The first time worked so well, Chris Terry ended up going back for more.
The 23-year-old Checkers forward is in the midst of his second consecutive summer as part of small group of players training with former NHL player Gary Roberts. He recently completed one phase of that regimen, only to move on to the BioSteel camp attended by a handful of NHL players, including the Hurricanes' Jay Harrison, Jeff Skinner and Anthony Stewart.
Having felt a clear difference after his first time through the program, Terry is hoping for a similar boost as he enters his fourth pro season.
"I noticed it right away," he said. "I felt a lot stronger and was a lot more confident going into the corners because my balance was better. "
The results were also apparent later in the campaign, when Terry felt he played his best hockey instead of wearing down from the grind of a season that saw him dress for every game save for a brief charging suspension in November.
Ron Francis, the Hurricanes' vice president of hockey operations whose initial suggestion led to Terry linking up with Roberts, a former Hurricanes teammate, also noticed the difference.
"I thought it really showed in the way he played down the stretch and how he competed," noted Francis at the conclusion of the Checkers' season.
Roberts, famous for his workout regimen during his playing days, has seen his reputation as a trainer grow rapidly in recent years. Though he tries to keep his group exclusive, it has grown since the time his post-playing career first popped on the radar of Hurricanes followers as he helped prepare Skinner for his highly-decorated rookie season. As early as that season's training camp, Carolina General Manager Jim Rutherford pointed to those workouts as vital towards Skinner being able to step right in to the NHL at age 18, just months after his draft.
Terry characterized those workouts as difficult yet not overzealous.
"He always says to train hard but don't overtrain," recited Terry, before adding an all-important caveat. "But don't get me wrong. It's hard."
For Terry, the early results were such that they actually required adjustments on the ice, most notably with his skating.
"It was actually hard at first," he said. "I had to get used to being stronger than I'd ever been."
Still, Terry, who checked in at 5-foot-10 and 197 pounds at this time last year, didn't point to that as a reason for what he perceived to be a slow start to the 2011-12 campaign. Having led the team with 34 goals during his sophomore season one year earlier, the Hurricanes' fifth-round pick in 2007 scored just twice in his first 17 games – both of which came at San Antonio on Oct. 29, the season's ninth game.
"Obviously the goals and points weren't coming, but I had numerous conversations with J.D. about how I was playing well in my own end," he said, referring to Checkers head coach Jeff Daniels. "I just didn't get the bounces I needed to get my confidence back."
He would end up finishing the season with 16 goals, a number more in line with his rookie season. He did however shatter his career high with 43 assists, many of which came while manning the point on the power play, but isn't totally consoled by that fact.
"When you score that many goals you set a standard for yourself, and that's what I'm going to hold myself to from now on," he said.
Terry hopes that another rigorous summer with Roberts and some momentum gained toward the end of the season will help with that. He enjoyed some of his most productive stretches after the calendar turned to 2012, most notably a run of 15 points in just eight games that culminated in his first AHL All-Star appearance in January.
He also endured a few lean offensive stretches as the team struggled throughout March and April, but those came with a key change from his earlier struggles.
"In the second half I was a lot more confident in games and was able to feel good about myself even if I didn't get any points," he said. "Just my overall game, even things like chipping the puck in the right way or having a good penalty kill helped keep me focused."
With a new two-year contract in hand, Terry aims to carry that momentum into next season, putting his previous slow start well behind him.
"I think I can build on it next year, for sure," he said. "For me my season was first half vs. second half, and it's the second half that's on my memory now."