The locker rooms are filling and Heat fever is ramping up as more than 70 players take to the ice this week for the team’s main camp.
With the hockey season just weeks away, the Heat’s coaching team has begun the difficult task of choosing this year’s team.
This is the team’s third year in the KIJHL, and head coach Brad Fox is entering the season with one goal in mind – to hang a banner.
“Quite simply, it’s about winning now,” Fox explained. “We have had enough learning curves, now it is time to focus on winning.”
While the team’s second season had better results than the first, it was a far cry from the first-place position they longed for.
This year, Fox wants to make a difference – a challenge he says he is more than up for.
The team has started with switching up the timing of their camp for the first time. While many of their opposing teams have already completed their team tryouts, the Heat have only just begun. This approach, says Fox, has a number of pros and cons – the obvious con being that, by hosting their camp first every other year, they had first look at all the players.
“We wanted to see what would come down the pipes from Junior A,” said Fox, explaining why they decided to switch things up this year.
The team has also done some extensive recruiting, and is expecting players from across B.C., Alberta and even a few potential hopefuls from the United States to be at this years camp.
Fox said that he has a number of skilled players that he is very interested in coming to the camp.
“There are too many to name,” he said, noting no one’s spot on the team is solidified just yet, and even those who donned the Heat jersey last year might not make the cut this year.
“Everyone needs to earn their place,” Fox said, explaining that he is looking for a skilled team who will work well together.
Despite players just coming out of summer vacation, Fox is expecting every one of the players to be in their top condition and ready to play.
“We aren’t joking around, we want to have a winning team,” he said. “We are closer to achieving this than we were three years ago when we started and that’s exciting.”
The tryouts officially began Thursday morning with drills and skill tests taking place throughout the day.
The camp will continue throughout the week, and Chase residents are encouraged to make their way to the Art Holding Arena to get their first glimpse of their potential new players.
“It is important that they are part of it,” Fox said, explaining that so much of their existence relies on the community. “We have said it from day one, this is their team.”
There is a black and white game scheduled for Sunday morning at 9 a.m., and all of the Chase community is invited to come out and cheer on the players they think should make the cut – or to simply get their long awaited hockey fix.
Fox explained that organizers are having the game early to allow the players and their families enough time to get back home.
“A lot of them have a long drive ahead of them,” Fox said, noting that the four days of camp can be tiring.
While the team will not be picked by the end of the camp, Fox said management will have a more workable number to head into the exhibition games with.
“It is a long process,” he said, explaining that it isn’t just about finding the best players, but the ones who fit in well with the team and trying to find the role that they will serve best.
Fox hopes to have a clearer idea of the 2013-2014 Heat roster by Sept. 13. Until then, he will be working hard to carve out a winning team.