It’s the time of year when optimism reigns and potential is limitless.
But it’s also the time when a team’s fate can be decided in a matter of a few days or over a few decisions.
The Trail Smoke Eaters kick off their training camp on Monday and for new head coach and general manager Cam Keith it’ll be his first opportunity to put his fingerprints on the 2016-17 edition of the squad.
Keith and his staff will have four days to whittle down a group of 65 players to roughly 35 that will compete for the final roster spots.
It will make for a hectic few days next week when players will be evaluated in a short period of time.
“Luckily I have three assistants with a lot of experience and some help from some other guys,” said Keith.
“I believe in the guys we have a round here. And I’ve developed a good sense of what I believe makes a good player.”
Camp opens on Monday with fitness testing for the players then the action hits the ice on Tuesday.
“We’re going to get right into it,” said Keith.
He plans on holding two scrimmages each day from 10:30 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. at the Cominco Arena.
He’ll stick to that schedule on Wednesday then by next Thursday cuts will be made to reduce the roster to roughly 35 players or two teams of players.
That night, on Aug. 25, the team will hold its anual Black and Orange intra-squad gme at 7 p.m.
Once the dust has settled, the remaining players will be put through a week of practices, evaluation and game situation as the roster continues to get trimmed.
The Smokies have two pre-season games planned, a home-and-home series with the Penticton Vees, with Trial hosting the first game on Sept. 2 and travelling to Penticton the next night.
But before they start loading the bus, Keith and his staff will have their eyes squarely focused on the skaters.
“A player has to standout in some type of way,” explained Keith. “They have to make us notice them by sacrificing their bodies, making the right plays, doing the stuff that makes teams win.”
Keith is the first to admit that the makeup of the team won’t be visible until they come out of camp.
“You don’t know the exact makeup of team because everyone brings a different type of skill.
“You go into any season with a general idea but what you want are the best character kids.”
The Smokies brain thrust will have a little less than three weeks to put together the team. And they’ll be put to the test immediatly.
The BCHL regular season set to open Sept. 9 when the Smokies take on the defending Canadian champion West Kelowna Warriors in West Kelowna.
If anything, the evening might provide the type of motivation the players need heading into the gruelling BCHL grind.
That night, the Warriors plan on raising their BCHL, western and national championship banners, which will no doubt draw an enthusiastic crowd.
The teams return to Trail the following night, Sept. 10, for the Smokies home opener.