Home Pittsburgh Sports College Basketball Dropping The Gloves: Tom Fitzgerald

Dropping The Gloves: Tom Fitzgerald

Every summer the Penguins invite a group of their top prospects to a week-long development camp. The camp took place last month at the Consol Energy Center, and an estimated 5,000 fans showed to watch the scrimmage that took place on the final day of the camp. PSR contributing writer Alex Nseir spoke with assistant to the general manager Tom Fitzgerald.

AN: What do you want the prospects to take away from the camp?
Compete is the biggest thing our team did in the middle of the season, when we didn’t have Sidney and Geno. We competed every night. And we competed every night because we played the right way. This camp, what we try to do is instill the details and the habits that we like to play with. So when these guys leave here, they know exactly how we approach every day. They know exactly what’s expected.

Our scouts know exactly what a Penguin is; the core components of what we want from players. They go out and do a great job digging and digging and digging into character, work ethic, (drive to) compete. At the end of the day, they all can play hockey. Then we bring them here to educate them all on what a Penguin really is.

AN: What elements of what it takes to be an NHL professional surprise some of the younger guys?
I’m sure the media training. The things that I personally still don’t understand. Tweeting, twittering – I don’t get it. But (we teach them) how dangerous that stuff can be. The NHL security meeting, I think, was a real eye-opener. Each year the message could be different. This year it was money fraud and identity theft. What real things can happen out in the world. It could be from going to a party and things that can happen at a party. They’re all aware of it, but when you see it first hand and watch a video, and see Keith Tkachuk, who talks about losing money. His bank account keeps dwindling – someone stole his identity and stole a bunch of money from him. Those are the eye-opening things. I think the nutrition seminar that we had was very good especially for these young guys. These guys are the grassroots of our organization. Getting them off to a good head start to their pro career is really important.

AN: How are some of the prospects responding to and picking up the Penguins’ system?
It’s more like an appetizer. The guys who are coming back—(2011 draft picks Joe) Morrow and  (Scott) Harrington—to our rookie tournament, our rookie camp in September, we want to give them a head start. A heads up on how we want to play there in a tournament setting, in game situations. This is part of grooming them for that, too. We’re going to Oshawa, (Ontario) for only three games, but the plan is to go and compete and win. We give them the details earlier rather than later, and that’s why we’ve always been successful up there, because our guys always understand what we want to do.

AN: How have the prospects responded to Bill Guerin as the new player development coach?
You have that high-profile guy who’s so approachable that makes him the special person that he is. That’s what I think makes us a special organization – because of the people that are here. It starts with David Morehouse to Ray (Shero) right down. That’s a big part of who we are.

AN: Can you comment on the two Pittsburgh natives participating in the camp this year, goalie Rob Madore and defenseman Andrew Blazek?
Blazek was a last-minute addition because of an injury to one of our prospects. We wanted to have a certain amount of defensemen, and we figured let’s dip into the local scene. He’s come in and he’s actually been really impressive. He skates really well. I was told he just moved to defense a couple of years ago, so that’s even more impressive. And Rob Madore, this kid is here at the rink before any of the staff members. He walks over with the staff members at like 6:30, 7 o’clock in the morning. He doesn’t leave until 5, 5:30. He’s just really enjoying what this is all about. It shows a lot about his work ethic, his character, how much he appreciates the invite.  He’s going to be a senior at Vermont and we look forward to watching him play.

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