The familiar scrape of metal on ice will return to the Revelstoke Forum when the Grizzlies kick off their main camp next Friday.
Dozens of hopefuls will take to the ice at the camp in the hopes of making an impression on rookie head coach and general manager Kevin Kraus.
“I’m bringing in kids to hopefully have a more challenging camp then we had last year,” said Kraus. “I’m looking to have things more intense this year, make the kids work a little harder and hold them more accountable.”
Kraus, 22, was an assistant coach with the Grizzlies last year; this his first year in charge of a team. He is the Grizzlies fifth head coach in five years.
The camp is the first phase in putting together a team for the regular season. After the camp Kraus will be off to Junior A camps to try and recruit players who don’t make that league. The top players at main camp will get invited to join other recruits in the pre-season in September.
The number of returning players is still up in the air and depends on who makes it to Junior A this year. The Grizzlies iced a young, skilled team last year and many players are expected to move up a league or two.
“It’s tough to say who’s coming back from Junior A or not, but I’m going to guess about eight [returning players],” said Kraus. “Probably five forwards and three defenceman.”
While the paucity of returning players makes it more difficult to recruit a team, it also helps in that it provides the Grizzlies with a reputation for developing players for higher levels of hockey.
Tyler Reay, who was acquired midway through last year, is expected to return as one of the team’s four 20-year-olds. Locals Kent Hendrickson and Riley Creighton are also expected to be back.
“The good thing is we do have a pretty good group of core players coming back that know who I am,” he said. “I feel they can translate what I want to the new kids coming in. I’m not all about finding the most skilled players with bad attitude. I’d rather have a good player with a good attitude.”
The Grizzlies kick off the regular season at home against the Chase Heat on Friday, Sept. 14. The following night it takes on Sicamous, the team’s first chance to get revenge for its first round loss last season.
The exhibition schedule has not been announced yet.
Team owner Lew Hendrickson said an advertising blitz is planned and the team will also be making a big push to sell season tickets in the lead up to the season. He mentioned several new promotions to sell tickets and he’s optimistic fans will return, even after the debacle that was the aborted move to 100 Mile House in April.
“The good news is the management from the last two years is gone and we’re starting out with a clean slate,” he said.