Last season, it was rare to see anyone other than Nick Robertson be the first on the ice and the last off of it for practice. His dedication and work ethic have proven to be no different during an important off-season, with lots to work toward heading into his sophomore season with the Petes.
At the conclusion of his first OHL campaign, in which he was named the team’s Rookie of the Year, Nick headed home to California to join his parents, Hugh and Mercedes, at their home in Sierra Madre. The suburb of Los Angeles, sitting half an hour northeast of downtown, has been home to the Robertson family for a few years, having previously lived just down the road in Arcadia.
Preventing a break in momentum from a strong finish to the season – he had six points in his last eight games – Nick was quick to settle into a training routine made up of on-ice and off-ice sessions.
“After clean out day, I literally drove down to Michigan and trained the next day,” asserted Nick. “I don’t really take weeks off – hockey is a full time job.”
When asked why he didn’t opt to take advantage of some deserved down time, Nick was sincere in his response:
“It’s not that I’m forced to do it, it’s I just want to do it and I feel guilty taking time off. My ‘time off’ would be off days in which I work on stretching and mobility. I’ve been training like this since I really started. All because I love doing it. Waking up early on weekends is a grind, but it creates discipline, responsibility, and commitment.”
His current training regimen is proving to be the most intense and diverse of his young hockey career.
“I’ve been training with two trainers on the ice, each of them bringing a unique style and skill set, which fits my game, ” commented Nick.
Combined with his two-hour off-ice workouts, and for the first time, working with an MMA fighter, he feels that he’s gotten stronger and faster over the course of the last four months.
“I focused on speed and strength this summer instead of just packing weight; my game needs that speed and strength,” Nick said. “The boxing, which I’m doing once a week, is probably the hardest workout of all – just consistent rounds of punching, dodging, and reacting while you’re tired is tough, but I feel it translates to the ice.”
After a quick reunion in California’s Ontario with teammate Dylan Wells, who was in town with the ECHL’s Wichita Thunder, Nick took a quick jaunt back to Peterborough at the end of April for the team’s awards banquet. He stuck around for a few days to lend his support at the Petes’ Development Camp.
Although distance prevented some of the Petes from taking part in the annual weekend, Nick didn’t want to miss an opportunity to spend time with his teammates and meet the team’s newest prospects.
“I made the trip [to Peterborough] because I wanted to introduce myself to our prospects, and most of all, wanted to see my teammates and overagers,” he explained.
The trip was no vacation, as he kept up with his off-ice workouts with Petes Strength and Conditioning Coach Josh Gillam at Hybrid FHP.
“It was good to get back and work out with Gilly and keep him updated on my training regimen.”
Nick’s next pit stop was Amherst, New York for USA Hockey’s Boys Select 17 player development camp – a week-long gathering of the USA’s top 2001-born players that included an opening practice, five games, and an all-star game.
“Camp in Amherst was a bit different, but good. I’d never been in a camp where 180 guys were competing for a 22-man roster,” acknowledged Nick. “There was a difference from playing in the OHL with the same teammates to playing with guys you don’t know who all played different styles in different leagues.”
Nick accumulated three goals, two assists, and five points in five games.
“The camp was a grind,” he admitted. “By the third day, everyone was exhausted and it got even more challenging.”
After leading his team in points, Nick was selected to take part in the camp’s all-star game from which USA Hockey would select 22 players to represent the United States at the 2018 Hlinka Gretzky Cup in Red Deer and Edmonton, Alberta.
“Being in a room after the all-star game with 40 guys competing for those spots, it was nerve-racking waiting to hear my name called,” confessed Nick. “Once it was called, I was in relief and excited to move on to Alberta.”
Despite a rigorous training schedule, Nick felt it was important to go back to his hockey roots and give back to the community that he grew up in. Outside of his workouts, he was able to assist his first hockey coach, Tian, with running hockey camps out of Center Ice Arena in Ontario, California.
“I’ve known Tian since I was 3 or 4,” he revealed. “He taught me how to skate, then it proceeded to puck control, creating the foundation of my game of skill and speed.”
Following Tian’s camp, one of the camper’s parents asked Nick if he’d be interested in running a smaller three-day camp for some of the players. Knowing that teammate Cam Supryka would be visiting SoCal the next month, he obliged.
The duo put together a program of different drills, including hour-long sessions of off-ice stick handling and 90-minute on-ice sessions, that were designed to challenge the skaters.
“It was good to give back to those kids,” Nick professed. “I was in their shoes a few years ago, so to be the one blowing the whistle, giving them drills, and explaining things to them was weird.”
The group of 9-12 year olds were able to benefit from their experience, and picked up skills and tips that Nick and Cam had to offer.
“It was very eye-opening for us, as we realized how hard it is to prepare and run a camp for younger kids,” explained Cam. “It definitely made me appreciate coaches even more.”
“It was a great experience for us,” added Nick, “but I think I’ll stick to being the student for now.”
With Cam in town, Nick had an opportunity to share with his friend and teammate the different lifestyle that exists in California that influences him as a person and player.
The pair hiked the San Gabriel mountains, treated themselves at a Japanese steakhouse, took a break at Manhattan Beach, and hit the links between training sessions.
With parents that are personal trainers, Cam’s off-season training program is no joke either, so he was happy to continue his workouts with a friend by his side. He joined Nick for early-morning ice, in the gym, and in the boxing ring.
Cam explained their day-to-day routine during his visit to The Golden State:
“We trained extremely hard. We were up as early as 4:30am to be on the ice at 7am, then did off-ice later in the day. We did boxing to work on our cardio and decision making during exhaustion. We spent countless hours stick handling every day. Nick and I both know how much work has to be put in in order to be successful, and it helps that we both have an extreme passion for the game.”
When all was said and done, Nick was thrilled to have had Cam get to experience California’s hockey culture.
“The young kids here are so skilled, and it was great to get to show Cam that people are just as passionate in California as they are in Canada about hockey,” quipped Nick.
Nick’s commitment to himself as a hockey player and as a person over the past four months have him feeling confident heading into the Petes’ 2018 Training Camp, which commences in the final week of August.
“I’m really looking forward to seeing the boys in a few weeks,” he expressed. “I feel we have one of the strongest group of guys going into next season, and we are more than capable of being a playoff contender.”
Asked how he thinks this season will be different for him personally compared to last season, Nick explained:
“I feel I have a lot more to bring than I did last year, and I am hunting for a championship. Although it’s my second year, I believe I can be a leader for the team. My work ethic and commitment, I think, could be contagious for my teammates. It’s also a big year for me as I go into my NHL draft year, so I want the team to do well, which contributes to helping me achieve my personal goals. I have a lot of expectations for myself, and I want to bring the best of my abilities to the team.”
The last item on Nick’s Summer 2018 to-do list, the 2018 Hlinka Gretzky Cup, kicks off with pre-tournament action on Saturday, August 4. Along with Petes prospect Tyler Paquette, he’ll face newly-signed Czech forward Eric Čermák in Team USA’s first round-robin game on Monday, August 6 at 9pm ET. The gold medal game takes place on Saturday, August 11 at 9pm ET.
The Petes will play five exhibition games between September 1 and September 16, including two home games on Sunday, September 2 at 2:05pm against the Oshawa Generals and on Thursday, September 13 at 7:05pm against the Kingston Frontenacs.
The Petes will play their home opener on Thursday, September 20 at 7:05 pm against the East Division rival Kingston Frontenacs.