After a day of grueling fitness testing, 41 eager young players showed up at the Pengrowth Saddledome on Friday, September 7 with hope and expectation in their eyes. Five goalies (Leland Irving, Kevin Lalande, Curtis McElhinney, Matt Keetley, and Brent Krahn) were all vying for the ceremonious role of backup to Miikka Kiprusoff.

LW/C Dustin Boyd agreed it was good to shake the cobwebs off the skating legs. “It’s good getting back into the flow and getting ready. The (power skating drills) were a bit tough. There were a few turns there in a row where I started getting a little dizzy. For the most part, it was good and it was good to get a really good sweat on today.”

Defenseman Tim Ramholt, who spent two seasons in the Swiss League prior to playing in Omaha last season looks at this camp as an opportunity to show what he learned from his American Hockey League experience.

“Before, I was just thinking too much about getting points and stuff. You’ve got to build up your game, do the little things, and go out and protect your net, do little smart breakout passes. When you get confidence and build up your game, then you step it up to the next level. I made a lot of progress last year. I’m proud the way it’s been. I don’t look back anymore.”

Ramholt knows he has to compete at a high level to make the team and while he believes he’s on the right road to success, he’s not quite there yet. First he has to make the team.

For those who have been here before, they know what to expect. They’re not coming in blindfolded. They’re familiar with some of the testing, know some of the players and coaches.

New coach or returning coach, everyone has to leave everything they have on the ice to prove that they belong on the team.

You’d be hard pressed to find an NHL athlete or prospect who hasn’t worked out and skated over the summer, but there is no doubt that skating in the off-season does not have the same intensity as training camp. And all the practices in the calendar are not going to have the same intensity as a game. But for all these young players, there is one thing they all agree has a huge impact on what kind of training camp they will have: attitude.

“It’s all about believing in yourself, and that’s where it starts,” says LW Eric Nystrom. “If you don’t believe in yourself, you might as well not even go on the ice.”   

These young players are on their own at this point. “Out here, there’s nobody coddling you at this level,” Nystrom admits. “My family is a long way from here. You can’t get too up. You can’t get too down. You’ve got to stay level headed. When things are going great, you just have to stay confident. And when things are not going well, you just have to do your best.”

But in talking further with Nystrom, if there was any player that should make the team, it’s him. He has packed as if he would be staying with the club all season. “I pretty much brought every belonging I have.” Now that’s attitude.

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