Training camp underway as new season looms
You can always know September is just around the corner when the Hamilton Red Wings open training camp.
Some 50 Junior A hockey hopefuls hit the ice at the Dave Andreychuk-Mountain Arena on Monday night under the watchful eye of Scott Elliott who is back as Red Wings head coach and general manager.
“I’m looking for guys that are team guys and hard working guys,” said Elliott, who addressed the players briefly before heading to the stands where observed and made notes while team assistant coaches put the squad through a series of drills.
Structured practices were slated for Monday and Tuesday followed by a scrimmage on Wednesday.
The Red Wings open their preseason at the Hester Street rink at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday against Mississauga.
Hamilton is scheduled to play seven preseason games, including five games in five nights.
Elliott each player in camp will get to play in at least one preseason game.
Players on the bubble are expected to be in the line-up on Thursday and Friday.
Elliott said he plans to cut the squad down to 25-28 players by early next week.
The Red Wings appear to be solid in goal heading into training camp as last season’s team MVP Mark Sinclair is back.
“He’s the number one goaltender going into camp,” Elliott said.
Also back from last season is team captain and defenceman Jason O’Connor along with forward Luke Sinclair (Mark’s brother), defenceman Joel Knight, forward Matt Smith, forward Alex Zaccaria and defenceman Josh Chiarot.
Among the new faces expected to add some offensive punch to the line-up are forwards Laine McKay and Giovanni Foschia.
McKay is a 17-year-old forward fromThunder Bayand a fifth round draft pick of the Ontario Hockey League’s Plymouth Whalers, who played major midget AAA hockey last season with the Thunder Bay Kings.
Foschia is a 19-year-old forward who was acquired from Sudbury Nickel Barons of the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League.
He scored 22 goals and added 10 assists in 49 games with Sudbury last season.
“I expect big things out of those guys,” Elliott said.
There could be some American flavour on the Red Wings this season.
Eight players from a tryout camp inLas Vegas earlier this month are on the ice this week including skaters from Alaska and Arizona.
Among the spectators on Monday night was Riley Dunda.
The 19-year-old Grimsby resident, who was with the Red Wings last season, suffered stroke last spring.
Dunda, who has made a rather amazing recovery, thought he had been invited to watch his teammates practice.
He was surprised when the club asked him to sign a card, making him a member of the Red Wings again this season although he will be protected by medical clearance provisions until he is ready for action.
“It’s pretty nice,” said Dunda, who is determined to return to the active roster either late this season or next season.
While he still hasn’t regained full use of his right arm and right leg, Dunda is maintaining a positive attitude.
He’s optimistic that therapy three days a week at Hamilton General Hospital will get him back into a Red Wings’ jersey.
“We’re trying to focus on one day at a time right now,” he said.
Red Wings owner Stu Hyman said Dunda remains part of the team and will be getting a new jerseyand track suit like all of the other players who earn a roster spot.
“As soon as he’s ready to play, he’ll play,” Hyman said. “He’s a Red Wing regardless.”
Here is the Red Wings preseason schedule
Aug 21 host Mississauga at 7:30 p.m.
Aug. 22 host Mississauga at 7:30 p.m.
Aug 23 at Oakville
Aug. 24 at Milton
Aug 25 at Mississauga
Aug 28 host Oakville at 7:30 p.m.
Aug 31 at Burlington
The Red Wings open the regular season Sept. 5 inPickering.
Their home opener is Sept 8 at 7:30 p.m. against Orangeville.