CORNER BROOK The Western Kings will open training camp this weekend to prepare for another provincial major midget hockey league season and general manager Leonard Smith is challenging the top 17-and-under players in the region to impress him with their skillset.
Smith, who lives in Corner Brook, is hoping to lure players from nooks and crannies all over western Newfoundland to the three-day camp being held at the Pepsi Centre. The Kings finished in fourth place out of a five-team league last year and bowed out in the semfinal round in four straight games to the powerhouse St. John's Pennecon Privateers.
With the exception of one player who is too old for the program, the entire roster from last year is eligible to battle for a spot on the team at the camp. However, Smith is quick to point out that there are a number of players in the region who have the talent to play at the major midget level and he encouraged them to try and crack the lineup this year.
"Our coaching staff is interested in picking the best players and that's just the way it is," Smith said Tuesday.
Angus Head and Steve Borden will be back behind the bench again this season after taking over the team in mid-season with the resignation of former head coach Ben Fitzgerald.
Smith is elated to have some stability in the coaching department with Head and Borden committed for another campaign.
"The way the guys responded to those coaches last year and the relationships between them was great," Smith said.
The Kings held a camp back in May after the 2011-12 season wrapped up and he was impressed to find close to 40 players in attendance. He is hoping to have the same numbers this time around and he hopes the entire region will be represented when the final 25-man roster is chosen.
While he has been pleased to see players from St. Anthony to Port aux Basques show a keen interest in being a member of the Kings, Smith would really like to have players from the Stephenville area embrace the program. He doesn't know why players from that region don't want to play but he insists the program has been promoted to players and minor hockey officials in the area. He has no explanation as to why some of the skilled players from Stephenville haven't expressed any interest in the program.
"That seems to be the area that we just don't seem to get into," he said.
The three-day camp opens Friday night with dryland training and fitness testing from 7-10 p.m. at the Pepsi Centre. On-ice sessions are scheduled for both Saturday (10-12 noon and 4-6 p.m.) and Sunday (10-12 noon) at the Pepsi Centre.
Anybody interested in attending the camp or needs more information can contact GM Leonard Smith at 634-0771.