Tuesday, June 9th, marked the first day Lightning players would get on-ice action since the NHL season paused on March 12th. On Monday, the leagues transition into phase 2, which meant testing of the Amalie Arena and TGH IcePlex. The next day, players could hit the ice in groups of no more than six per facility.
“There’s still uncertainty as to what the next step is from here, but I think more than anything, as players, it just gives us some sense of a routine and a program to follow, at least for the time being,” Shattenkirk told local Tampa Bay media during a Zoom videoconference following his training session. Media is barred from club training facilities during Phase 2. “A few different things, obviously, it’s a different setup only having six guys there, having to follow protocols. But it gives us the best chance to resume what we do both off the ice and on the ice while keeping ourselves protected and as safe as possible. So it was pretty smooth. I think we are just happy to get back together and hopefully start this program up for however long it takes until we can get to Phase 3.
Phase 3 of the NHL’s return – which likely won’t happen until July – involves the opening of training camps so teams can prepare for the upcoming playoffs. But for now, the Lightning as well as the rest of the NHL will have to practice in ways they’re not used to; training in small groups, working without coaches and on a voluntary basis.
“Most of the time when you’re doing your (offseason) training and you get to about, for me, mid-July, you start to kind of dust the hockey bag off and start to get a couple guys together, get on the ice just to kind of move around and skate,” Shattenkirk said of the similarities between Phase 2 and summer informal skates. “Obviously the challenge with so few guys is getting meaningful skates in and being able to get something out of it. It’s just a matter of staying kind of focused in that regard and making sure that we’re going out there and we’re working on something. Obviously, the exercise is part of it and just getting our stamina back, but after this first week here, we’ll probably start to almost specialize it a little bit and work on things each player has in mind.”
At the end of their first on-ice session, Shattenkirk said his group played some two-on-two. They also get the advantage of reigning Vezina Trophy winning goaltended Andrei Vasilevskiy being one of the six players in their group. According to Shattenkirk, the general mood on Tuesday was one of excitement. Excitement to finally get back on the ice, connect with teams and continue working toward the dream of taking home the Stanley Cup.
“Everyone’s just happy to be back at the rink and doing something different,” Shattenkirk said. “It makes you feel like you’re back to your normal routine, what we’re used to playing during the regular season and going to practice, coming into the arena. Obviously, once you get there and you realize you’re missing a few guys, that’s kind of what brings you back to the current situation and what we’re dealing with in the world. But I think for the most part it was just nice to get out and have that experience with some teammates and see a few guys you haven’t seen in a while and just make sure everyone’s doing alright and staying sane.”