Once the skates of potential Penticton Vees hit the ice Monday for the first day of training camp, their evaluation begins.
Coach and general manager Fred Harbinson wants to see a desire from players to play here all year.
“I want to play fast and we need to play hard. We need to be difficult to play against,” said Harbinson. “If guys are only going to play a certain way, or one way, it’s not going to work here. You have to bring a day-to-day mentality that you are going to compete at the highest level. If not, then I really don’t care what your last name is. You’re going to be here for a short time.”
Harbinson insists that’s not a threat and isn’t intended to scare players as he wants them to enjoy camp. He and his staff want camp to be an environment that they can thrive in.
“The non-negotiable part of it will be is if they don’t work every single time they touch the ice, it will be for a short time,” he said. “If they think they are just going to come in here and things are set, they are going to get this and they are going to get that, no, no. They better be ready to give this and give that.”
This season is a special one for the Vees who host the 2017 Western Canada Cup. To Harbinson the mentality for camp isn’t different from other seasons, but said it likely gets magnified after the outstanding season they had ended in disappointment. The Vees won 50 games, but bowed out of the BCHL playoffs in the second round to the eventual RBC Cup champions, the West Kelowna Warriors. Harbinson said it gives them a little extra burning fire in their belly to want to do a little more this year.
“That might not mean winning 50 games in the regular season, maybe we will be a better team for it,” he said.
The Vees have between 25 to 30 players competing for 22 spots. Among those are returning players Nicolas Jones, their new captain, Desi Burghart, Ben Brar, Owen Sillinger, Taylor Ward, Gabe Bast and Griffin Mendel. The Vees will be joined a California team coached by former BCHLer August Aiken. Aiken contacted Harbinson asking if the Vees would have interest in having his team join them for the experience of what it is like playing in Canada. Harbinson said it will make for good competition during scrimmages with the players from both teams mixed.
Ice sessions all week begin at 10 a.m. The second group hits the ice at 11:30 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. There is a scrimmage between the two groups at 5 to 6:30 p.m. It’s the same schedule for Tuesday. On Wednesday, the Vees are on the ice from 10 to 11 a.m. and 11:15 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. then play the Warriors at 7 p.m. at the South Okanagan Events Centre. The Vees play six exhibition games during their two-week training camp.
“It gives us an opportunity to play against somebody else. Sometimes nowadays you get in camp and you are scrimmaging against yourself. Sometimes it can be a little too friendly,” he said. “Now you get to go play against somebody else. You will see every bodies true colors that way a little better.”
Off the ice, Harbinson said sales for WCC packages are good, and season ticket sales have been outstanding. He added they will have exciting announcements in the next month as far as the Ring of Honour.
“We’re getting a great response as far as alumni that want to come back, be a part of that weekend,” said Harbinson. “If you haven’t got your tickets, I suggest you get on it.”