Players from across the country hit the ice with one goal in mind, becoming a Bonnyville Jr. A Pontiac.
The Pontiacs hosted their main camp last week, where they select players from across Canada to help build their roster.
“We knew it was going to be a very intense and competitive camp,” said Pontiacs head coach and general manager Rick Swan. “It exceeded my expectations, in the sense that the decisions we’ve got moving forward are going to be immense and very difficult.”
The Pontiacs put their process to the test during the camp, with the rosters featuring much younger players along with veterans.
“They’re all part of the transition plan we had last year, going very young but acquiring transitions from different teams throughout the year. It allows us to be in the position we’re in this year, and I’m looking forward to having an optimistic view on what we’re going to achieve,” noted Swan.
The Pontiacs’ coaching staff have the hard choice of cutting 15 players from the 40 that were invited to the camp.
“Those decisions are going to be difficult, but as we do that our philosophy’s not only developing the young players that may not be ready this year, but, will allow them to develop when they go to their midget teams. They’ll also be involved with development process for our team so we can play as one cohesive unit,” he said.
The traditional black versus white games allow coaching staff to see the strengths and weaknesses of each player.
“Overall, the group’s pace and tempo of play has exceeded what I’ve been involved with in the last seven years,” explained Swan.
Veteran Grayson Constable enjoyed getting to know the other players, and said everyone meshed well from day one.
“Everyone’s working really hard starting from fitness testing to our black and white games,” he said.
Swan noted the veterans set the tone for what some of the younger players can expect.
“Our veterans are critical here because they’re really the caretakers of our culture. We like to think in Bonnyville that we do things differently in terms of the way we treat our people, and the cultures we want to be known for. It provides credibility to young prospects coming in, and the guys that have been here before understand that it’s an accountability issue with them. In order to be able to drive our culture and teach people coming in that the way we treat people is first and foremost.”
Structuring the team this way has allowed for the veterans to learn what it means to help out the newcomers. Some have learned valuable lessons about themselves along the way.
“I’ve learned a little bit more to take on a little bit more of a leadership role, and to set the example for the younger guys out here,” explained veteran Sean Thomson.
Constable enjoyed the opportunity to be a rolemodel for the younger players. He said it helped him adjust to the new team.
“I was traded over the summer, and as soon as I got here it felt like I was at home,” he expressed. “It was perfect, and I couldn’t ask for more.”
The camp was hosted at the Frog Lake New Horizon Centre due to the ice issues at the R.J. Lalonde Arena.
Swan said the Pontiacs appreciate the hospitality Frog Lake has shown them, but that the Centennial Centre will always be home.
“I’m excited to get on our home rink, it will be great to get over there to skate,” Thomson expressed.
The puck drops for the Pontiacs’ first exhibition game in Frog Lake on Aug. 30.