While most of us are trying to soak up the summer sun while we still can, for many of the top junior-aged players across Western Canada it’s already time to say hello to hockey season.
With nearly a month to go before the start of the Western Hockey League regular season, a whopping nine teams begin training camp today in one form or another.
The next wave of players for the Kelowna Rockets, Moose Jaw Warriors, Portland Winterhawks, Saskatoon Blades, Seattle Thunderbirds, Spokane Chiefs, Swift Current Broncos, Tri-City Americans and Victoria Royals hits the ice today.
The Brandon Wheat Kings will take some extra time before putting their charges through the paces. Wheat King rookies will register for camp on Tuesday, with the first on-ice sessions beginning a week from today. The Wheat Kings will be among the last teams to begin main camp, with Brandon and the Prince Albert Raiders both putting their veterans to work on Aug. 30.
That later start is the norm for the Wheat Kings, who base their camp schedule on the starting date of the regular season and play a shorter pre-season than many teams with four tune-ups scheduled, while some choose to play as many as eight. In fact, by the time Brandon’s rookies lace up their skates for the first time, the Warriors and Broncos will have already played one pre-season game.
So is there any advantage to the early start? Not based on last year’s evidence.
Last season, the 10 teams that played five or fewer pre-season game wound up with a combined .571 winning percentage over the course of the regular season, while the 12 teams that played six or more times before the start of the season ended up at a .519 clip, with both sides boasting some elite teams and some clunkers.
The results were similar for the first couple of weeks of the regular season when logic would suggest those extra exhibitions would matter the most. The teams that played a shorter pre-season schedule rolled through the first four games of the regular season at .638, while those that spent a little more time fine-tuning their game went .531.
It’s impossible to draw any firm conclusions out of one season’s worth of evidence, but there’s more than one way to run a hockey team and, it would seem, more than one way to hold a training camp as well.
AROUND THE WHL: Wheat Kings head coach/GM Kelly McCrimmon said veteran C Tyrel Seaman, who hasn’t played since Nov. 18, 2012 due to concussion issues, won’t be at training camp next week … The Red Deer Rebels have acquired D Spencer Morse, 18, from the Moose Jaw Warriors for a conditional pick in the 2016 WHL bantam draft. The 6-foot-4, 200-pound Calgarian had a goal, four assists and 90 penalty minutes in 46 games last season … The Everett Silvertips got some good news last week when they learned that Edmonton Oilers prospect Jujhar Khaira, 19, will be sent to their training camp by the NHL club. Chosen by the Oilers in the third round of last year’s NHL entry draft, the Surrey, B.C., native decided to sign with Edmonton rather than return for his second season at Michigan Tech University.