TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. – It’s one thing for a player to bleed on the ice by way of an elbow, stick or puck to the face. NHL players routinely wear those scars as badges of honor.
But when it comes to drawing blood by more conventional methods, one Red Wings’ tough guy got a little squeamish during the team’s annual physicals before the start of training camp.
“The toughest thing today was drawing the blood. It was the toughest for me,” Wings forward Tomas Holmstrom said. “I hate needles.”
Friday was a light day for the Wings, who arrived at Center ICE Arena for physicals and a battery of fitness tests prior to the first day of training camp, which starts Saturday.
Wings’ players ribbed Holmstrom, who had to lie down on a table to prevent from getting light-headed as blood was drawn from his arm.
“He’s one of the few guys that laid down,” captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. “He's a little sensitive, but yet he can stand in front of the net and face slap shots coming at him at 100 miles per hour. Go figure that one out. He's afraid of needles, but not afraid of pucks.”
But because of Holmstrom’s tough exterior, Henrik Zetterberg delighted in poking fun at his friend and teammate.
“Homer has some issues,” Zetterberg said. “He's not that tough off the ice. He's a little softy.”
Needles aside, players were put through their paces by the team’s training staff. The consensus was that the Wingate Anaerobic Test was the toughest 30-seconds of many of their lives.
“That's the one you're most happy when you're done,” Zetterberg said. “The first 15 (seconds) are kind of OK, but then they tell you that you're halfway. That's when it gets hard. It's nice when you're done with it.”
Players are tested on a bike, which was connected to a computer, and once players reach a sprinting speed, weight is added based by a player’s height. The test is used to measure how each player maintains pedaling speed.
The Wings are equally competitive off of the ice, so winning the Wingate test was a big deal Friday. And most agreed – albeit some sarcastically – that forward Danny Cleary won.
“If you ask Cleary, it's Cleary,” goalie Jimmy Howard said. “Is it even worth debating? He's a self-promoter.”
Zetterberg said that Cleary would make a good politician.
“He brags about Wingate because he knows that's the only test he's best at, so all of a sudden that's the most important test,” Zetterberg said. “I'll give him that. He does have some good results.”
One player nearly blacked out on the bike, but Cleary wasn’t about to feel sympathetic for anyone.
“They hate that I'm the best,” said Cleary, half joking. “They like to beat me and I never rode a bike this summer. … I love measuring myself against other teammates.”
Even though Darren Helm, Valtteri Filppula and Pavel Datsyuk gave Cleary a pretty good run in the overall fitness testing, he wasn’t pushed as hard as he used to be by former teammate Kris Draper.
“He'll be proud of me today,” said Cleary, of Drapes. “Helm challenges me the most now. Fil is in good shape, too. Pull-ups and bench (press) they might not have as high. Pav is in different kind of shape, cardio. Pav is in amazing shape.”
BABY HOWARD: Jimmy Howard confirmed Friday that his wife, Rachel, is expecting the couple’s first child, a boy, at the end of October.
“We're looking forward to it,” Howard said. “It's an exciting time in our family.”
The Howards have narrowed their name choices to two, but Howard said, “We're going to keep it a surprise.”
TWENTY CAMPS: Most veterans don’t like training camp, but Lidstrom might be the exception.
“As you get older you're a little more relaxed coming here,” Lidstrom said. “You're maybe not as nervous doing all the testing and you're just looking forward to skating.”
With so much seniority, wouldn’t it be easy for the future hall-of-famer to sit out a drill here or there, or even the fitness testing?
“I didn't try that,” Lidstrom said. “Maybe I could have, but I did it just like everyone else.”