much into his comments. Bedard is known by now to be on the serious side, and we all know how much he loves his hockey. He made headlines a few months ago when he brought his hockey sticks on a Hawaii trip, and it’s clear that he craves the ice.
Perhaps events like a Cubs game or stand-up comedy could be a good thing for a player like Bedard. A chance to loosen up may be just what the young star needs to feel more comfortable as he enters his rookie season. Aside from Bedard, it’s clear the Development Camp was a huge hit, and these young prospects should be more comfortable and rested than ever.