Lumber Kings training camp begins today 0
Pembroke Lumber Kings coach and GM Sheldon Keefe
After a summer of wheeling and dealing, Pembroke Lumber Kings’ coach and general manager Sheldon Keefe is ready to see the players hit the ice.
Training camp for the junior A hockey team kicks off tonight at the Pembroke and Area Community Centre with an orientation meeting at 6 p.m. followed by on-ice fitness testing.
A total of 37 players – 21 forwards, 12 defencemen and four goalies – are reporting for camp and will be divided into three teams with each having two practices and a game Saturday and Sunday in addition to dry land training. In the past, the camps have ranged in size from 35 to 45 players, but Keefe thinks the size of this year’s camp is manageable.
There are both positives and challenges to making moves and bringing new players into the organization, he said. In some ways it requires extra work on the administration side to ensure everyone is settled and it creates some uncertainty, but it also creates a fresh start and it gives everyone an opportunity to establish themselves.
“I’m excited and the players are excited,” Keefe said. “It is nice for them to know they can step in and perform and become part of the team’s leadership. This is a major opportunity that hasn’t been there in years past.”
With so many unknowns heading into camp, the coach is prepared to be patient and keep an open mind.
“In this situation we will go with the flow and make decisions on the fly, but I like where we are starting,” he added.
As far as making cuts to the roster, he isn’t going in with any preconceived notions or numbers in mind that he wants to get to and he suspects most of the players will continue on throughout next week until the first exhibition game on Aug. 26.
Through the acquisition and recruitment of some younger players as well as some players who have established themselves as solid junior A players, Keefe considers this more of a rebuilding year than the team has had in the past and feels the talent base is deeper than a year ago. While he will miss veterans like Brandon Gagne, Nathan Siydock, Jonathan Milley and Francis Dupuis, he is looking forward to working with an enthusiastic group of new players.
While he expects there will be a lot of growth in the first couple of months of the season, he plans on icing a competitive team that should improve with every game.
“We are not tossing this season out,” he says emphatically. “We want to be competitive and we want to win.”
On Saturday, action begins at 10 a.m. and continues until 1:30 p.m., before a practice at 5 p.m. and game at 6:30 p.m. On Sunday there is a practice at 10 a.m. and game at 11:30 a.m. with a lengthy break prior to the red and white game at 5 p.m. All of the action takes place at the Pembroke and Area Community Centre.
Tina Peplinskie is a Daily Observer multimedia journalist