I’ve had the first day of camp marked on my calendar for quite some time and as the days drew nearer the excitement to begin the season grew. With all of the desire to play it never really sinks in that it’s starting until you’re bags are packed and you’re your way to the airport. Once I walked into the Ottawa international airport the all too familiar feeling set in. It’s a little sad to say but airports and airplanes have grown to become a second home.
I touched down in Toronto at about noon on Friday getting me to our hotel around 1:30 pm. Camp always starts the same with the mandatory physicals and concussion testing which to me is an opportunity to annoy our training staff and team doctors for the first time. We are lucky to have such a great medical team in Minnesota (Summit Orthopedics) that has been able to be a part of this team for a few years now.
Practice was set to start at 6:30 pm and players begin strolling in a couple hours before. It gives us a chance for a quick introduction to the new faces and reuniting us with familiar ones.
Finally we got to throw on the pads and we hit the floor. Having played for coach Sullivan for 5-plus-years I have a good sense of what to expect in our camp sessions. As always the tempo was fast and our coaching staff is pushing us; I made it a whole 15 minutes until I took a stick in the chin and had to leave the floor to get stitched up. It was a great welcome back. The first session gave us an opportunity to teach systems and go over what is expected of each end of the floor, a good little game prep before our exhibition game in Rochester the following evening.
On Saturday we loaded up the bus and drove down to Rochester for our first preseason game. The bus ride is just long enough to give us time to bond or for Andrew Suitor and I play some cards. Our annual exhibition game against Rochester gives us an opportunity to see where we may be at as a team. Rochester has won three championships in a row, and a perfect test for players and a team as a whole to see if they belong in this league.
For new players it allows them to line up against offensive greats like Cody Jamieson and Dan Dawson as well as potentially the world’s best goalie Matt Vinc. The game went really well for us as a team, our offense seemed to gel and the ball movement was in and out of sticks allowing everyone to contribute. Defensively we were fast moving up and down the floor all night and our goalies both played really well. Instantly there was just a great feeling in the locker room and on the floor and something really exciting for us to grow on. Regardless of the game being preseason it is always nice to get a win and makes a long bus ride back go by a little quicker.
We got back into Oakville around 2:30 am to get as much sleep as we could before were back on the floor against Calgary the next morning.
The Calgary game went much like Rochester—we played well and continued to grow within our coaches’ framework. We left a lot of room for improvement but showed some great potential as well.
I am not too sure if it is because last season went so poorly or not, but this season and this group of guys has just a great atmosphere and it is really exciting to be a part of it. I can honestly say last weekend’s camp was a lot of fun and the team is headed in a good direction.
Of course camp always ends with a nice three hour stay at the Toronto airport where I get to sit with some teammates, watch some NFL, have a good meal and relax.
Looking forward to camp number two!