In his wrap-up media session at the RDO Camp, Brendan Shanahan expressed his amazement at watching all of the kids that put their heart into every shift over the last two days.
"It went really well, and the group I have to thank most is the kids that came and played," Shanahan said. "The skill level of these 17 year olds, to be able to do what we asked them to do at an NHL level and also the compete that they brought to the scrimmages, was just great. I don't think I could have done it when I was 17 years old. It just bodes well for the future of the game of hockey."
Shanahan has never viewed this project as one with a finish line. Now that the data has been collected, it's time to pore through it to figure out what worked and what didn't. There is still plenty of work to be done, but, as Shanahan said, "the hard part is done now."
"Right now it's all about collecting information," he said. "The general managers will definitely give feedback, and I think our coaches are going to be weighing in and people from Hockey Ops. We collected a lot of information and statistics. We had a whole team of people tracking scoring chances, what all the rules meant and how they affected the game. It'll take a little while to put all that together and we'll have an archive of information from this camp."
Most important to Shanahan was the dialogue he overheard coming out of all corners of the Leafs' practice facility.
"What pleased me the most was the conversations and the dialogue that we had from our managers, our coaches, the fans in attendance, the parents, fans reading up on it and also the players," he said. "It was really encouraging for me to walk by and overhear the players discussing what they had just done or even between periods what they were going to do and how they were going to try to manipulate certain rules to their advantage. I think any time you can provoke conversation about the game it's going to help.
"We collected information that could come in handy tomorrow or it could come in handy 5-10 years from now," he added. "We have built a model that if we ever need to do this again, I think using the 17 year olds in a setting like this with a couple of ice pads -- we now see there is an appetite from the player perspective and there is an appetite from the managers and scouts who want to come and watch. Whatever reason you came here, whether it was for the research and development or to scout these kids, the big thing is we got a lot of really good hockey minds all under one roof talking about the game, which is good."