Hockey team gets head start

The Nanaimo Clippers have found a way to keep cool this summer – by playing hockey. The city’s B.C. Hockey League team is holding an orientation camp this Saturday and Sunday (July 16-17).

Nanaimo Clippers forward Gerry Fitzgerald takes a shot on goal during last summer’s training camp at the Nanaimo Ice Centre. The Clips gather for a mini training camp Saturday and Sunday (July 16-17).

Nanaimo Clippers forward Gerry Fitzgerald takes a shot on goal during last summer’s training camp at the Nanaimo Ice Centre. The Clips gather for a mini training camp Saturday and Sunday (July 16-17).

The Nanaimo Clippers have found a way to keep cool this summer – by playing hockey.

The city’s B.C. Hockey League team is holding an orientation camp this Saturday and Sunday (July 16-17). It’s an unusual time for a camp, said coach and general manager Mike Vandekamp. He’s never held a July camp before, and he doesn’t expect he’ll ever hold one again. But there are different circumstances this off-season as he prepares for his first season behind the Clippers bench.

“I really, desperately needed to get everybody on the ice myself,” Vandekamp said. “It has become very difficult to run the on-ice portion of our hockey team when I have zero idea what we really have for players.

“When it comes to our returning players, I’ve never seen any of them on the ice, or very, very few of them.You’re playing the deck blind.”

So far this off-season Vandekamp has been presented with trade offers, but he’s been hesitant to trade away any guy he hasn’t seen play.

Statistics, he said, tell an incomplete story. Skill players and role players might already be on the roster, and the new coach might not know it.

This weekend, the coach will get to see almost everyone. There will be 40 players at the Nanaimo Ice Centre for the two days, including virtually every eligible returning Clipper.

The others include a mix of recruits and local prospects.

A new coach means a clean sheet of ice for everyone, so that knowledge, plus the fact that the BCHL is now mandating the inclusion of 16-year-old and 17-year-old players, means this weekend is a prime opportunity for a lot of guys.

“Everybody that’s skating in this camp has a legitimate chance of playing for our team this year,” Vandekamp said.

He said he understands that the odd timing of the camp messes with some players’ training regimens. But the weekend isn’t designed to be overly demanding. The on-ice portion will consist of two practices and two games.

“I’m not expecting miracles out of our guys in the middle of July,” Vandekamp said. “But we’re expecting to be able to get a little bit of a feel for what it is they bring to the table.”

Other BCHL teams certainly aren’t holding camps at this time of year, so the Clippers might even be getting a head start on the competition by getting together now.

“When we hit the ice at main camp we’ll all have a little better idea of where we’re going, instead of taking those first two or three days for everybody to be feeling everybody out and everybody trying to get to know me,” Vandekamp said. “We’re going to take care of that now and when we get back here at the beginning of September, we’re going to be a step ahead.”

ICE CHIPS … The Clippers will play intrasquad games on Saturday (July 16) at 5:30 p.m. and Sunday at 10 a.m. at the Nanaimo Ice Centre … The BCHL is expected to release its regular-season schedule sometime this week.

sports@nanaimobulletin.com