Warriors kick off training camp with fitness testing

It’s an annual rite of passage that signifies the start of the Western Hockey League season for the Moose Jaw Warriors — and one that you can bet almost every player dreads.

Fitness testing.

The battery of physical tests are designed to push players to their limit, with the goal of seeing what they’re capable of as basic athletes. From aerobic capacity and endurance to physical strength and speed, it’s all a valuable tool for the team for this season and beyond.

“Fitness testing helps in us in a lot of ways,” said Warriors coach Tim Hunter. “It goes towards you having a very fit team; it gives you a baseline to work on so the players have a place to build from; and it shows areas that we can help players improve, places we can work with players to make them better overall.”

Players are tracked in their fitness test results right from their first prospect camp. The team keeps a graph on all the player in terms of how they’ve developed and how they’ve improved in the various events.

“It gives a real good read in terms of some real important things,” said general manager Alan Millar. “It shows character, it shows athleticism, things like the beep test push you out of your comfort zone, shows your work ethic and your compete level.

“When you see what they do on the morning of fitness testing, it shows how hard they’ve worked and their commitment all summer. Fitness testing and those results are one of those things and it’s a very important part of training camp.”

In addition to the standard height, weight and body fat and long and vertical jump measurements, players also went through a string of strenuous events including the medicine ball toss, core hang to failure, pull-ups to failure and a pair of beep tests — where athletes have run between a pair of markers 20 metres apart and beat a ‘beep’ that becomes incrementally shorter per lap.

Given the emphasis the team has put on fitness in Millar-Hunter era, it should come as little surprise that there were plenty of impressive results this time around.

“We’re really impressed with what we’ve seen from the kids, they’ve come in here ready to go and we’ve seen a lot of improvement from the veterans and the rookies have put up some really good numbers,” Hunter said. “You want to improve every year and get better every day and I think we’ve seen that from a lot of the guys.”

Hunter pointed to defenceman Colin Paradis setting a record in the beep test along with veterans like Tanner Jeannot — a regular testing standout in his four years with the team — Jayden Halbgewachs, Justin Almeida and Brett Howden all putting together impressive performances, while rookie forwad Brayden Tracey set an impressive standard in the beep test.

Then there’s the likes of Jett Woo. The NHL Draft prospect defenceman posted stunning improvements in testing almost across the board, dropping his body fat from 10-14 per cent to eight per cent over the span of a season.

“You can really see the difference, he’s been to three or four Hockey Canada events and worked with them with everything including fitness and proper nutrition and it’s worked out really well,” Hunter said. “(His body fat improvement) is really impressive and it shows his dedication.

“That’s one of the things that’s great about having players in the Hockey Canada program around, they can pass on a lot of that information and you can see how it helps the team.”

Training camp continued Thursday with the first three team practices of rookie camp and the first scrimmage.