Check-in day is almost like the first day of school.
There are smiles, handshakes, “bro hugs,” and endless “how was your summer” chat.
It’s not so awkward when you see familiar faces. It’s even more energizing when you see a new face you’ve been told about, or you hear about.
Beginning Thursday, the pieces will be in place for everything to start coming together on the 15th season of Everett Silvertips hockey.
Setting out to defend their U.S. Division title with deeper goals in mind (see below interview), the Silvertips have a fresh approach at the top of the coaching chain in newcomer Dennis Williams. There will be a familiar, deep, and convincing voice in assistant coach Mitch Love.
How will things line up for this season? It’s unfair in late August to make a prediction. But when you have a bulk of your lineup returning (older, bigger, and wiser) and goaltender Carter Hart back, you always have a chance.
So, here’s to the clean sheet of ice and clean sheet of artistic design that begins to receive texture on day 1 of training camp.
- Defenseman Kyle Walker, signed as a listed player last fall, has bulked up to roughly “6-foot-3 and 210 pounds” by his own accord.
- Connor Dewar, energized off a trip to Toronto Maple Leafs development camp, added 10 more pounds of muscle.
- Orrin Centazzo is back on ice and 100 percent after Kolby Johnson’s high hit in Prince Albert ended his season in February.
- There are now two players with NHL father-son bloodlines either in camp as signed, or drafted with the Tips: Riley Sutter (Ron), and prospect Brayden Morrison (Brendan). FYI: Brendan, a great chat in the hallway, is now 42 and still looks like he can center an NHL top line.
- If you’re coming to Tips training camp: 1) expect to see rosters around the rink by the first scrimmage at 11am. There’s continuous shuffling, reason we’re told they aren’t available until the 11th hour. 2) Head to XFINITY Community Ice Rink for the Thursday scrimmages. As of now, the rest of camp will be hosted inside XFINITY Arena starting Friday.
Expected to play a critical role as a 20-year old, Matt Fonteyne is as “homegrown” as they come. I stopped him in the hallway:
- MIKE BENTON: Talk to me, how was your summer?
MATT FONTEYNE: Really good, had a good summer back home (in Wetaskawin, Alberta). Hung out with family and friends. It’s good to be back.
- MB: How bigger are you and how stronger are you?
MF: I changed up my workout routines this year and tried focusing on quickness, speed, and explosiveness. I feel good.
- MB: How much does that provide a renewed feeling with you, Patrick Bajkov, and Kevin Davis returning?
MF: We had one of the youngest teams in the league last year – third youngest in the west. So we have a good core group back and a lot of young guys who looked good today. When you have Carter Hart in net it helps you win games. Coming back this year, we’re really excited for what the season holds.
- MB: What made you excited about what you saw out of Bajkov?
MF: He had a breakout year last year – then Dominic Zwerger helped both of us from on the ice and off the ice. We tried to pick up as much from him, because he’s like a pro on and off the ice. Patty and I will try to build on that this season.
- MB: What is it about Zwerger’s habits in detail that help you?
MF: I’d say that he was in the league for so long. And now he’s playing with pros in Europe. He loves what he’s doing. He has fun on the ice which leads to being creative. Whenever you get to play with a guy like that it really helps you and he’s a friend of mine now.
- MB: What kind of goals have you set this year?
MF: I’d say going further than the second round and building to the Conference Final or WHL Finals. When you build for team goals, individuals are going to have success. When the team does well, all of our young guys and veterans will do well.
- MB: Who has better hair on this team other than Montana Onyebuchi?
MF: I’d say Wyatte (Wylie). He’s been grooming it all summer and preparing for team pictures today. But it’s pretty hard to beat (Onyebuchi). He’s got a pretty good head of hair going on.
- What was the first chat like with Dennis Williams?
MF: Really good and casual. He’s great and easy to talk to. So I’m excited to see more of his kind of coaching style and how we’ll play with it this year.
Let’s get it going.
Award winning broadcaster Mike Benton recently is entering his third season as radio play-by-play voice of the Everett Silvertips of the Western Hockey League, and 13th in the game. Tweet at him here.