Future on display during day one of Kootenay Ice training camp

Future on display during day one of Kootenay Ice training camp

Team prospects take part in fitness tests, have first practice as introduction to new-look franchise

There was a lot of nervous energy on Friday morning at the first day of the Kootenay Ice’s prospects training camp.

34 players ranging from 14 to 18 years old were in town, eager to make a good impression as they participated in dryland fitness testing and their first on-ice sessions.

Despite the tension however, new Ice head coach James Patrick could hardly wipe the smile off his face.

“I think there were a lot of nerves [today], but as a staff we’ve got to try and convert that into excitement,” Patrick said. “I want them to have fun and enjoy this experience, this [young] group especially.”

Entering his first year as a head coach in the WHL, Patrick is bringing significant NHL experience to the organization. He played over 20 seasons in the league and then spent over a decade as an assistant coach.

Junior hockey is an exciting challenge for Patrick, and he hopes to start forging positive relationships from day one.

“For some of these players, it’s their introduction to us and our introduction to them,” he said. “[We’ll] be part of their hockey journey, for some of them, over the next two or three years. For me, I want them to enjoy this experience and enjoy bonding with their future teammates and their peers.”

Joining Patrick at the training camp, were a slew of other new faces in the coaching department. In addition to gaining a new head coach, a new general manager and a new ownership group over the offseason, Kootenay also added several experts in specific fields to their staff.

From the presence of strength and conditioning coach Neil Ross, to mental skills coach Doug Swanson, the Ice will receive a lot of guidance at camp.

“I’m really hoping the young guys [will] learn [at least] one thing from the camp,” Patrick said. “Whether it’s from Laurie Dickson on health and wellness, or the mental skills coach, or some of the coaches on the ice, if each kid can come away with one thing [that would be great].”

Beginning at 10 a.m. on day one, the Ice’s prospects were immediately put through the ringer. Rotating through stations that measured everything from strength to vertical leap to endurance, it was not an easy start to the week.

“I can remember seeing 15 year vets in the NHL, when they have the fitness testing, they’d be nervous, but it’s like they’re race horses and they’re ready to go and get doing it,” Patrick said of the first part of the day. “The fitness level so far looks really good [and] the kids are working their hardest.”

According to Patrick, seeing some of the strides that certain players made over the off-season in their fitness level was outstanding.

“[Just] from visually seeing and listening to the guys doing the strength over at Core Fitness, Peyton Krebs, in just one year, [shows] the difference is immense,” he said. “You can see some size on him, just a little bit of thickness.”

At the same time, however, the results of the off-ice workout won’t be a make or break situation. It will just give the team good information to work with in conjunction with many other factors

“With this young group, we’re not going to overemphasize it or pay too much attention to [the fitness results],” Patrick said. “You see the kids that we drafted last year [and] they’re skinny 15-year-old boys.

“I think a lot of them are at a younger age of training in fitness [and this] is just kind of a guide to see where they are … when our vets come in and do their testing [though], I’m going to be interested to see who put in the work this summer.”

While Krebs has grown, several players are where he was a year ago — still developing despite exceptional talent and work ethic.

“When I see 15-year-olds coming in, [I need] to remember that they look young and they’ve got a lot of growing to do still,” Patrick said. “Connor McClennon [is] solid [but] he still has some growing to do. Anson McMaster is 6’5 and he’s gangly, but you know that in the next three years, he’s going to fill out.”

McClennon, listed at 5’9, was the Ice’s first pick at the 2017 WHL Bantam Draft and was the second overall selection. McMaster was the team’s next pick, at 23rd overall.

After the intense morning, in the late afternoon the players finally got a chance to hit the ice for a low pressure practice.

Split into two groups, every player got a chance to participate in drills and receive input from Patrick and associate coach John Klemm, assistant coaches Gordon Burnett and Roman Vopat and goaltending consultant Denis Sproxton.

The first group, ‘Team Cracknell’, was joined by a special guest — Adam Cracknell, the team’s namesake, who is a former Ice player and current NHLer with the Dallas Stars.

According to Patrick, after the long day of fitness testing, the practice was more about basic skill and fun than competition.

“It’s more just some flow, puck handling and skating drills,” he said. “We’ll start doing a little more [compete] as we move into the week.”

Despite this one-time message, the team’s overall goal is to be competitive. The slogan on the back of t-shirts drawn by the players at camp reads “Compete for the Ice”.

Patrick said that is the message he plans to instill for the entire season.

“I think [that slogan] can carry us a lot farther than maybe we think or others think we can,” he said. “If it can be the backbone of our team, if we compete for the Kootenay Ice team and if we compete for our teammates and then compete for the opportunity to play for the Ice, compete for your role on the team and keep all those things in mind, I think it can lead us to success.”

The Kootenay Ice’s prospects training camp will continue tomorrow with goalie and player sessions at Western Financial Place starting at 8:30 a.m. and a scrimmage taking place at 5:00 p.m. between Team Cracknell and Team Sinclair.

The returning players will arrive on Sunday afternoon for the main camp which will begin with fitness testing at 1:30 p.m. The training camp will come to an end on Wednesday with the ‘Black & White’ intrasquad game at 7:00 p.m at the Civic Centre in Kimberley.


Future on display during day one of Kootenay Ice training camp

Future on display during day one of Kootenay Ice training camp

Future on display during day one of Kootenay Ice training camp

Future on display during day one of Kootenay Ice training camp

Future on display during day one of Kootenay Ice training camp

Future on display during day one of Kootenay Ice training camp

Future on display during day one of Kootenay Ice training camp

Future on display during day one of Kootenay Ice training camp