Major Midget Kootenay Ice head coach Kris Boyce was impressed with the skill on display at the team’s training camp this weekend at the Trail Memorial Centre, and has high expectations going into the BC Hockey Major Midget season.
“We were pleasantly surprised with how the camp turned out,” said Boyce. “For me seeing these kids for the first time, I thought it was higher than my expectations going into it. The level of play was a couple of notches higher than I thought it was going to be.”
About 35 players from across the Kootenays turned up for the camp with a couple Alberta players from Whitecourt thrown into the mix. As recent additions to the team themselves, Boyce and assistant coach Paul Mailey were unfamiliar with the majority of the players, however, hard work from GM Terry Jones helped lay the scouting ground work for the camp. The coaches looked at it as an opportunity to go in with fresh eyes.
“It was actually good because I’ve never seen them before, so picking and evaluating them this is the first time you’ve seen them,” said Boyce. “We had no preconceptions.”
The players were put through a rigorous on and off ice training regimen with fitness and skill testing, practices, and scrimmages rounding out the three-day camp. At the end of it, the Ice coaching staff reduced the number of players on the roster to 18 with 11 forwards, five defencemen, and one goalie, and have a Sept. 20 deadline to finalize the roster and card 20 players.
The Ice’s camp started later than most of the BC Major Midget teams, many of which have begun exhibition play. But it also gave players an opportunity to attend the Jr. A Trail Smoke Eaters camp that ends today and upcoming Kootenay Division KIJHL camps this weekend, including the Beaver Valley Nitehawks and Castlegar Rebels.
The Ice begin practice next week and will play in a pre-season tournament in Kelowna Sept. 9.
“I haven’t seen any of the teams play, so I don’t know what our level is suppose to be,” said Boyce. “We’ll see three or four of these (Midget) teams playing in it so when we go to that tournament we’ll see where we need to be.”
The Major Midget Kootenay Ice and Female AAA Kootenay Wild teams had been based in Nelson since 2006, but lacking a competitive edge, the team was in danger of folding. But in May, BC Hockey approved the move to Trail as part of a High Performance Hockey Academy at J. L. Crowe Secondary School that will be overseen by General Managers Jones and Dara Waterstreet.
The program requires players to move to the area and attend Crowe where their studies include hockey as part of the curriculum, in addition to a focus on education, while forming a healthy team dynamic.
“This year they’ll be more of a team than they have been in the past,” said Boyce. “They’ll have all the guys billeting out here, they’re staying here and going to school together, so it will be really good for them.”
Undoubtedly, the move has its critics, and will potentially cost the Nelson and District Community Centre over $20,000 in annual revenue. Many will be watching closely as the Ice and Wild enter their first seasons based out of Crowe in the BC Hockey League.
“We’re going to have a good group of guys coaching, and hopefully we do well, and show these guys we can actually play in this league,” said Boyce. “Our goal is to make the playoffs.”