Warriors open “competitive” training camp
As Tim Hunter prepares for his first training camp as the head coach of the Moose Jaw Warriors, the statement is unity.
© Katie Brickman
Tim Hunter, head coach of the Moose Jaw Warriors is ready to run his first training camp with the club. Rookie camp begins on Thursday and main camp opens on Saturday. Times-Herald photo by Katie Brickman
“I want to create the culture that will win one day — whether that is right away or down the line — the team is the most important thing,” said Hunter. “The Moose Jaw Warriors are No. 1 and it is not about the individual. It is not about the personal numbers, but the number in the standings for us. That is going to be our message from the get go.”
The Warriors will welcome 67 players to training camp, beginning today with registration and meetings.
All players will go through fitness testing on Thursday morning and then rookie camp begins in the afternoon with practices and a scrimmage game (7 p.m., Mosaic Place).
“The first skate and scrimmage will have a lot of nerves, but I think the big message is that they need to come in and be themselves, both on and off the ice,” said Alan Millar, general manager of the Warriors. “We have separated the camps for a reason — to give the young kids a time frame to get rid of those nerves and play within their own age group and size before they get into main camp and play against the veteran guys.”
The rookies will continue to try and make an impression on Friday with more scrimmage games. That evening, players will either graduate to main camp or be assigned to their midget clubs.
On Saturday, main camp opens with the veterans and those that moved past the first round of cuts. There will be two scrimmage games.
“We want to make sure that kids are physically ready to play at this level of main camp,” said Millar.
On Sunday, the annual black and white game will be held at 4 p.m. After the game, there will be more cuts made as the team tries to slim down the roster for pre-season games.
“I think our players have bought into what we have been building at main camp and seeing the goals and processes that go along to work hard at each level,” said Millar.
After two seasons of missing the playoffs and being vocal about a rebuild, the Warriors are now focused on being positive and embracing a new culture.
“I think that the last couple of years (with) losing and committing to the rebuild, you sometimes can’t get away from the fact that with a lack of success, some negativity comes along with it,” stated Millar. “You get some individuality; you gets guys worrying about individual success than the team success. I am not painting the picture that is was rampant or a huge problem, but I think it was symptomatic of the struggles we had.”
With some off-season changes to the roster and with hiring Hunter as the new head coach, the ability to bring in a new philosophy was a top priority.
“I think the players are eager because of the lack of success and they are going to listen. I have a real optimistic and positive way of doing things and I think that is going to help,” said Hunter. “I saw some comment from some of the veterans guys in the past week about expectations and coming to camp. In their own words, they said, we have to pick up the pace, we have to be better and we have to step forward.”
There aren’t a lot of open roster spots, but both Millar and Hunter are preparing for a competitive camp and tough decisions.
“It would be foolish to say there are a lot of open spots, but guys have to show at training camp that they are capable and that they belong,” said Hunter. “Hockey players always have to be looking in the mirror because someone is always coming to take your job.”
Gore stays home
There is one less veteran player at training camp this weekend.
Bryson Gore has decided to stay home for family reasons.
“It is a family matter that Bryson has decided it is important for him to be at home as opposed to being here and in the league,” said Millar.
The 19-year-old from Milo, Alta. played two seasons with the Warriors, scoring 34 points in 137 career games.
“It is a very mature decision by Bryson in terms of his and his family’s best interests. It is very unselfish,” said Millar. “We totally respect the decision that he has made. It just tells us again what a quality young man he is and we wish him all the best.”
Gore will remain on the Warriors list, but will not count towards their 50 players list.
“We will continue to maintain his rights.”