Flames fit to be tried

STEVE MACFARLANE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:00 AM ET

Jarome Iginla is considered among the most physically fit athletes in the NHL.

The Calgary Flames captain has consistently been at or near the top of his team's testing for years.

Iginla will have to keep working at it, though, because more and more of the young Flames' prospects coming into the organization are off to even better starts than Iggy.

"His entry level numbers, if you look at them, weren't as outstanding as some of these guys," strength and conditioning coach Rich Hesketh said yesterday of his "prototypical athlete" as on-ice sessions began for all the prospects attending the summer development camp.

"But he's progressed along, he's bought into the program, bought into the training and developed himself into an elite-level athlete.

"He's not just an elite-level hockey player. He's an elite-level athlete, which is a whole lot different than what it used to be 10 or 15 years ago, when it was a bunch of guys training a bunch of hockey players.

"Now what we're trying to establish is a better athlete that will be a better hockey player along the way.

"We're trying to be more cutting edge than any other team in the National Hockey League to be successful."

That Flames philosophy suits new head coach Mike Keenan just fine.

He's been preaching the importance of physical fitness for years.

"It's something that I've always stressed because it is measurable," Keenan said. "It's not the mental side of the game, where there's a lot of variables we're not certain about. This is an absolute.

"You have to come into camp and prepare yourself as a professional to really be able to utilize your skill set."

With the summer campers ranging in age from 18-24, there are a few different ongoing levels of development.

Take Dustin Boyd, for example. He's been participating in Hesketh's program for a few years now and is starting to show the kind of increase in muscle mass that could help him crack the NHL lineup.

"It's not only getting stronger but getting quicker," Boyd said. "You get more comfortable as the years go on. For me, this year was probably as comfortable as I have been in the past. But you're still a little bit nervous before."

Hesketh says Boyd, who at 21 can no longer rely on his speed in the pros as he could in junior hockey, is simply showing the results of a training regiment that began after he was drafted in 2004.

"That's something you can't rush," Hesketh said. "Every pound of muscle you add, you still have to supply that with oxygen. As Dustin trains more, as any of these guys train more, you're going to see them put on more mass just by doing the things we ask them to do. You can do too much and spend too much time in the weight room."

The rookies always come in with wide eyes when they're first put through the paces, but those who buy in can count on results down the line.

"The learning curve is bigger than the improvement curve in the first few years," Hesketh said. "The first couple of years, your body's still trying to figure out what the heck you're asking it to do."

ICE CHIPS

Dan Ryder (personal reasons) and Ryan Donally (sick) were the only prospects not on the ice for Day 2 of camp.


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