While it might be in less than ideal circumstances, coaches and players are optimistic about the start of Bonnyville Pontiacs main training camp.
The usual camp exercises, on-ice sessions, and team building will remain – plus an extra hour and a half of travel to and from Frog Lake, who will host the team until the RJ Lalonde gets ice in early September.
“Definitely it’s a thunderbolt that we have to deal with. Something that’s out of our hands as well as the players hand, and we’re gonna work around it,” said Coach and GM, Rick Swan.
“Frog Lake has been an amazing host, they’re gearing up their ice plant early. They’re making sure their facilities are ready, and they’re really going above and beyond to make us feel welcome.”
The extra hour and a half spent on the bus together will create another chance in the dense camp to do things with “intention and purpose.”
Basically, leaving no stone unturned.
“We know it will give us a chance to teambuild and get to know everyone a little better. Ultimately, the more a team knows each other, the more trust is created.”
Forty players will register for camp from all across Canada, including ten veterans returning from the Pontiacs squad which went 21-31-8 last season. It will be new Assistant Coach, TJ Millar’s first camp with the team as well.
“Our mission objective is to find 25 players to help us get the best team possible so that we have an opportunity to compete with the best teams in the Alberta Junior Hockey League.”
In that mix, is ten local players who will compete for a spot on a roster full of depth.
Goaltender Colby Muise, and the added defencemen Jeremy Gervais, Sean Thomson, and Cody Lehner, round out some of the key acquisitions to a team that Swan said earlier this month, could be of the franchise’s best.
“It gives us an opportunity to see what’s up and coming for the future within the town of Bonnyville, but also gives them a real good measuring stick to see where they are in comparison – to what I feel – is the deepest team that I have ever been involved with.”
It also changes the type of player the Pontiacs will look at in camp, “character-type players that possess non-negotiable intangibles.”
“We’ve got a team that not only has ability this year, but we don’t have to sacrifice any more and go for either talent or character. We have an opportunity this year to make sure we get both with every single player we have.”
“Those who didn’t prepare – we’ll know right away.”
“We have to have an identity and leaving an impression each and every single night. The town and community of Bonnyville want an honest person and an honest hockey player, honest with their work ethic, and honest with each other in a teammate setting….they’re gonna have to bring it every day. And that’s a difficult thing.”
The ice in Frog Lake should be finished today, Wednesday, and ready for the first on-ice session Thursday. Frog Lake has voiced their excitement for the rare opportunity to host Pontiacs camp.
The first preseason game is August 28 in Frog Lake against the Lloydminster Bandits.