By Nick Hart | AHL On The Beat Archive
Some days after the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins practice, music can still be heard blasting throughout the hallways of the Toyota SportsPlex at Coal Street. Practice ended over an hour ago, and most players have cleared out of the room, yet the music blares on. That’s because Dominik Uher is still in the gym, giving himself an extended workout.
Armed with the riffs of System of a Down ringing through his ears, Uher pushes himself to physical limits most people wouldn’t even consider. Every squat is explosive. Every press is made with a purpose. Every push-up is done with the determination of someone who isn’t trying to just lift their body upward, but as if he was trying to push the Earth further away.
He’s an animal,” said Penguins defenseman Reid McNeill. “The way he’s working out at the rink when nobody is around, he’s not doing it for recognition. He’s putting in the work to get better and only to get better.”
Not only has Uher gained himself a reputation in the weight room, he’s routinely one of the last players off the ice at practice. The rookies always have to stick around and clean up pucks and such once the veterans have left, but Uher is right there with them. While the younger guys are paying their dues with chores, Uher is testing himself with extra line sprints.
“Even though it’s hard sometimes to do that extra work, you have to do it,” said Uher. “It’s part of my role on this team. A big part of my game is speed and skating, but speed and skating don’t come out of nowhere. You’ve got to put in some extra work.”
The extra work Uher has dedicated toward improving paid off last year when he earned his first call-up to Pittsburgh on December 23, 2014, and made his NHL debut that night against the Tampa Bay Lightning. All of those push-ups, squats, and long conditioning skates finally saw the young man from Ostrava, Czech Republic, reach his dreams of playing in the NHL.
“It was a dream come true, so there was some huge satisfaction,” said Uher. “My family was here for that, so I was happy for them, too. It was an amazing feeling, but I just hope I can make it last longer.”
So to try and extend his next NHL stay beyond the two games he got last year, Uher hit the weights even harder. He was always “pumping iron” before his call up, but now it feels more appropriate to say his workouts are “shredding steel.” Once again, his efforts are paying off.
“I think he’s been the most effective he’s been of all his years in this organization,” said McNeill. “I know he’s got only one goal this season and that’s a measurement for a lot of fans and other people, but to this team he means a lot more than the goals he scores.”
Uher plays an integral role for the Penguins as a penalty killer, shutdown forward, and insatiable forechecker. You can go ahead and add gym inspiration to his résumé, too.
“He’s a guy a lot of the younger guys and even the older guys, myself, can look at and really learn from his effort,” said McNeill. “When he’s in the gym, guys are there to work. He’s rubbing off on everybody on the team.”