It's only August, but different vibe in Leafville as Training Camp ends
The month on the calendar says August.
Not really hockey weather as temperatures ranged in the low 30s C on the weekend.
But that didn’t stop the Nelson Leafs from being the first Kootenay International Junior Hockey League franchise out of the blocks as the Green and White kicked off the season with its 2016 training camp at the NDCC Arena.
While most everyone was thinking about cooling off from the late blast of summer, approximately 40 players battled for a spot on the new-look Leafs.
“I think the camp is going very well,” returning Leaf defenceman Kyle Chernenkoff said following the morning ice session Sunday.
Chernenkoff, who played 36 games for Nelson last season where the Crescent Valley native score five times and added 10 assists, will be counted on to help bolster a blueline that was a minus-35 last season.
“We’ve got a great group of guys all competing for spots,” Chernenkoff said.
“The tempo is high . . . which is good. So I think it’s going to be a great start to our season.”
Leafs Head Coach and Director of Player Personnel Mario DiBella and General Manager Sean Dooley logged more miles than Greyhound during the off-season to recruit the right players to restore the Leafs to the glory years of the past.
Starting the camp two weeks before most teams was another way to change up a franchise that has struggled to get out of the first round of the playoffs the past couple of seasons.
“I’m really pleased the players we have here,” DiBella said.
“They’ve come in shape, and they’re committed . . . showing us what they can do to make this hockey team.”
The camp opened Friday with on-ice sessions as well as games and off-ice meetings.
Saturday the coaching staff continued to evaluate the players before first round of cuts was made Sunday morning.
The camp concluded Sunday evening.
“We spent a lot of time finding the kind of players that we want to have here,” DiBella explained.
“Players who can play the brand of hockey we want here . . . many who have been hand picked,” DiBella adds.
The training camp determines the 14 forwards, seven defencemen and two or three netminders Nelson takes into the exhibition season, which opens August 31 against Castlegar Rebels.
DiBella is optimistic that a handful of the players selected will be locals.
“There’s always a few surprises filtering down from Junior A and there may be a few from the roster moving up from this level to Junior A but we’ve done our homework by talking to teams some of our players are going to camps with,” DiBella said.
“We pretty much know what their status is and are pretty confident with out depth chart and how we plan to move forward.”
One thing that is for certain, the Leafs don’t plan on wasting a whole lot of money transferring players on and off the roster, as was the policy last season.
The roster posted on the bulletin board Sunday as training camp breaks won’t deviate much from the one Leafs take into playoffs come February.
“It’s early. It looks good. It’s tough to say what the team is going to be like but I think we’re going to come out of the gates fine this year and have a really strong start to our season,” Chernenkoff said.
DiBella said there would be a skeleton crew of players practicing for the next few weeks while others attend Junior A training camps.
Chernenkoff is one of those players going to try his luck in the Silver City attending the camp of the Trail Smoke Eaters.
“I’m going to Trail to try my luck there,” he said. “But if I end up back in Nelson, I’m going to battle it out and be the happiest kid on the team.”
Ooooh. After last season, it’s too bad its only August.
How many sleeps are left before the season starts?
Too many for Leaf fans.