Friday, April 2, 2010

Spring Camp Preview, Trail Times

Tomorrow morning the Trail Smoke Eaters will open the 2010 spring camp at the Cominco Arena. It's a return to Trail for the camp after heading to Princeton in 2008 and 2009. That means a bit of a boost for the local economy and a larger turn out of local players gunning for a shot at the Smokies roster. This year's camp will be hovering around the 80 player mark with four full teams doing everything they can to impress the coaching staff.

In addition to scouts, coaches and fans the new recruits will get a chance to play and interact with several of the returning Smoke Eaters. It seems like every guy I talk to is getting set to come back or is already here. If these guys want to spend April in Trail I know of a pretty good way for them to do that next year! It's encouraging to see so many guys come back. It shows how dedicated to the team they are and how excited they are about getting going again for next season.

Camp starts with registration tomorrow morning at 9am. After that they'll practice during the day and scrimmage tomorrow evening. There will be more action on Saturday and Sunday morning as well. I'm sure we'll see some hardcore fans in attendance. I'll have more on camp after taking some of it in tomorrow. For now here is the latest from Coach Jim Ingram as heard tonight on Mountain FM's Overtime...

Smokies Coach and GM Jim Ingram on spring camp

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Interesting comments from Coach Ingram at the end of the interview. He's hinting that there are some pretty well known candidates sniffing around the Smokies Assistant Coach job. I'm intrigued. As for the BCHL championship series, stay tuned to the Smokies blog tomorrow for a preview with the local products taking part.


I enjoyed my conversation with Trail Times Sports Editor Guy Bertrand on Overtime this week. I'm hoping to chat more regularly with Guy as it's hugely valuable to get the perspective of a guy who knows sports in Trail over the last two decades as well as anyone. We talked not only about the Smokies but also discussed the possibility of splitting the KIJHL into a Kootenay and an Okanagan league. Check out the paper and their website.

Guy Bertrand Wednesday on Mountain FM's Overtime
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Now I do have a bit of a bone to pick with another Trail Times writer. I usually very much enjoy Dave Thompson's opinion pieces on local sports. I'm not sure if there's a more passionate supporter of the Smokies in print. I agree with his call of action every year to get more people into the rink. I hope we do next season. I agree with much of what Dave says except for a little comment this week (I'm paraphrasing) about how the spring camp in Trail is a step in the right direction in terms of bringing in local talent, because it seemed like previously the coach may have been favouring recruits from his old home region.

I'm not picking on Dave alone by responding to this here. This is a common line I'll hear from some Smokies fans.

"We need more local boys on the team..."

"Why didn't local player so and so make the roster..."

First of all the location of the Princeton camps was chosen for a couple of reasons including availability of the Cominco Arena. It's also a central location making it easier for kids from all around the province to get there. It certainly didn't favour Vancouver Island where Coach Ingram is from. They've moved the camp up a bit this year to get ice in Trail while it was still available. We'll see how it goes!

I also did want to note that I'm not sure there is a small market team in the BCHL that has devoted more spots to local players than Trail has during my time here. It's one thing for the Eagles to have a lot of players from all around Vancouver... it's another thing when you're dealing with a much smaller pool in the West Kootenay. Yet the Smokies went from 3 locals in 07-08 (Ingram joined the team in August) to 5 in 08-09 (6 if you count Jacklin from the East Kootenay) and 6 in 09-10 (9 if you count the 3 Kimberley boys).

How many guys did Coach Ingram bring in from Vancouver Island? 1 in 07-08 (Corcoran... who was here already), 2 in 08-09 (Nugent and Corcoran) and 2 this year (Nugent and Smiley).

I know we all want to see local players do well and ideally all the best local talent would play for Trail. That's not always going to happen though. Some guys are going to want to leave home. Some guys are just not going to fit in at a particular time. Some guys are going to feel like a different program is right for them. That being said, 9 players on the 23 man roster last year were from the Kootenays and every one of them is eligible to return next season.

How many guys from Powell River are on the Kings this year? As far as I can tell none although they do have 6 from Vancouver Island. The Vipers have 3 players from Vernon (4 if you count Sawyer Mick who left the team) and 4 total from the Okanagan. The Victoria Grizzlies had 5 players from their city of 80,000 people... compared to the Smokies who had 5 players from Trail where the population is 8000.

I'm not making a value judgement for or against local players. It's great to give local guys a chance because fans want to see them and it's always nice to have a guy playing at home. However, the coaching staff here has always stressed that if a local player makes the team he absolutely has to earn his spot over all the other options available. I would say given the record over the past couple of years this team has done more than enough to give local players opportunities when compared to what we see elsewhere in the BCHL. I certainly see no preferential treatment to guys from the Island.

Just my two cents. I look forward to the next Dave Thompson article as they're always a good read. We were bound to disagree one of these times!

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