Leafs boss weighs in on fitness

STEVE BUFFERY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:42 AM ET

TORONTO -- Toronto Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson held a meeting yesterday to suggest summer vacation plans.

Not one of his suggestions included lying on a beach or playing golf.

Essentially, Wilson reminded his players the organization will expect them to report to training camp next fall in much better shape than last year -- and that means they'll be given off-season training regimens to follow.

"I want to keep hammering this point home until everybody realizes what's going to be expected of them this summer," said Wilson, whose club hosts the Calgary Flames tonight at the Air Canada Centre (5 p.m., CBC).

"This isn't, 'Thank God we got through the season and I'm taking two months off, and you'll see me on the beach in the Bahamas.' No. We're talking right now about making sure that everybody understands the importance of conditioning and taking care of themselves."

Improved conditioning has been a theme of Wilson's all season.

Coming from the San Jose Sharks organization, he felt the Leafs -- particularly those who had been around the organization for a while -- were not up to snuff in terms of fitness coming into camp.

And because of that, he said, they were unable to achieve the level of fitness he wanted this season.

"It's a cultural change," he said. "Training camp starts 26 weeks from (today). If we look at it in the right way, guys have six months to really dig in and do a lot of work and prepare themselves for the next training camp. And they might as well start today. "

Wilson said NHL teams lacking in top-level talent -- and the Leafs certainly fall into that category -- have to find ways of competing with the more talented clubs, and one way of doing that is through superior fitness.

"We have to be prepared to take it to a new level," Wilson said. "You've got to not view this as surviving 82 games, you should be preparing to play 110 games. And that's kind of the shift in culture we have to go through.

"It's toughening yourself up mentally and physically," he continued. "We could be in much better shape physically than we are.

"The minute the season ends, in the new NHL, you have to start getting in shape for the next season. We have to make sure everybody is aware that they're obligated to become the best athlete they can become."


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