TAMPA, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Lightning open training camp with their first on-ice practice Thursday morning.
Wednesday, the players were at Amalie Arena for medical testing, photo shoots, and media day. It's the third straight season the Bolts have had a shortened summer due to another run to the Stanley Cup Final.
"It’s hard to balance it. With family, and traveling, and every hockey player loves to get married in the summer. In July and August," Lightning forward Pat Maroon joked while talking about making plans during a short offseason. "You’re busy all summer. But that’s a good thing."
Players said the abbreviated time away from the rink helps them appreciate their lives away from hockey even more.
"Try to go home as quick as I can. Spend time with family and friends," defenseman Victor Hedman said. "Things I have to do… is eat the Swedish food. That’s the bottom line."
"Didn’t really leave the 20-mile bubble that I live in," 32-year-old captain Steven Stamkos added. "Was at the gym, on the ice. It was a lot of fun. It was just low-key. But excited to be back and get things going again."
This season, the Lightning traded cornerstone defender Ryan McDonagh to Nashville, and they lost forward Ondrej Palat to New Jersey in free agency. Stamkos said there's no way to replace two players who did so much for the Tampa Bay organization.
"It’s frustrating to see those two guys go, for sure. But in saying that, you can’t dwell on it now," he said. "We have no choice. We don’t make those decisions. We come to the rink and have to do our job. Our job starts now."
The Lightning's first preseason game is Tuesday at Carolina. They open the preseason home schedule when they host Carolina the following night. The regular season opener is Tuesday, Oct. 11 at the New York Rangers. The regular season home opener is one week later against Philadelphia.