CORNER BROOK Art Skinner believes the status as defending provincial major hockey league champions bodes well for the future of the Western Kings.
Skinner, director of operations for the defending champion, has been pleasantly surprised by the interest level in the Kings organization since holding a second team prospects camp in the city last week. The Kings held an identification camp for potential players back in April and had 20-odd players from various pockets of the western region show up with the intentions of cracking the roster. At the recent camp, he was excited to see some 40 players, some coming as far away as Labrador which falls under the western region, participate in another camp under the watchful eye of the coaching staff led by Angus Head.
“A lot kids have said they came out because they heard a lot of positive things about the program and the success we had last year also helped,” Skinner said.
The Kings defeated the St. John’s Privateers in five games in a best-of-seven final to win the crown last year to mark the franchise’s first championship win since the 1996-97 season.
This year’s edition of the Kings, which will hold a final tryout camp Sept. 7-8 at the Kinsmen Arena II, will hit the ice with a core group of veteran players moved on to greener pastures and only 11 players from last year’s winning squad eligible to fight for a berth on the team this year.
So, it’s safe to say there will be some new faces added to the mix this year. And, according to Skinner, the coaching staff have already determined in the early going that they will have their hands full paring down the roster in time for the 2013-14 season with an abundance of talent on display at camp.
“The coaching staff will have their challenges picking the team based on the quality of the talent that’s there,” he said.
The final camp will feature open workouts at 12-2 p.m. and 6-8 p.m. on Sept. 8 and 12-2 p.m. on Sept. 9. The Newfoundland and Labrador Major Midget Hockey League, with five teams this year with the return of the Tri-Pen Osprey to the fold under new ownership after the former Tri-Pen Frost folded two months into the 2013-13 campaign, will hold its traditional kick-off tournament Sept. 20-22 at Goulds Arena.
The Western Kings open the season at home with a two-game showdown with the Central Ice Pak Sept. 28-29 at the Pepsi Centre.