The Soo Greyhounds returned to the GFL Memorial Gardens on Monday.
With many of the 55 players in camp, which included 39 prospects, having seen limited ice time since March 2020 when COVID-19 shut down many sports across Ontario, opening day of the Greyhounds training camp was a positive one.
“Just in general, today was a good day,” said Greyhounds coach John Dean. “We’ve got a lot of players, staff, and community in general that are just happy to be at the rink. We’re happy to be analyzing hockey and happy to be able to do the thing that we love.”
Monday saw players go through fitness testing early in the day as well as practices before the rookies played in a scrimmage on Monday evening.
“Today was a really easy day for me to critique,” Dean said. “The guys were fantastic. They showed that they were eager to be back and it’s exciting.”
“Coming into it and the kind of competitive environment everybody was coming from and some of the layoff in between structured games, (Monday) was good as a whole,” added Greyhounds general manager Kyle Raftis. “Guys really picked up well in the practices and the skill work. It’s along day when you’re doing fitness testing and then getting on the ice. For the most part, the energy level was really high.”
Raftis added that Monday’s evening scrimmage was a positive as well.
“The first period was everyone was playing quickly, but it was a little sloppy. In the second and third periods really settled down nicely,” Raftis said. “It was good to watch.”
Dean called opening day “just a good day to be a hockey coach.”
“Today in general is a tough day,” Dean said. “For some of these kids, we haven’t seen them in two years. We had three years of birth years on the ice today and in general, that day one is an anxious day, moreso for the kids who are trying to prove themselves and chase their dream. With that kind of anxiety, the way they performed today and how hard they worked in off-ice testing, their response to practice considering it’s their first time being led by the Soo Greyhounds staff and then right to the game where I thought every period got better. Guys got challenged and responded to challenges. It was just a good day to be a hockey coach today.”
Both Dean and Raftis spoke highly of the fitness level of the players on opening day as well.
“Guys look in shape,” Dean said. “I give them a lot of credit. A lot of players took the last 16 months and were resourceful in how they managed to excel and improve themselves and their physical conditioning.”
“Some of the testing, for the most part, is the first time they’re doing it,” Raftis said. “It’s good to get a baseline and see where everybody is at, but in terms of historically where guys are usually supposed to be in their first year or second year coming into the league, I was impressed right across the board. You could see that the players had some extra time in the gym over the last year and were able to get some size and transform their bodies, which is not always easy to do in a regular offseason.”
The Greyhounds will be back on the ice on Tuesday with a pair of scrimmages scheduled.