NEWS file photo  Brodie Smith, a product of the Oceanside Minor Hockey system, will help lead the newly christened Quality Foods Oceanside Generals into the 2016-17 Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League season beginning this weekend. Here, Smith skates for the Generals during a December 2015 game against Peninsula at Oceanside Place Arena.

NEWS file photo Brodie Smith, a product of the Oceanside Minor Hockey system, will help lead the newly christened Quality Foods Oceanside Generals into the 2016-17 Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League season beginning this weekend. Here, Smith skates for the Generals during a December 2015 game against Peninsula at Oceanside Place Arena.

Generals hockey camp boasts numbers, experience

Oceanside Junior B club to play series of scrimmages Saturday and Sunday at Oceanside Place Arena in preparation for 2016-17 season opener

Local hockey fans can get their first look at the new Quality Foods Oceanside Generals hockey team when the club hosts its main camp this weekend at Oceanside Place Arena.

On the other hand, the team may not be all that new.

“We had a lot of young kids last year and nearly all of them are coming back,” said Peter Creighton, a director with the Junior B program. “We’re now being looked at by the strongest teams in the conference as a team to beat. Of course, we’ve still got to prove that out.”

Camp opens Friday afternoon with an evaluation by veteran general manager Rob Gaudreault  and the coaching staff of first-year head coach Gerry Bickerton and assistants Scott Bickerton and Chris Lennox.

Plenty of scrimmage and game action is on tap for fans on the weekend, with scrimmages set for 9 a.m. and 3:15 p.m. Saturday. After another scrimmage at 9:30 a.m. Sunday, the roster will be trimmed and a “Top 30” game will be played Sunday at 2 p.m.

Creighton said more than 40 players are expected, a larger turnout than the camp has seen in recent years.

“We feel we have strong talent coming in; there will be good competition in the camp,” Gerry Bickerton said. “It’s definitely more about the quality than the numbers. We have an opportunity to return a good amount of quality players from last year, but the talent we saw in recruiting was worth inviting as well.”

Bickerton will be the team’s ninth head coach in three years, but he did serve as the lead assistant last season to Brad Knight.

The Generals will host Comox in an exhibition game Aug. 27, and will open the home season Saturday, Sept. 10, against the Westshore Wolves.

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