More than an hour into the Gwinnett Gladiators' first training camp session, the skates were still churning as the players flew around the ice.
A group of well-conditioned athletes ushered in the John Wroblewski era with a tough, fast-paced workout. The first practice Saturday morning at the IceForum in Duluth set the tone and lived up to the things Wroblewski said he wants his team to be.
"You can see his passion and his energy in practice," veteran forward Andy Brandt said. "He runs an up-tempo practice. He doesn't want guys resting too much. He wants guys getting back to the line and keeping things moving.
"I think that's his style. With those kind of practices, you can get many things out of it. You get the speed of the game and you get your conditioning up. I think that's definitely what he's looking for early."
Wroblewski was pleased with the first day and the effort from the 18 guys on the ice.
"I was very impressed with the compete level," he said. "The guys didn't have a lot of choice, that was the focus of our meetings and what we put together. We wanted to establish that right away.
"But to their credit, they answered the bell and I was very impressed with the compete level and the overall execution of the drills."
There were only short breaks for water and a quick talk at the white board to illustrate the next drill, which Wroblewski went over before they even stepped on the ice.
"Everywhere you go it's different," said Paul Flache, another veteran of the pro leagues and member of the Gladiators for a number of seasons. "Everyone has their own thing. But this was definitely up-tempo. Everyone was moving. Not a lot of standing around."
Wroblewski, who went to Notre Dame and played in the ECHL before turning to coaching, tries to come up with at least two or three new drills for the team each day.
"I like it that the guys have to think, that they have questions," he said. "There's something to be said for routine, but to me, being in a comfort zone, knowing the drills coming down the pipe, that doesn't do a player very much good.
"You like to keep some similarities in the formations, but you're always throwing tweaks to keep them challenged."
Training camp continues daily for the next 10 days and Wroblewski is planning on getting right into systems work today.
The roster will also change quite a bit over the next week as players are assigned from AHL camps by the Gladiators affiliates.Emmer back in blackFormer Gladiators defenseman Rick Emmett has returned to the team as Wroblewski's assistant coach.
Emmett retired in 2006 after playing in Gwinnett's first three seasons here.
He became a firefighter and remained one for the next five years. Since leaving that job, Emmett has been working with the family business, a series of successful hockey development camps which were originally established in their native Canada and expanded to the U.S.
Emmett said he also played "Mr. Mom" to his two young sons, whose youth teams he coaches as well.
Still living in Gwinnett and in touch with the organization, Emmett was approached about being an assistant.
"I jumped all over it," Emmett said.
The former defenseman will work with the blueliners, but is prepared to do whatever Wroblewski asks of him. He'll be going on the road with the team, too.
"The only way to do this is full on," said Emmett, who would like to become a head coach in the professional ranks in the future.Seoul manThe Gladiators extended a professional tryout agreement to Ki-Hoon Han, a native of Seoul, South Korea. He was in camp Saturday.
Han has played professionally in Germany and briefly for the Columbus Cottonmouths of the SPHL. Before that, he spent four years on the Korea University team.Spacious digsThe Gladiators are using the Atlanta Thrashers' old locker rooms for training camp at the IceForum. A big mat with the maroon and black team logo covered where the thrasher used to be.
The players had plenty of space to spread out -- quite a bit better than having to drive over from the arena down the road with their gear in bags and leave them in the lobby for practice. Even when more players arrive from AHL camps, there should be more than enough room.Watchful eyesThe opening on-ice session drew a fair crowd of hockey faithful. The bleachers were littered with fans and more extended around the edge of the glass, getting their first glimpse of Wroblewski's inaugural practice as head coach.
The Gladiators had been under the guidance of Jeff Pyle for the last eight seasons. Pyle was hired to coach AHL Texas this summer and Wroblewski was tabbed to take over. Wroblewski was an assistant to Stan Drulia last year in Wheeling and the new start had a number of people -- fans and players alike -- speaking with optimism about the season.