A new pain perspective

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:49 AM ET

Their pain was palpable.

Calgary Flames prospects were gingerly walking around the Don Hartman Northeast Sportsplex, their groin muscles sore after a power-skating session under Barry Karn's tutelage.

"There's a little bit of a sadist in all of us, isn't there?" Karn, the team's hired skating coach, said with a grin.

"They're pushing themselves and you can see it."

But Karn's happiness over such a sight isn't because he is a masochist. To him, it's a sign the Flames hopefuls have taken that first step toward the next level.

"Everybody's got a little bit of a comfort zone, not just the strength and speed issue, but also the range of motion," he said.

"I'm thinking they're seeing 30-, 40-, 50-percent increases in their range of motion off and on the ice and their ability to move.

"Because of the skating game you have, you need that."

With the NHL mandating to continue cracking down on obstruction to showcase the speed and finesse side of the game, it stands to reason more teams will soon be hiring skating coaches.

As it stands, though, very few do. The Chicago Blackhawks have former Olympic speed skating gold medallist Dan Jansen as a coach. The Flames plan to use Karn -- who worked for the Phoenix Coyotes in a limited role for four years, mainly during camps and with injured players -- on a regular basis.

He expects to work more regularly with the farm team in Omaha but hopes to work with the big league team, as well.

Karn, who has a school with his wife in Bloomington, Minn., said even a veteran will greatly benefit from sessions working on balance and posture.

"Think of each skate as a unicycle," Karn said. "If I can find that perfect balance point from front to back and do all my angling, all my pushoffs, all my crossovers and maintain balance, I'm gonna hit a top-end speed."

After only a couple of days, he has certainly caught the attention of the Flames hopefuls.

"It's amazing," said forward Eric Nystrom.

"We're all talking about the new NHL and you've got to be able to skate.

"If you can skate, you have a better chance.

"To have a guy like this around to help you be a better skater is awesome.

"In the big picture, you see exactly what he's talking about. Being able to do that stuff in quick fashion is going to help your game."

As for teaching the old dogs, Karn said it doesn't take long to reach them.

"A lot of times you have to get their attention," Karn said.

"I'm sure some of them are looking at you out the corner of their eye because, to some guys, a skating coach is up there with an insurance salesman and used-car salesman.

"They don't like you until they believe you'll do something for them.

"I'll time them and they'll see even if it feels a little weird or out of their wheel house, as they say, it's worth being receptive."


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