By Connor Hall’s own assessment, the game of hockey continues to change a lot.
“There’s no need for the big bruiser anymore,” said the gritty 6’2” defenceman from Cambridge, ON.
It would seem somewhat ironic then that he spent a lot of time in the boxing ring this past summer dropping 30 pounds for his best shot of earning an invite to NHL camp.
Stepping into the squared-circle with the former world #1-ranked super middleweight champion Syd “The Jewel” Vanderpool twice a week was about learning the quickness of the sport.
“Syd taught me a lot about the work ethic side of training,” said Hall.
“Just learning bits and pieces from him helped a lot.”
It’s certainly been a career evolution for the recently-graduated Rangers player, who accumulated 174 PIM in 115 regular season games with the team.
Injuring his left shoulder first in the 2016-2017 season (a year after he was taken in the third round of the NHL Draft by the Pittsburgh Penguins), he then hurt his other shoulder during the playoffs the following season. Both times, he needed to go under the knife for repairs that ultimately didn’t heal as hoped. The final procedure on his left shoulder occurred in early January 2019.
Since the end of May through August, Rangers Director of Sports Science and Development Coach Brandon Merli “has done a great job getting me stronger” said Connor. Merli began by working Hall’s shoulder hard enough in order to get it into perfect shape.
“This is the first time I can say I’m going to a camp in unreal shape and with a fully healthy body that actually gives me a chance to sign a professional contract and play professional hockey,” he said from Arizona rookie camp.
Despite things not working out with the Coyotes, another opportunity has presented itself at the AHL’s Rochester Americans training camp in late-September.
That’s all Hall wants – a legitimate shot to prove what he can do when he’s 100% healthy.
“Under the circumstances, signing any type of contract that would allow me to play pro and help get my feet wet would be great,” he said.
Despite his most recent opportunity to keep playing the game he loves at a high level, Hall conceded to “feeling nerves at the end of last season.”
“I didn’t get a camp invite the year before and then I didn’t play the full season – so I thought this might’ve been the end,” said the Kitchener fan favourite.
“It’s been really hard. I’ve had a lot of long summers (of recovery) compared to everyone else – which can be both a good and bad thing.
“But I just stayed focused and driven.”
Reflecting on the only OHL team he’s played for, Hall was quick to share that it’s been “a great four years in Kitchener and been fun to learn from the coaching staff, because they can all say that they’ve been through it too.”