Long Camps a Big Change for Pro Goalies in Europe
National Hockey League training camps may be more than a month away still, but it’s already time for goaltenders playing professionally in Europe, including a long list of former NHL puck stoppers, to pack their bags and head overseas for the start of their seasons.
Even if those seasons don’t really start for another six weeks – and in some cases two months.
So why do training camps run between six to eight weeks overseas, and what are they like? With two training sessions each day and double-digit exhibition games, lets just say the length of many European training camps isn’t the only difference from the pre-season in the NHL.
For goaltenders used to the shorter preparation period in North America, the move overseas can be a big adjustment.
Just ask former Colorado Avalanche- and Vancouver Canucks-contracted goaltender Tyler Weiman, who recently left for his fourth season playing in Germany. Weiman, who spent the past two seasons with the Nuermberg Ice Tigers in the top-tier Deutsche Eishockey Liga, was generous enough to explain some of the major differences for goaltenders in a pair of articles for InGoal Magazine, and after seeing him announce on Twitter last week that it was time to leave for another season – and another long, gruelling training camp – in Europe, now felt like the perfect time to re-visit those articles, especially details and challenges of the extended pre-season preparations.
“I could go on for days about the differences,” Weiman wrote in his introductory article. “From rule changes, different equipment, buildings, sponsors, the fans, the schedule. etc. … If there is one thing us guys from North America hate is we always have to be here so early. We are here for training camp a month and a half before the season actually starts. That includes two-a-days – two ice sessions, workouts, and it’s usually 30-plus degrees as soon as you get here. Along with the 9 to 10 exhibition games that are played as well during those six weeks. You’re trying to get adjusted not only to the work place aspect but away from the rink as well such as sleeping habits, food, living, etc.
“Guys were joking they should come in 10 pounds overweight because they lose to much before the season even starts because of the grind, heat and getting properly adjusted,” continued Weiman. “You work your body so hard over the summer to come to training camp in shape and then you have another month and a half, and nine or 10 exhibition games before the season actually starts. That’s a little difficult to wrap your mind around and just get back to game mode after being away for 3 or 4 months.”
Finding a balance amid that schedule isn’t easy, especially for newcomers.
“It’s tough to pace yourself too, especially the first time,” wrote Weiman, who is going into his first season with the EVL Landshut Eishockey team, formerly known as the Landshut Cannibals. “You want to earn the respect not only of the management – show that they made a great decision signing you – but also your own teammates. You want to stay on the ice longer and work on your skills because you haven’t been on all summer, but at the same time you know you have so much time and you are going to keep burning yourself out.”
Weiman is better prepared for the differences after three seasons overseas, but they extend well beyond training camp. He broke down all the differences, starting with the rules, style of play, and how all that advertising on the ice can make it a lot harder to track the puck (especially when mixed with foggy conditions in partly outdoor rinks, or the haze of playing in the “smoking section of some rinks), in his first article, which includes a story about inhaling that smoke during games in his first season. You can read the entire article here.
Weiman was also generous enough to explain the differences in equipment expectations overseas, including how some teams actually dictate the brand of gear a goalie must wear based on sponsorships, and how they get all that advertising on the pads and gloves (hint: a lot of super glue) and the problems it can cause. You can read Weiman’s equipment breakdown in his second instalment in the series here.