Players Benefit From Offseason Regimen
by Matthew Conyers/CHN Reporter
CROMWELL, Conn. Most of them don’t even wear their team logos.
Instead, they're united not by rivalries or the colors on their sweaters but by one collective goal. To the athletes there is just one mission—they come to get ready.
For the third straight summer, a collection of current and former college hockey players convened in Cromwell, Conn., for a week-long professional camp run by trainer Pete Asadourian.
“Obviously there are guys [at the camp] on teams that I’m going to play against in a couple months, and it won’t be too friendly then but now we’re friends working towards the same thing” Chip Mladenoff, of Sacred Heart, said.
In the comfy confines of a tiny training facility hidden in the back of the Champions Skating Center, Asadourian runs the athletes through a high-level strength and condition program.
“My whole philosophy behind [the camp] is to get guys ready physically and mentally for the upcoming camps, whether they were going pro or to college,” Asadourian said. “You always have that first week where coaches want to kill you and really beat you up to see how you worked in the off-season. We get everyone in that mindset that ‘Hey guys, you’re coming in four days and we’re going to break you down. But in four weeks, when you’re starting the push for the season, that soreness is out of you.”
Yet, Asadourian is frank in his desire for the camp to be more than just a wake-up message to the players. Asadourian believes the four days the players spend with him during August will ultimately go a long way in sustaining them for the lengthy seasons ahead.
“The strength and conditioning component has gotten so big because it’s a longer season and there’s that wear and tear,” Asadourian said. “The players, they’re fighting through it. These guys are warriors, so we train them like warriors. We are giving them a big test for the coming season.”
The workout regime Asadourian has developed isn’t easy with a normal day at the camp lasting anywhere from six to nine hours. About three hours of that time is spent in the gym.
“He blasts you out in the gym,” John DiSalvatore, of the New Jersey Devils, sad. “He pushes guys hard. It kind of wakes the body up and its importantly mentally and physically to get the body prepared for what’s to come.”
Despite his initial lack of hockey knowledge — nine years ago Asadourian was the coach of a championship high school girls basketball team in Connecticut, and five years ago he was the strength and conditioning coach for Quinnipiac men’s basketball — Asadourian dived head first into the sport. After taking on former Providence forward Colin McDonald, Asadourian came up with the idea to run the camp.
“It all of a sudden just came together and now were in year three,” Asadourian said.
At the start, Asadourian would burrow jerseys from a local high school team. Now, Asadourian is working with pros like Ron Hainsey (formerly of Mass.-Lowell), John DiSalvatore and Greg Moore (Maine).
Devoting both time and energy, Asadourian now feels he has a better understanding of what the players need when September rolls around.
“The game has evolved so much and the level of competition has gotten better,” Asadourian said. “No longer can you go to camp to get in shape. You have to come to camp in shape otherwise the next guy is going to move you out. I think with the NHL they’re getting a younger caliber of players and those guys have to be use to going hard—these guys go hard.”
But he isn’t alone. Asadourian works with Yale coach Keith Allain and top Connecticut high school coach Neil Rodman (South Windsor high school). In the weight room and off the ice, it is Asadourian’s show. However on the ice, Allian takes charge.
“It absolutely does help having a coach like Keith,” Asadourian said. “The name speaks for itself in the hockey community. He’s unbelievable. The players have a great deal of respect for him and they hold him up on a pedestal.”
This season those players that attended are an assorted mix. They hail from both big small schools. The college players: T.J. Syner (Massachusetts), Gregg Rodriguez (Sacred Heart), Chip Mladenoff (Sacred Heart), Chris Davis (Simsbury), Matt Generous (St. Lawrence), Jared DeMichiel (Rochester), Nick Bonino (Boston University), and Nick Johnson (Sacred Heart). The pros: Noal Schaefer (Minnesota Wild), Keith Johnson (South Carolina Stingrays), McDonald (Edmonton Oilers), Moore (New York Rangers), Eric Boguniecki (Anaheim Ducks), Hainsey (Columbus Blue Jackets).
There is one common theme among the group—most are originally from Connecticut.
In fact, 14 of the 26 players in the camp are from Connecticut.
“They are hometown boys and it is important that hockey fans here in Connecticut know that these guys are working hard for them,” Asadourian said.
For many of the players, the chance to work out close to home is one they don’t often get.
“I appreciate that he does it in this area, because there’s not a lot going on here for pro guys or anyone,” DiSalvatore said. “A lot is up in Boston and down in New York. We’re really excited about it. we hope it continues to grow and the caliber and level of players grows too.”
Still the players admit there are several problems that arise when it comes to holding a camp in the small Nutmeg state.
“The problem is the area, so once we can show that this camp is doing what we know it is doing, which is getting us in the right frame of the mind, then other guys might be able to jump onboard,” DiSalvatore said.
Though, if Asadourian has his way, that stigma will soon be disappearing and it appears, the players are also eager to see the numbers grow too. After all, at this point in the year, they’re all on the same mission.
“We’re excited about putting Connecticut on the map, we want to keep it in the state and we don’t want to have run off to different states,” DiSalvatore siad. “We will spread the word.”