As the Nanaimo Clippers start setting their goals for the coming season, they know improvement has to come in a few different areas.
One of those areas is from within – the returning veterans will be counted on to be leaders at this week’s training camp, and beyond.
“I don’t think anybody earned a lifetime contract with the Clippers based on our results of last year,” said Mike Vandekamp, the team’s coach and general manager.
“All of our returning players left here [last season] with a clear understanding of what their challenges were going to be through the off-season to be ready for this year.”
At Monday’s fitness testing, 37 players went through eight different physical challenges, and the top five performers were all returnees – Trevor Fitzgerald, Jared Chinn, Kyle Kramer, Mason Blacklock and Brenden Forbes.
Fitzgerald said he tried to be a leader that day, and again the next morning at the first skate, when everyone was still a bit sore from the previous day’s rigours.
“This practice [Tuesday] I was skating as hard as I could,” said the team captain. “That’s basically all you can do is just lead by example.”
He suggested that there are no “guaranteed spots” set aside for veterans.
“So I’m trying to prove myself out there as much as anyone else, and show that I did put in my time over the summer and I worked hard and I’m ready to come back as a leader of this team,” Fitzgerald said.
He said he liked the pace at the first practice, and said there seems to be more size this year.
“And we’ve got big guys that can skate, too, not just big slow guys,” he said.
He said Vandekamp will demand high energy at the practices and at the series of evening scrimmages.
“That’s what we’re looking for, is physical, fast-paced games and guys working hard,” Fitzgerald said.
GAME ON … The Nanaimo Clippers play the Rhodesie Cup intrasquad game Friday (Aug. 24) at 7 p.m. at Frank Crane Arena. Admission is $2 and proceeds go to KidSport Nanaimo … The team’s first BCHL exhibition game is Sunday against the Alberni Valley Bulldogs at 7 p.m. at Frank Crane Arena.