With the Spring Camp now just a week away I had an opportunity to understand the importance of it to both the players and the organization from Mike Hawes, the Spruce Kings Assistant General Manager and Director of Player Personnel. With a question and answer session, Hawes provided some insight to the team's direction and expectations of this year's camp.
Ron Gallo (RG): "After a few successful camps over the past few years, the Spruce Kings are doing it again. What do you expect from this year's camp?"
Mike Hawes (MH): "You're right Ron, the Spring Camp has been very successful for us in recent years and I anticipate this year's camp to be no different. Recently the camp has drawn as many as 135 players which have been placed into eight very strong and competitive teams. This year's numbers will be close to that again and will make for another tremendous camp. What's nice is we get an opportunity to watch some of the best young hockey players in BC and throughout North American right here in our backyard."
RG: "What can these players expect to gain from attending the Spring Camp this year?"
MH: "The goal for most players attending the camp will be to earn an invitation back to our main training camp in August and then a roster spot on the team. For some of the younger player, who are not yet eligible to play in the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL), it gives them an opportunity to gauge themselves against some Junior 'A' caliber player. They will get to see what they need to do to elevate their game enough to play for the Spruce Kings down the road."
RG: "Do players at this year's Spring Camp have a real chance at cracking the Spruce Kings lineup for next season?"
MH: "Every year we've had players progress from the Spring Camp to the main camp and eventually to our hockey club all in succession. Last year's camp was very successful as we had six players from the Spring Camp make it onto our roster and play the whole season. What that means is that almost one third of last year's team was made up of players who started the process by attending the Spring Camp. That's what makes the Camp such a great endeavour to undertake, despite the long hours and hard work it takes to put it on. What makes this year's Camp even more appealing to players is the fact that we did not enjoy the type of on ice success last season that we had hoped for. This means that there will be a lot of on ice changes which opens up a lot of spots for players hoping to make our team and play in the best Junior 'A' league in Canada."
RG: "What format will the Camp follow this year? Will there be any changes from past years?"
MH: "There will be one significant change to this year's Spring Camp, we will be selecting the top 42 players during the Camp to participate in a Top Prospects Game on the afternoon of Day 3. Every player will register on the morning of Day 1 where they will receive their team assignment and schedule. Each team will practice that afternoon and then play a game that evening. Day 2 will feature two games for each team, each team will also play a game on the morning of Day 3 and the camp will conclude with the Top Prospects Game. every player is guaranteed one practice and four games with those players selected as a top prospect playing in a fifth game. The response from player and parents over the past few years has been tremendous in regards to the amount of ice time that each player receives at the Camp."
RG: "Is the Camp open to the public?"
MH: "Yes, the Camp is open to the public and our fans are encouraged to come down and see the future of the organization. There is no charge to take in the Camp and with all the parents and families of the players in attendance combined with our fans it will make for a great atmosphere, as always, at the Coliseum. The Camp gives our faithful fans an opportunity to see some great hockey in a great rink before summer is upon us."
RG: "Thanks Mike and good luck at this year's camp."
MH: "Thank you Ron."
Looking at the list of players registered for the Spruce Kings Spring Camp, I can tell you that all goaltender spots have been filled but there are still a few holes open for a couple of forwards and defencemen. Last minute registrations can be accepted but the sooner the better obviously ... CLICK HERE for more information, a map to the rink and to download a registration form.