The Beaver Valley Nitehawks are looking to build from the ground up as they hit the ice in Fruitvale today for training camp.
There will be ample opportunity for skaters to make the Nitehawks team as most of last year’s roster has moved on to college or Junior ‘A’ teams.
“We might be looking at only having four or five guys back,” said head coach Terry Jones. “You know that’s a lousy thing in terms of keeping some guys from last year, but it’s a really good thing that that many guys have a legitimate opportunity to play at a higher level.”
The Nitehawks have been put at a disadvantage this year with the Trail Smoke Eaters camp running simultaneously and the BCHL instituting a later opening season. In past years, the Nitehawks would run their camp following the Smokies camp so coaches would have a good idea of the players available to them.
“There’s a lot of uncertainty, before it was Trail will be running their camp to this date and they’ll make a lot of cuts, and that’s when we would start.”
Still Jones expects players from the Smokies camp to join the Nitehawks camp as cuts occur. It has made recruiting players a bit tricky but the coach is confident he’ll have a good selection of young and older players at he camp.
“Generally, there are a lot of young guys who will be attending Trail’s camp to get some experience but their focus is making our team,” he said.
Also with the loss of character guys such as Danny Bains and Ryan Bishop, the coach is looking for overage players to fill leadership roles.
“There’s some good local guys who are ready to make the jump and that’s going to fill some spots and I think the B.C. Hockey League teams as they reduce their rosters they’ll be looking to place players, so we’ll be looking to sign players from different teams.”
The toughest part for the coach is picking players for the two 16-year-old roster positions.
“I’ve watched the 16-year-olds play and frankly they’re all good – I’d like to keep them all. Those are the decisions you lose sleep over, and you want to try and maintain a good relationship with those kids because you want them to be part of your future.”
The first ice time goes tonight at 5 p.m. with two sessions on each day leading up to a Blue vs White game on Tuesday at 7 p.m.
The Nitehawks are also hosting the Nelson Maple Leafs and Grand Forks Border Bruins next weekend in a tune-up tournament with the first game going Sept. 2 at noon.