Sweat Spot: The Penguins

Updated: October 13, 2006, 10:26 PM ET
By Andy and Brian Kamenetzky | ESPN Magazine

Editor's note: For most athletes, working out is just part of the program. Lifting weights, sprints, batting practice. They know the drill. But for the top athlete working out is more than just a routine. It's a way of life and they do just about anything to push their bodies to the next level. Sweat is regular feature in ESPN Magazine and on ESPN.com that takes a look at the players who know no limits when it comes to sweating it out.

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Marc-Andre Fleury working out with his seven-pound gun.

"Grab a weapon, men, and meet me on the field," barks first sergeant J.B. Spisso as a bunch of Penguins march into West Point's Michie Stadium.

With faux M4 military assault rifles in hand, the Pens fall in across the football field for rifle-drill physical training. Spisso gives no quarter, delivering the same workout -- and jawing -- that a Special Forces unit would face. Fitness is a big part of the session -- many drills involve using the seven-pound guns like hockey sticks, as Marc-Andre Fleury does above -- but team-building is Spisso's true goal.

Virtually every exercise involves partners, like the Buddy Drag (below left), where two players carry a teammate while in a low body position that mimics a skating stance.

"Everything we did translates into something on the ice," says winger Mark Recchi.

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First sergeant J.B. Spisso barks at a bunch of Penguins.

That's because Spisso, who also coaches youth hockey, sees similarities between combat in the field and in the rink: "If you don't pick up your man, things break down. Guys score goals. Guys get hurt."

Spisso's Steel City charges performed admirably, but it's likely not a one will be bailing on hockey to be all he can be. That's especially true of last year's rookie sensation, Sidney Crosby.

Explains winger Ryan Malone: "Sid was the worst jumping-jacker I've ever seen."

Sweat also appears in ESPN The Magazine.

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