PRE-TRAINING CAMP COVERAGE: Frozen Royalty begins its pre-training camp coverage with stories based on interviews from the Los Angeles Kings HockeyFest ’11 event, held on September 11, 2011. Starting things off is the real story on left wing Dustin Penner and his physical conditioning. For those of you who are still claiming that he is out of shape, guess again.
LOS ANGELES — Back in July, during the Los Angeles Kings’ 2011 Development Camp for their young prospects, veteran and much-maligned left wing Dustin Penner emerged from the team’s dressing/weight room area to take a break during a workout.
Penner made his appearance on a day when the local media covering the team, including those representing two major newspapers in the area, the team’s official web site, a web site operated by NBC Sports, and several other web sites known for having solid reputations and writers with real sources, were all gathered at the Kings’ practice facility to cover the Development Camp.
As the target of frequent, heavy criticism for his poor play after he was traded to the Kings, Penner immediately became the big story, not the young prospects.
Following the Kings’ first round exit from the playoffs in April, Penner was openly criticized by Kings President/General Manager Dean Lombardi and Kings head coach Terry Murray for his poor conditioning. But he did not take the criticism negatively. Instead, he used it as motivation, spending at least three days each week during the off-season working out.
Indeed, when he came out of the dressing room area and spoke to the the throng of reporters that fateful day in July, Penner stood there in sweaty, workout clothing, looking trim, fit—considerably leaner and meaner than he did at any time after he joined the Kings last season.
At the time, Penner said that he had already lost about ten pounds.
But just a little more than a month later, a photo of Penner was posted on Twitter that enraged a considerable number of fans, most of whom were already critical of him for his poor play with the Kings.
The photo “confirmed” for them that Penner really was fat, lazy, good-for-nothing, and that his physical conditioning had not improved. Whether they intended to or not, fanning the flames were stories published in the Edmonton Journal and on Puck Daddy, among other media outlets, that included the photo (see Fan Snaps Unflattering Photo of Dustin Penner: “Looked Kind Of Beer Belly-ish,” and What We Learned: Enough With The Outdoor Hockey Games).
What these readers did not take into account was that even though the Twitter user who posted the photo claimed to have taken it on August 28, 2011, that has not been independently confirmed. Even the photo’s origin and authenticity have not been verified. As such, it would be foolish to consider it to be reliable information. Add to that the previously published reports on Penner’s physical conditioning work—all based on interviews with Penner and Murray, not to mention other reliable sources with first-hand knowledge of the situation, the photo’s dubious nature is magnified that much more.
Further, just four days prior to the release of that photo, Murray confirmed in an exclusive interview with Frozen Royalty that Penner’s conditioning work has continued at pace since the time he met with the media in July.
“I think his progress has been real good,” said Murray. “He’s following through with all the commitments he made to us, in the off-ice part of it, throughout the summer. He’s up here three or four times a week, and that’s the way it’s been all summer long, working with the off-ice program.”
“He’s definitely changed,” added Murray. “His conditioning is moving in the right direction. I’m looking forward to seeing what the test results are on the first day of training camp. I need him to be a good player. I want to bring out the talent that he has, and the only way you can bring it out is to be ready to go the first day.”
Fast forward to the Los Angeles Kings HockeyFest ‘11 event on September 11…Penner completely blew away all doubts about his conditioning just by walking into a room.
Indeed, following his appearance on the ice when the team was introduced to the fans, Penner met with the media, looking like he had added a great deal of muscle to his frame.
He looked like he could defeat Goliath in a fight.
“[The amount of weight lost] stayed around [ten pounds],” said Penner. “With [former Kings strength and conditioning coach Tim Adams], it was more about body fat—losing that. The weight has dropped, and I’ve gained lean muscle mass.”
“I feel better than I ever have,” added Penner. “I’ve gained lean muscle mass—that’s probably from doing 2,000 yards of lunges every day in the summer.”
Back in July, Penner indicated that he was not used to the intensity of the workouts that he was doing this summer with the Kings, but he has since gotten accustomed to it.
“I was used to the type, but not the volume—getting here at 8:00 AM, and leaving here at 2:00 PM,” Penner explained. “Usually, some workouts [with other teams] started at 9:30 AM. It’s just a different mentality here. You get used to it. We’re all creatures of habit. After the first month, it was fine.”
“I’ve learned a lot about how these guys work, and how they workout over the summer,” Penner elaborated. “There’s a lot more focus on strength and flexibility as a combination, as opposed to just strength.”
Penner did indeed spend a lot of time in the weight room this summer.
“I lost a bit of my tan,” Penner said with a grin, joking about the long hours. “I had a pretty good one in June.”
After all that, one thing is clear: Penner has completely obliterated all doubts about his physical conditioning. Certainly, claims that he is still in poor physical condition are laughable, at best, as is the photo those claims are based on.
To paraphrase an old saying, one should never believe everything they read, see or hear—the credibility and reliability of the source, the writer, and the publisher must always be taken into account.
That said, both the Edmonton Journal and Puck Daddy are fine publications, worthy of your time and attention, as are the authors of those stories, both credible professionals with real sources. But in this case, it appears that they did not look into the credibility and reliability of the photo, not to mention the photographer who claimed to have taken it (the Edmonton Journal story did mention that the photo and/or the alleged photographer may not be credible, but they apparently did not look into the matter).
Penner Goes Beach Hopping
Penner, who owns a home in Newport Beach, California, was making the more than forty-mile trip (each way) to the Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo, the Kings’ practice facility, for his workouts. But he recently moved to Hermosa Beach, which is just a hop, skip and a jump away.
“It’s very stressful, driving the carpool lane without someone in the passenger seat,” Penner joked about his long commute.
“We had a nice conversation,” Penner replied. “You just pay the fine. There’s no demerits, your insurance doesn’t go up. It’s a slap on the wrist. But it’s good for the state, right, because there’s a budget crisis?”
Elliott continued to play the straight man role, saying, “So you’ve helped our state?”
“Willingly,” Penner responded with a grin.
Looking back to last season, Penner indicated that had more difficulty adjusting to his new surroundings than he originally believed.
“There were a lot of things going on behind the scenes that, maybe, I didn’t fully understand,” he said. “I’ve been traded before, but not during a season.”
“Getting my family down here, getting the kid in school, getting situated—that was probably harder on me, sub-consciously, than I realized,” he added. “But now, everything has settled down, and I’m looking forward to it. It was a great summer. It was nice to be here, and to assimilate myself into the team, being at the rink [almost] every day, being around the trainers, and different players coming in throughout the summer.”
With training camp just days away, like his teammates, Penner is looking forward to getting things going, especially given the fact that the Kings are now expected to contend for the National Hockey League’s Western Conference title after they added center Mike Richards and left wing Simon Gagne to their lineup.
“It just makes us that much better when you have two, number one centers, and a guy like Simon, who has scored thirty goals quite a few times in this league,” Penner noted. “On paper, we look like a great team. Now it’s time for us to put the pieces together.”
Penner, who is in the final year of his contract, is one of the pieces the Kings are counting on to provide offense in the coming season. But playing for a new contract is not something he is concerned about.
“I don’t really worry about the contract year stigma,” he stressed. “It’s more about having a bounce back year, and having a year like I the one I had a couple of years ago in Edmonton, and exceeding those numbers.”
Raw audio interview with Dustin Penner (5:06; Extraneous material and dead air have been removed)
Mayor’s Manor also has comments about Penner and his conditioning from Kings defenseman Matt Greene.
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