The Trail Smoke Eaters August identification and development camps are set to go, with added incentive, since the BCHL announced a Dec. 1 return-to-play date on Friday.
Smoke Eaters owner Rich Murphy and Director of Hockey Operations Craig Clare had received the go-ahead to organize and run their camps after the City of Trail agreed to reopen the Trail Memorial Centre and install the ice. The tentative start date falls in line with the NHL and gives players and coaches something to work towards while at the camps.
“It’s good to get back to work, obviously,” said Clare. “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 Smoke Eaters ID Camp will hit Cominco ice from Aug. 21-23. The sessions will be similar to the annual Spring Camp (that was cancelled in April due to COVID 19), where Smokies coaches have an opportunity to identify potential junior-ready players.
“It’s for the players who are closer and ready to play junior for Trail or maybe one of the Junior B teams in the area and work with them to get some of their recruits out for the fall,” said Clare.
The Smoke Eaters will also welcome minor hockey players to sign up for a skill development camp, which offers three sessions scheduled for Aug. 17-20, Aug. 24-27, and Aug. 31-to-Sept. 3.
The Smokies coaching, scouting and hockey operations staff will offer top-tier skills development for U9-U18 minor hockey players, including puck management, edge work, speed, balance, shooting and decision making – with a low player-to-coach ratio.
“We felt that it was important, a lot of kids didn’t have the chance to get on the ice over the summer, or even playing spring hockey, and even leading up to minor hockey and what’s that going to look like, so just getting them back on the ice was important.”
In anticipation of junior and professional leagues to start up in the fall, Clare says the coaching staff will also offer highly skilled junior and professional players workout sessions from Aug. 24-27 and Aug. 31 to Sept. 3.
“It is more skills, maybe get into small-area games and conditioning-up for whenever the season starts up again.”
Craig says that some returning Smoke Eaters and commits will also attend to get into game shape, and prepare for the Smokies Main Camp which will get under way after Sept. 8.
“We will (have a Main Camp) but that’s yet to be determined; we don’t know what it’s going to look like or how big it will be,” said Clare.
According to the BCHL’s return to play plan, teams will have the option to hold an extended training camp from September to November, which will include regular on-ice training. Once the province moves into Phase 3 of viaSport BC’s Return to Play model, exhibition competition with other BCHL teams will be expanded in-region.
The current pandemic has also thrown a wrench into Smoke Eaters fans ability to watch the camps from the stands. Currently, no spectators will be allowed in the TMC for the August camps, and the participating players and instructors are required to adhere to strict rules, such as no showers, minimizing touch points, wearing full face shields, and showing up with gear on.
“We’re continuing to work with the city, and when August comes we’ll have all the safety protocols that the province has set for us, and we’re working with the city staff as well to make sure our players and our staff are all safe while we’re doing this.”
As for the Smoke Eaters’ roster, the team is developing in spite of the pandemic. Recent trades for Salmon Arm forwards Coalson Wolford and Noah Wakeford has Clare confident in the on-ice product and hopeful for a season start.
“There is still some work to do, but we are really excited about the group we have,” added Clare. “The backend starting with (Logan) Terness, and our returning group with (Kyle) Budvarson, (Cody) Schiavon, (Trevor) Isaksson … and again starting out up front with Owen Ozar, he’s going to be one of the top guys in the league.
“Then we’re going to have guys that will take a step forward like (Connor) Sweeney, (Chase) Dafoe, and (Jaden) Senkoe, and so on down the list. So we’re going to have really good depth at forward as well.”
Clare says registration has been good and anyone wishing to sign up for the camps can go online to trailsmokeeaters.com and click on “Camps” to access registration forms.