Washington Capitals blueliner John Carlson walked into the media room following a busy first on-ice session at MedStar Capitals Iceplex. It featured their famous skate test, which sees players go up and down the rink a number of times to showcase their speed and stamina heading into the year.
When asked how it was, Carlson was blunt: “It’s over.”
The skate test has been a staple in D.C. and among several different NHL teams over the years. There are several players who pass with flying colors, and even some who fail.
And, over time, it’s still difficult for players to get used to, especially after a long offseason.
“I almost puked before we did it,” T.J. Oshie laughed. “Some of those guys make it look easy, guys like Tom and Kuzy, but it’s almost more anxiety that you’re going to have to push yourself pretty hard. You know, 99 percent of these guys are going to make it every year. But it’s just one of those things to see if the guys have the battle in them, if they had a decent offseason, so it’s nice to go through it together.”
Anthony Mantha agreed; he was no stranger to the test, but that the down-and-backs on the ice were a bit different than when he was playing in Detroit. Still, the test poses the same challenges.
While the test does take a toll physically, leading to fatigue after going back and forth numerous times, players mentioned it’s the mental aspect that weighs on them as well.
“When you do it before, when it’s not training camp, you’re just flying and you feel normal,” Alex Ovechkin explained. “But as soon as the training camp starts, it’s something different. I think it’s just mentally.”
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Evgeny Kuznetsov agreed; While the skate test is a familiar beast, the more players think about it, the more difficult it becomes.
“It’s all mental part, the actual test is not that hard for you. They’re all those a couple months before when you start practicing you thinking about this, right?” Kuznetsov explained. “You focus in on this you have you pushing yourself, you been here. We’ve done this for so many times we pass it but we still have that mindset, it’s kind of hard for you because you know you thinking about, ‘Oh, s— , I don’t want to fail.’ I want to, like, you know the coaches watching, the people watching, you guys watching, everybody want to talk about this. The more you think about this, the harder it gets for you, you know? I’m glad pretty much everybody done and you know, we don’t have to talk about that for 365 days.”
For Dmitry Orlov, though, the key is preparation, practice and experience.
“[I] try to remember the first time we did it. It was much harder because you don’t know how to do it,” Orlov said. “It was tough to practice, so much harder… Every year when you do it, you’ve got more experience, you know how to do it. Especially in the summertime, you try to do a couple times at least and see how it feels, how you did it, make sure you’re going [to do] it the first day of camp. Coaches not gonna be yelling at you or giving you s— for this.”