The Vancouver Canucks are coming back to Whistler for their training camp.
The news flew across the hockey blogosphere over the weekend, but on Monday Keith Tindle, manager of facilities for Meadow Park Sports Centre, confirmed that he received word the team would be coming.
“If they do the same thing as what they’ve done in the past, they will hold all of their ice workouts here at Meadow Park Sports Centre,” he said.
Tindle added that the dates have not been confirmed, and that the team could change its mind at any time as to where it will be training, but he estimates they could be practicing in Whistler in early September.
“We have heard that they are going to be doing that, but I think the dates are not confirmed yet, so we’re not exactly sure when it’s going to be,” he said. “Sometime in early to mid-September.”
Training camp is a time of year when National Hockey League teams determine who, out of their veteran and prospect players, will make the team for the next regular season. The itinerary for last year’s training camp, which took place at Victoria’s Bear Mountain Arena, showed that the first day was devoted to Prospect Testing, and then Prospect Camp the following day.
Next came veteran testing and the training camp itself, which took place over the course of three days. The end of training camp culminated in an intra-squad game between players who took part in the preceding practices.
Players who don’t make the team are often downgraded to the Manitoba Moose, the Canucks’ minor-league affiliate in the American Hockey League.
Tindle recalls that the Canucks held training camp in Whistler for four years in a row between 1999 and 2003, though he doesn’t seem completely certain that they’ll be back.
“They could change their mind and go somewhere else too,” he said. “I’m not the one who makes that decision.”
The Canucks have held training camps throughout British Columbia, in places like Courtenay, Powell River, Duncan and Parksville.
This year’s training camp is a critical one for a Canucks team that has undergone major changes since the last regular season.
General Manager Dave Nonis was fired in April after three seasons of managing the team. During his tenure he pulled off a blockbuster trade to acquire superstar goalie Roberto Luongo, who helped the Canucks to the second round of the 2007 playoffs before being knocked out by the Anaheim Ducks.
Since then former player agent Mike Gillis has been hired as GM and has faced pressure from fans and commentators to beef up the Canucks’ offensive lines and get the team more scoring.
Gillis’s moves have included drafting centre Cody Hodgson, who
put up 40 goals and 85 points in 68 games for the Brampton Battalion of the
Ontario Hockey League in the 2007-08 season.
They have also included acquiring right-winger Steve Bernier
from the Buffalo Sabres. Bernier, 23, is entering his fourth season in the NHL
and is seen as an emerging power forward who could play with Daniel and Henrik
Sedin on the top offensive line.
Last season Bernier scored 16 goals and 32 points in 76 games
between the Sabres and the San Jose Sharks.
Gillis has also acquired an enforcer in Darcy Hordichuk,
formerly of the Nashville Predators. In 45 games he racked up 60 penalty
minutes, many of them for fighting. At 6’1” and 215 pounds, he is expected to
add more grit to the Canucks’ fourth line.
The Canucks are also waiting on a response from superstar centre Mats Sundin, who is mulling over a two-year, $20 million contract offer that Gillis made on July 1.