The Cominco Arena will be heating up this week as hockey players grind it out for a spot on the Trail Smoke Eaters roster.
Close to 70 players will face off during the three-day Smokies training camp that starts Thursday and concludes with the Orange vs White game Saturday.
Assistant coach Bob Dever spent the last three years coaching in Hungary and after eight years away from the BCHL is excited about hitting the ice again and evaluating the Smokies’ prospects.
“There are some guys who have been signed out of spring camp and then there’s some guys we’re pretty excited about in terms of recruiting and then there’s always the wild cards that come in and wow you,” said Dever.
With the advent of the Internet, the way staff recruits players has changed, but there’s always a player that comes in under the radar and has a great camp. That’s what Smokies’ coaching and scouting staff are looking for and hoping.
“There’s not a ton of surprises . . . but there is the odd guy who comes in and is not the type of player you thought they would be. That’s the beauty of training camp everybody starts on a fresh slate.”
The Smokies have a good core of over-age players from last year but it doesn’t mean their positions are secure as there is always a good group of ambitious and excited young guys that want to take spots, he added.
But if players are looking to impress Smoke Eater staff, Dever suggests they play their own game.
“I like to tell kids, ‘If you’re a dancer, dance and if you’re a singer, sing.’ Don’t try to be something that your not . . . but the other side of the coin is that you always want to be noticed.”
The new assistant coach won’t say the Smokies are in a re-building stage but after losing six of its top scorers from last year, some sports pundits have picked the Trail team to finish in the division basement this season.
“I’ve heard some rumbling about people saying we’re picked to finish dead last, but that’s okay – there’s nothing wrong with upsetting people’s expectations about being in last place.”
Dever looks at his absence from the BCHL as a positive for the Smokies. Although unfamiliar with many of the players, the coach goes into camp with fresh eyes where “every kid has a chance to prove themselves.”
The players are divided into four teams of about 15 skaters and practice in the morning before scrimmaging in the afternoon Thursday. Friday ice times are all scrimmages. The camp wraps up with the top 30 skaters going head-to-head in a high-intensity Orange vs White final scrimmage Saturday.
Trail also hosts the Labour Day tournament with Powell River Kings and the Alberta Junior Hockey League’s Brooke’s Bandits, as well as new edition, the Wenatchee Wild from the U.S. Junior League. The first game goes Sept. 1.
Smoke Eaters camp schedule:
10-11 a.m. – Practice Team Red
11:30-12:30 a.m. – Practice
1-2 p.m. – Practice Team Gold
2:30-3:30 p.m. – Practice
4- 5:15 – Game 1 Red vs White
5:45- 7 p.m. – Game 2
Gold vs Blue
10-11:15 a.m. – Game 3
Blue vs White
11:45 a.m.-1 p.m. – Game 4
Red vs Gold
2-3 p.m. – Goalie Session
4-5:15 p.m. – Game 5
Gold vs White
5:45-7 p.m. – Game 6
Red vs Blue
9-10 a.m. – Game 7 White vs Red
10:30-11:30 a.m. – Game 8
Blue vs Gold
1-3 p.m. – Final Game
Orange vs White