All star defenceman Reid Blinkhorn will captain the Revelstoke Grizzlies this year.

All star defenceman Reid Blinkhorn will captain the Revelstoke Grizzlies this year.

Grizzlies season begins with main camp this weekend

Up to 70 players expected to try out for team this year

It’s that time of year – time to start thinking hockey again. Sure, it’s only been two months since the Vancouver Canucks heartbreaking game-seven loss in the Stanley Cup finals but for hockey fans in Revelstoke, a new season dawns when the Grizzlies hold their main camp at the Revelstoke Forum this weekend.

“I’m expecting it to be a high-end camp,” said the Revelstoke Grizzlies new general manager and head coach Randy Quakenbush. “There should be a lot of young players and a good number of vets coming back to supplement the camp.”

As many as 70 players are expected to attend the camp, which takes place from Aug. 19-21 at the Revelstoke Forum. They will be divided into three or four teams and will battle it out for one of the many open spots on this year’s roster.

Quakenbush said he’ll be looking for a “total skill package” from players in camp.

“Primarily we want to have good skaters and a good skill base to work from,” he said, adding that they will also be looking at the players character.

“It’s a privilege to be part of our organization,” he said. “We’re developing well-rounded young people. We want to make sure they’re also worthy of the time and commitment the community of Revelstoke puts into that individual.”

Much like last year, expect the Grizzlies to ice a young team, with most of the players aged 18 or younger.

“We’re developing players for Junior A and major junior. The young up-and-comers that are able to handle the maturity of the off-ice, that’s what we look for.”

Recruiting for Junior B represents a serious challenge. Most players are looking to land on a Junior A squad so it’s tough to know for certain who will be available. Quakenbush said he will be in regular contact with Junior A coaches to see where his recruits stand at the higher level as well as letting his recruits know where they stand on the Grizzlies’ depth chart.

Compounding the challenge this year is that Junior A teams are holding their camps later than usual, meaning the crunch to set a lineup and prepare for the season will be tighter than usual. Exhibition play starts on Sept. 7 with a game in Kamloops.

“We should have enough guys in camp that we should be able to field a highly competitive team from the start,” said Quakenbush.

Who’s going to be on the team next year? The biggest news is that 20-year-old Reid Blinkhorn, who was voted best defenceman in the Shuswap Division last year, is coming back and will be the team’s captain. Also certain to return, said Quakenbush, is defenceman Corson Johnstone.

“The rest of them are still trying Junior A camps,” said Quakenbush. “Every one of those individuals has a chance of making a team so I can’t guarantee they’ll be coming back.”

The team will also feature at least three locals – forwards Riley Creighton and Kent Hendrickson and defenceman Bradon Seyl, who’s signings were announced last month.

Making his debut with the Grizzlies will be new assistant coach Kevin Kraus. Quakenbush said he brings a youthful element to the coaching staff and as a former defenceman, he will be able to contribute there.

“He brings in the same winning culture to the dressing room that we instill in our organization,” said Quakenbush.

As for Quakenbush, this is his first season as head coach and general manager and he acknowledged he is feeling some pressure as the upcoming season dawns – particularly following in the footsteps of Brad Fox, Troy Mick and Rylan Ferster.

“They are big shoes to fill,” he said. “The coaching side I’m pretty comfortable with. The GM role is the challenge at hand.”

The camp kicks off Friday. The teams will scrimmage throughout the weekend and the All Star game is scheduled for Sunday at 1 p.m.

The complete game schedule is as follows:

Friday August 19th

4:30  Game # 1 Red # 1 vs Yellow # 1 (4 on 4)

5:45 Game # 2 Red # 2 vs Yellow # 2 (4 on 4)

7:00 Game # 3 Red # 1 vs Yellow # 2 (4 on 4)

8:15 Game # 4 Red # 2 vs Yellow # 1 (4 on 4)

Saturday August 20th

9:30 Game # 5 Red vs Yellow

6:00 Game # 6 Yellow vs Red

Sunday August 21st

1:00 – 3:00 All-Star Game