Young players come out for training camp season

Sports Talk: A closer look at hockey's training camps with the Virden Oil Capitals

I was in Virden last weekend to check out the Virden Oil Capitals hockey training camp and I thought I’d give you a rundown of what a training camp is all about.

Eighty players, including 15 returning and signed players, attended the three-day affair held at the beautiful Tundra Oil & Gas Place.

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The Junior A club is expected to go far this year after reaching the semi finals of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League (MJHL) last year with a 31-21-4-4 record.

It certainly is a long three days for the 16 to 20 year olds vying for a spot on the team. I can only imagine the thoughts of these young men as they approached this camp: Will I make the team? Where will I be going to high school this year? Back home or in Virden? If I do make the team, my dream of a NCAA scholarship stays alive. If I don’t, then it’s probably back to Jr B and if I’m young enough, maybe another try next year at cracking Jr A. And I’m sure many players knew as the camp went on that they had little chance of making the team - yet they had to keep playing.

Enormous pressure for one so young.

The camp kicked off on Friday at 10:30 a.m. with a fitness test for returning players followed by registration, skills work, and power skating for the rookies - with the last group finishing up at 9:45 at night.

Next morning, the rookies were split into three teams wearing blue, red, and black Oil Caps training jerseys.

And then the games began - literally.

Starting bright and fairly early at 8:45 a.m. and finishing at 12:15 p.m., three games were played, allowing each team to play twice on Saturday morning. Each game was two, 25-minute periods, with the clock running and two referees maintaining law and order. (Actually, the games were extremely tame; very little hitting.) The Zamboni cleaned the ice after each game.

After the rookies, it was time for a 45-minute practice of just the returning players from last year’s team and signed players. While the vets were on the ice, the rookies and parents attended an information session in the adjoining banquet hall with the Oil Caps staff.

Like clockwork, when the returning/signed players left the ice, it was time for a goaltenders-only practice. Ten goalies attended camp vying for two positions.

After the masked men finished doing their thing of stopping, skating, and sliding on the ice (and of course followed by the omnipresent 10 minute Zamboni twirl around the rink), it was back again to the gruelling three rookie games - different sequence of teams but exactly the same set up of just a few hours prior.

The exhausted rookies left the ice at 5:45 p.m. and the returning vets closed the show with a 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. practice session. (The first of six exhibition games for the Oil Caps was on Sept. 3 in Portage la Prairie so they had to squeeze in practice time wherever they could find it and with as many players as they knew would make the team.)

The following day of training camp on Sunday arrived early with the rookies having one last chance to impress the Oil Caps coaching staff. Once again they hit the ice with their first of three games starting at 8:45 a.m. and finishing at 12:15 p.m.

A final All Players meeting off ice was held between 12:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. and the camp concluded with a 3:00 p.m. inter-squad game of the returning players and selected top rookies.

If an impressive organization together with enthusiastic, skilled players count for anything, then the Virden Oil Capitals are setting themselves up for a “banner hanging” season. 

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