The Checkers are on the ice nearly every day working on their game, but that’s only half the battle when it comes to getting the team in top shape.

Off-ice training remains a key component of the team’s routine, with the players scattered around the arena going through various exercises on any given day. This past week saw an interesting wrinkle added, however, as the team took on a new activity: boxing training.

“It’s something I’ve wanted to do since I got to Carolina, I was just never given the opportunity to do it,” said head coach Mike Vellucci. “[Hurricanes owner] Tom Dundon came in and agreed with me on that right away and said he’d get me the resources to get it done. It’s great that him and [Carolina GM] Don Waddell are on board with it.”

Vellucci has experience with weaving boxing training into his team’s regimen, having done so during his tenure in the OHL.

“I did it for 20 years in Plymouth,” he said. “I had a boxing coach there who worked with all of our players, [Tyler] Seguin, Tom Wilson, [Tom] Sestito, [Jared] Boll, [Rikard] Rakell, [Stefan] Noesen – a lot of those first rounders.”

Having seen firsthand how boxing can boost a team’s performance, Vellucci gathered up the proper equipment and brought a boxing coach on board to kick things off with small group sessions this week.

“I think it’s great for everybody,” said Vellucci. “It’s conditioning, it’s hand-eye coordination, it’s all those little things that add up. Anybody who’s ever gone a three-minute round in boxing, I’ve done it before and not even 30 seconds in I was dying. It’s great conditioning.”

The benefits that the coaching staff are hoping for extend beyond just the exercise component of boxing, as the fighting aspect can certainly come in handy on the ice.

“I think the technique and the ability to throw a punch are really important,” said Charlotte’s Strength and Conditioning Coach Ryan Wysocki. “It’s more of a self-confidence thing for the younger guys. We’ve got a really young team.”

“It gives you a little more courage and a little more self-confidence to be on the ice and protect yourself,” said Vellucci. “Now if anything ever did happen, you know what to do.”
Off-ice training is a constant for the players throughout the season, and the workload can start to pile up as the grueling campaign grinds on. Introducing something new and interesting like boxing has the potential to reinvigorate the players as the games wear on.

“I think that’s a huge part of it from my standpoint,” said Wysocki. “The monotony of, ‘Ok let’s go check Ryan’s board, what kind of exercise are we doing?’ Let’s change it up. It’s perfect. Being able to break things up is huge. It’s a long season.”

So far the players have embraced their new off-ice challenge.

“They’ve received it very well,” said Vellucci. “The guys that didn’t do it yesterday are already asking when they can get in on it, so they’ll go today. It’s something different, it’s not monotonous. We don’t do it every day, we do it when we can when we have some off days. It’s something new for a lot of the guys and they’re really excited to be starting it.