The Tribe will play their first exhibition game on Tuesday night with an all-rookie contest against the Regina Pats (7 p.m., Mosaic Place). It’ll mark the next step in building the newest edition of the Warriors after what general manager Alan Millar felt was a strong showing almost across the board for the team’s hopefuls.
“Everything has been very positive,” Millar said while taking in the Black White game on Sunday afternoon. “It’s been a competitive camp, every young player who was at our camp was committed and worked hard in the summer and from top to bottom we’re pleased with our veteran group. So now we just take the process of the next four weeks and go through pre-season and piece our team together. But it’s been a good start.”
There’s little question the players were put through their paces – from the start of fitness camp through a busy three days of scrimmages and on- and off-ice preparation, there’s no fooling around when it comes to the business of choosing a WHL team.
“I think it’s a grind, but at the same time everyone has played hard, they’re all playing for something and it shows,” Millar said. “We have vets trying to get ready for the season and young guys are trying to make the team, camp invites and unlisted players are trying to get an opportunity to be here. So everyone has been playing for something and it’s been what we’ve wanted to see.”
Training camps almost invariably see a few surprises through the weekend, especially with players given little more than a glance heading into the event suddenly emerging as top-flight performers. Millar wouldn’t go too deep into how much of that he’s seen as camp as progressed but admitted it was safe to say some players had done enough to warrant a much longer look.
“There are some guys who are going to earn their way onto our roster,” he said. “Then there are some guys who are going to get signed and play for us a year or two down the road, some guys who will be listed and, unfortunately, there are some guys who are going to get deleted, too.
“Camp is about managing your 50-man list, taking the next step with players you want to get into your development model. Then the veteran guys want to use the time to build some chemistry, do some team building and get ready for the season.”
One thing that’s for certain is the veteran group coming to play – the Warriors’ older players dominated camp once they hit the ice, and that’s exactly what Millar and the team’s coaching staff was hoping to see.
“I really like our veteran group in terms of the leadership we have there,” Millar said. “There’s lots of character and as a group, they really work hard. They’re a competitive group and I think they all know what they are as players and what they need to do to be successful as players individually in the best interests of the team.
“Everybody says they want to be the hardest working team in the league and not everybody is. We want to be competitive and we want to work hard with speed and skill, but it starts with that work and compete and I think our veteran group really epitomizes that.”
With a month of exhibition games on the horizon and plenty of players from throughout the league at NHL training camps over the next few weeks, the Warriors aren’t planning to take a shot at filling their two overage and single import spot any time soon, with Millar choosing to let the youngsters show their stuff before making any decisions in that regard.
“We’ll be patient on that,” he said. “There’s no rush to add any 20-year-olds or anybody right now. We like the fact that our young players are going to play lots here, development is going to be key the next couple of years. So we’ll add veteran guys, whether they’re 20-year-olds or not at the appropriate time when the deal is right and we feel the player is the good fit for our club.”
Admission to the game against Regina will be by donation, with all proceeds going to the Canadian Mental Health Association in honour of Ethan Williams.