The end of August means just one thing for thousands of hockey players across the country looking to build their hockey careers.
It’s Main Camp time, and following the close of the Trail Smoke Eaters Camp on Thursday, the local BC Major Midget League’s Kootenay Ice skate at the Cominco Arena this weekend, and the KIJHL Beaver Valley Nitehawks start their camp at the Beaver Valley Arena on Monday.
The Midget Ice expect about 35 players to suit up for their camp, while the Nitehawks are looking for closer to 50 to skate with the Jr. B club from Monday to Wednesday.
Both teams are in rebuild mode, with the Nitehawks expecting just six players to return this season, and it’s greatest concern on the back end.
“I’ve talked to a few teams in the league and everyone is looking for the same thing, that top-four defenceman,” said Hawks General Manager Jamie Cominotto. “But you know what? If we can’t find one, we’ll just have to create one.”
Cominotto and the Nitehawks did get some good news up front this week with the return of a 20-year-old veteran forward.
“I got a call from Jaxen Gemmell this morning and he’s coming back, so some real positives in the last few days for sure.”
Trail native Bradley Ross also said he’d be back with the Nitehawks, so along with Gemmell, Morgan Peace, Angus Amadio, and Simon Nemethy, not to mention a number of commits, the B.V. forward group is shaping up.
“The list seems to be growing every day,” said Cominotto. “With Jaxen and Brad Ross at the beginning of the week, our forward group looks really strong, a lot of depth.”
The Nitehawks will once again play a waiting game as last year’s players and this season’s commitments try to crack a variety of Jr. A squads across the country. The Nitehawks committed five players following their spring camp in May including forwards Michael Hagen and Paul Leroux who attended the Smoke Eaters camp along with Nemethy.
Hagen, a skilled puck-handler, acquitted himself well and will stay with the Smoke Eaters for the Wenatchee Wild exhibition games this weekend.
For Nitehawks president Jake Swanson, every player that moves on is further testament to the success of the Nitehawks program.
“That’s great, we’re a development league, and we always want to see guys progress to the next level.”
The Nitehawks final lineup will take time to unfold, but as with most Terry Jones coached teams, the result is generally very good. For Cominotto and the rest of the staff, there is no cause for panic.
“We’re always kind of the last dog at the bone,” said Cominotto. “We didn’t have a lot of defence returning, with the younger guys going to school, but we have the numbers going into camp, we just have to wait and see how everyone fits.”
The Kootenay Ice are in a similar situation. With only a handful of players eligible to return, and many of those trying for spots on the Nitehawks and Smoke Eaters, the complexion of the team will only get clearer once the Nitehawks camp wraps up.
The Kootenay Ice begin their camp on Friday at the Cominco Arena in Trail with practices at 6:45 and 7:45 p.m. On Saturday, Game 1 goes at 10 a.m. followed by fitness testing. Game 2 goes at 5:30 p.m. Sunday’s Game 3 goes at 10 a.m.
The B.V. Nitehawks open Monday with a Scrimmage at 7:30 p.m. On Tuesday and Wednesday the team practices at 9 and 10:45 a.m. with a scrimmage at 7:30 p.m.
The Nitehawks exhibition schedule starts on Thursday, Aug. 30 at home versus the Nelson Leafs at 7:30 p.m.