The Wheatland Kings main camp took place Aug. 26-27, welcoming the team back to the ice following the summer and getting the boys prepared for the upcoming season.
“I would say it went pretty well. For some of these guys, it was their first skate, but we have got a lot of these guys who have been skating with us all summer, so they are doing well,” said Lee Smith, general manager for the Kings.
Kings Head Coach, Doug Raycroft, added he is excited to have his team back and rearing to take on the upcoming season, and really push for the championship this year.
“Our thought process is, we want to win the championship. As the season develops, we just want to give our players the best chance to do that,” he said. “We have a certain number of ice times per week to get them ready for these games and we are just going to do our best to do that.”
The Kings will be taking on a few extra players post camp, but most of the team was on the ice during the weekend getting ready for their first games in September.
Last season, the Wheatland Kings were a very young team, with a roster largely full of players who are now seasoned and returning this year.
“We have got a few new guys, but to be honest we had one of the youngest teams in the league last year and now they are all a year older,” said Raycroft. “We look good this year. We lost a couple of veterans who were aged out, but mostly we have got 16 returning players.”
The playstyle of the team has historically been to run at high speed and keep a fast-paced game. Raycroft said he wants his boys to get used to keeping the tempo and the pace of the game as high as possible.
The idea being the faster they move, the more they move the puck and the faster the team as a whole is able to play.
Both on and off the ice, Raycroft added there is a great group of leaders on the team and he is looking forward to seeing them carry the Kings forward this year.
“Some guys are more vocal in the dressing room and other guys are leaders on the ice. We have got a really good core so we do not have to worry about that much this year for sure,” he said. “We have got almost the whole team back except for a couple of guys, so we will just be building on what we had last year.”
The Kings open the season on Sept. 23 (8 p.m.) against the Okotoks Bisons at the Strathmore Family Centre. A tailgate party will be held in the parking lot of the facility before puck drop.
Prior to that, the Kings have four exhibition games, including two at home on Sept. 9 (8:30 p.m.) and Sept. 17 (4 p.m.).
John Watson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times