By Terry Farrell, Grande Prairie Daily Herald Tribune
The Grande Prairie Storm held a spring camp over the weekend in Fort Saskatchewan and the result was everything coach and general manager Blaine Bablitz had expected.
“Camp was great,” he said. “There was a strong group of (19)96-born and ‘97-born players in the camp. It was pretty evident that (our scouting staff) did a good job during the winter identifying players for us for the future. There was also a group of our (already committed) top-end recruits there this weekend as well who showed very well and we hope are members of our team next season.”
The list of invitees was topped at 80 and due to the inclement weather, there were a few no-shows, but approximately 75 junior A hockey hopefuls were on hand, giving Bablitz and his coaching crew plenty to look at.
Players were split into four scrimmage teams, with all four teams getting in three games apiece, Friday and Saturday.
Coaches cut the list in half for a ‘Top 40’ game Sunday. From there they identified a contingent of prospects who received invites to main camp in August.
“There are probably 10-15 for sure (that will be at main camp),” said Bablitz. “We are still waiting on a handful of kids to make their decisions on which direction they would like to head, but it is already looking good for us for the upcoming year.”
The success of the Fort Saskatchewan camp lessens the blow that the team felt with Monday’s announcement of the cancellation of the spring camp scheduled for the Canada Games Arena this upcoming weekend.
Bablitz said the numbers registered simply did not warrant running a camp in Grande Prairie this weekend.
“We ended up having more than enough goalies and more than enough defencemen, but we were pretty shy on a forward group, which is typically the other way,” he said. “We just felt that we could not hold a proper and professional camp with the number of forwards we had registered.”
He said while cancelling this weekend’s camp is a disappointment, it is not a big setback.
“We have a few tournaments and camps in place that we will attend throughout the spring and summer,” he said. “It can be a challenge to put on camps in back-to-back weekends… but at the end of the day, we know which kids would have been attending our camp anyway, so they will receive invites to our fall camp. It’s not a negative thing for the hockey operations here.”