Promising a “wide-open” style once the regular season gets underway next month, Summerland head coach Gordon Gamble is getting ready to lead his team’s inaugural main camp this week running Aug. 25 to 28.
While this camp will not determine the team’s final make-up, it will go a long way towards shaping the team as Summerland re-joins the Kootenany International Junior Hockey League after an absence of two years.
Summerland’s previous entry nicknamed the Sting moved to Penticton after the end of the 2008/2009 to become the Lakers, who will visit the Steam when they begin their season Sept. 16 and 17.
While these opening dates in the schedule loom large in the imagination of team officials , Gamble faces the on-going task of building a team with players who first want to play with an expansion team, and secondly fit the team’s offense oriented style. Teams in the KIJHL are also subject to rules that limit the number of 20-year-olds (four) and 16-year-olds (two).
With these conditions in mind, Gamble will evaluate players at the up-coming camp according to the following criteria: their skating, their speed and their hockey sense, best defined as the ability to play without the puck, to anticipate where it might go next.
But if Gamble promises to build a team that aims to light up the score clock, he has also made it clear that the Steam will not be a one-directional team.
“If they (players) cannot back-check, they cannot play for me,” he said.
Up to 60 players could be at the camp, said Gamble, who has looked far and wide during his recruiting process. While most of the players will come from the region, some will come from the Lower Mainland, Alberta and places south of the border. In fact, Gamble, a native of Edmonton, has looked way south, all the way to Texas, where he has lived and worked as a player and coach for more than two decades.
Gamble will evaluate camp participants in a number of ways. In addition to traditional practices, camp participants will be spread across teams, which will then scrimmage against each other over the course of the invitation-only camp.
Gamble noted that the final list of camp participants is not set yet. While the camp will feature a multitude of goalies, Gamble is still looking for blue-liners.
“Our defense has to be mobile to fit into our offensive style,” he said.
But the team that will emerge at the end of the camp will not be the team that will face off against the Lakers. Gamble will also be scanning the list of players released by Junior A teams, who in turn will also survey KIJHL rosters for pick-ups.
Off-ice matters also remain to resolved as the team continues to sell season tickets and look for billets.
In short, Gamble and the rest of the Steam front office are far from done in putting together the various moving parts that constitute a hockey team as opening night approaches.
But it also appears that Gamble is excited about what lies ahead as Junior B hockey returns to the community.