Spring Camp provides opportunity for Smokie hopefuls

Over 100 players expected for sessions throughout the weekend

Bill Birks plunges head first into his role as head coach and general manager of the Trail Smoke Eaters this weekend.

Less than two weeks after assuming the team’s top job, Birks’s evaluation talents, and eyesight, will be put to the test when over 100 players arrive in town for the Smokies Spring Camp.

“We have about 90 skaters and 14 goalies,” said Birks. “There’s lot of good kids coming in.”

With a huge turnover for next year’s roster, camps like this one will become crucial towards filling the holes.

“There is a ton of spots to fill,” agreed Birks, about at least 10 spots for sure if not more.

The camp has not only attracted several players from the Kootenay region but also interest from far-flung areas.

“We have kids coming from Colorado, Connecticut, Oregon, Washington, Alaska and Alberta,” said Birks.

The players hit the ice Friday morning at 10:30 a.m. with one-hour sessions throughout the day pausing for a lunch break between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. Scrimmages continue after that until the final one beginning at 5:30 p.m.

Saturday serves up a similar schedule with players on the ice at 8:45 a.m. for one-hour sessions. There is a break between 12:15 p.m. and 4 p.m. with sessions resuming until 7:30 p.m.

Sunday’s timetable has players on the ice by 8 a.m. and wrapping up camp after the final sessions ends at 11:30 a.m.

Keeping an eye on so many players will be tough but Birks has enlisted some experienced help.

A trio of Kootenay International Junior Hockey League coaches – Rylan Ferster of the Revelstoke Grizzlies, Terry Jones of the Beaver Valley Nitehawks and Blair Robinson of the Sicamous Eagles – will lend their evaluation expertise to the camp.

Birks added with five games for each player, there should be ample opportunity to get a good take on the players.