The Trail Smoke Eaters opened its summer skills camp on Monday with its future on the ice.
The Smoke Eaters kicked off their U9-U18 Development and Skills Camp at the Trail Memorial Centre with a leaner look due to COVID-19, but with about 170 local and visiting players registered for the development and ID camps.
“It’s good to get back to work, obviously,” said Clare, when the camps were announced last month. “To get back on the ice, and working with the city and being able to offer an ID Camp, as well as working with the youth in the area, and even outside the area – myself and all the staff are pretty excited to get back at it.”
The development camps will help minor hockey players develop their skills in hopes of one day pulling on a Smoke Eaters jersey. An emerging concern for the BCHL organization is getting local players into the Smokies line up.
Tyler Ghirardosi was the only Greater Trail native on last year’s team, although there were a couple players, Logan Terness and Cody Schiavon, with family ties to the area.
In a conversation with Smoke Eaters owner Rich Murphy, he said that the organization has done a great job of recruiting and committing high-end players, but haven’t been as successful at developing local talent.
“Sometimes situations like this really forces you to focus on the things you need to work on,” said Murphy. “We’ve done a really good job in putting together a team, doing a really good job with our production and providing an atmosphere that’s fun to come to on a Friday or Saturday night. We did those things really well.
“What we didn’t do well, and it’s not anything to do with the staff, it took a long time to get the first part of it going. But we really need to focus on how the Trail Smoke Eaters fits into the community from a hockey standpoint and running camps.”
Having just a Smoke Eaters spring and fall camp to identify prospects isn’t sufficient, says Murphy. The Smoke Eaters have the coaches, staff and infrastructure to do more, to hold camps throughout the summer, and to instruct and groom potential players from a very young age.
“We need to do a better job of bringing in and developing local players,” said Murphy. “That’s what we’re doing here with our camps. We need to provide the community with better alternatives than what they’ve had.”
As a result, three weeks in August will be dedicated to minor hockey players ages 8-18, with a focus on skill development that includes puck management, edge work, speed, balance, shooting and decision making – with a low player-to-coach ratio.
Trail will also hold its Identification Camp this weekend, Aug. 21-23, giving junior-age players a chance to crack the Smokies line up.
The following two weekends, Aug. 28-30 and Aug. 31 to Sept. 3, Trail hosts its Junior/Pro camps for players looking to hone their competitive edge in anticipation of an upcoming season.
Trail Smoke Eaters and the City of Trail have developed a COVID-19 Safety Plan with policies, guidelines, and procedures to reduce the risk of coronavirus transmission and protect players, parents and staff.
Before joining, the camp players are required to fill out a number of forms including the TSE COVID-19 agreement, the ViaSport participation agreement, and a Hockey Canada health form.
This is also the first year where minor hockey organizations are required to rename the various categories. Initiation programs are now called U7, Novice are U9, Atoms – U11, Pee Wee – U13, Bantam – U15, Midget – U18, and Juvenile – U21.