NHL players are tough and tenacious, playing a game built on machismo and muscle.
This season, the Lightning are once again using a women's power coach to help speed up the development of the their young talent.
Barb Underhill brings a woman's touch to the NHL. For the last seven years, the former Olympic and World Champion figure skater has been helping pro players find an edge.
"When she's out there, everyone is just in awe," said 2012 1st-round pick Slater Koekkoek.
The hockey mom gets a lot of looks. It's a job she just fell into after her husband bought a minor league team. After working with some of the players, the NHL came calling. The Lightning are one of four teams she's worked with.
"It's crazy," Underhill said. "I never dreamed of it, I'll tell you that much."
At first, players are just shocked. Barb remembers her first session with the Ranger's Brian Boyle.
"He kind of looked down to me and was like, ‘what are you going to teach me, right?' " Underhill recalled. "After the first session, he realized I could stay with him. I gained a lot of respect, because the second day he came to try to get on the ice, and he couldn't hardly walk."
It's pretty rare to see a women on the ice at NHL rinks. While some players didn't expect that when they first arrived for the Lightning's Development Camp, it didn't take long for them to adjust to it. Underhill's personality has made her an instant hit.
"It's awesome," Koekkoek said. "She's a really fun person. I've really enjoyed my time with her."
Players notice immediate improvements, including this year's first round pick Jonathan Drouin.
"Barb is probably the fastest skater I've ever seen," Drouin said. "She just glides out there and she really shows us good stuff for game situations."
"She's not afraid to tell you if you're messing up or doing something wrong," said 2012 2nd-round pick Dylan Blujus. "She's friendly about it, so she's good."
Barb doesn't see herself as a pioneer. She says the goal for her and her assistant Tracy Tutton is to make an impact.
"They need to feel a difference," Underhill said. "Once they feel a difference. I kind of wait for them to say to me, wow that felt very easy. My intention is to make everything feel more easy. Because I'm helping them skate in a more efficient way."
After three hours on the ice, Barb skates off knowing she's made an difference -- and even she feels the difference.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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