Sunday, August 19, 2007

You Never Know How Good You Have it...

Leafs logoJets logo

Until it's gone.

That's what I'm thinking this year as NHL training camps are only a few weeks away.

Years ago when I lived in Winnipeg and the Jets were still alive, I went to an open training camp at the now non-existent Winnipeg Arena. It was free to watch yet there were only 100 fans at the most in the seats at that early morning session.

It was a chance to see and hear the veterans, rookies, no-hopers and coaches in a relatively intimate setting as they went through drills and then scrimmaged. The lack of crowd noise gave the whole experience an unreal feeling. I remember 2 players who were trying to make the team squaring off and engaging in a fight during the scrimmage. The dull smack of fists against flesh echoed throughout the nearly empty arena.

In all those years I only attended one such training camp open house, though there were numerous others. I suppose I had other plans, or it was too early in the morning or it didn't have the cachet of a real season game with all the glitz, spectacle and relevance in the standings.

If you live in an NHL city and have an opportunity to watch your team prepare for the upcoming season, make the effort. You'll have a chance to see things in a more informal atmosphere, hear the banter between players, get a look at how the coaches work the players and how they address them with commands, praise and the good natured insults many teammates and their drill-masters engage in. You might even be able to get involved in a few impromptu conversations with some of the players.

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On a related note, though normally the Globe and Mail has some of the best hockey writers and coverage around, this article mocking the Toronto media for spotlighting the upcoming Leafs training camp came across as strangely petty. Not sure what point he was trying to make except that a core of fans definitely are interested in such events.

There are far more positive things Maki could have written about in relation to training camp and the desire of fans to get a glimpse of the action. As I mentioned above, not only is it an interesting outing but probably the only chance many Toronto area fans will ever get to see Leafs players up close in a hockey setting.

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