About the only thing missing from Saturday’s opening session of the Hamilton Bulldogs training camp were those stick on labels that read “Hello, My Name Is…” OK, maybe the skaters, coaches, and training staff were not quite that unfamiliar with each other, but not by much. And that’s why the American Hockey League team’s head coach Don Lever and his assistant Ron Wilson used the team’s first on-ice session to see what they will have to work with for the next week or so.
“I’m pretty familiar with most of the players either from last season or from the other (Canadiens) camp,” said Lever after his 19 skaters and two goaltenders went through a two-hour workout of skating, shooting, and passing drills at the Dave Andreychuk Mountain Arena. “But I’m seeing nine (prospects) for the first time today.”
Lever and Wilson used Saturday’s workout, which like all on-ice training camp skates, was open to the public, to get a quick assessment of the hopefuls’ potentials.
“I was trying to get a sense of their work ethic and their skill levels,” said Lever, who is entering his second term as head coach of the Bulldogs. “We have a short amount of time to do that.”
The Dogs will work out daily at the Mountain arena working towards their first of four pre-season game in five days, Sept. 27 in Oshawa against the Toronto Marlies.
Compounding Lever’s and Wilson’s task, is knowing that more players will be sent to the Bulldogs from the National Hockey League parent Montreal Canadiens.
“I expect six to eight could arrive by Tuesday,” said Lever.
The Bulldogs will also receive Zak Stortini from the Edmonton Oilers. They assigned him to Hamilton while the ‘Dogs were going through their paces on Saturday. The 6-3, 216-pound centre from Elliot Lake, Ont., was drafted by the Oilers in the third round (94th overall) in the 2003 NHL draft. The Ontario Hockey League’s Sudbury Wolves grad played with Milwaukee in the AHL last season And then there are the players unable to skate because of injuries. Returning defenseman Adam Archer is one player whose AHL season will be delayed while he heals.
The Bulldogs open the 2006-07 regular season on Friday, Oct. 6 at home against the Manitoba Moose. All Bulldogs games, home and away, will be breoadcast on 820 CHAM radio with Derek Wills doing the play-by-play and Al Craig providing the colour commentary.