MONTREAL - Scotland, the land of rain, Braveheart, bagpipes and hockey. Hockey?
Today marks the official opening of the Hamilton Bulldogs training camp. In fact, it will be later this evening that players will board the flight destined for Edinburgh.
A total of 25 players will be making the trip, including the 19 players cut from the Canadiens camp Monday night. The remainder will made up of Alex Henry
, in addition to five players from the Cincinnati Cyclones, Hamilton's ECHL affiliate.
A few hours before taking flight and mere hours prior to the opening of his first camp with the team, Bulldogs head coach Guy Boucher is excited, particularly for his players.
"The majority of these players have never set foot in Europe", noted Boucher. "I know they are anxious. This is a positive thing for the team. We're travelling afar, to bring closeness within the group. There are less distractions abroad and it will serve to unite the group more quickly.
"During the Canadiens camp, the stress level on these youngsters can get fairly high", warned Boucher, "and they put themselves under a lot pressure to succeed. They would be up early, work hard all day long, on and off the ice. This way, I think they will be able to take a step back, and relax on the flight over."
Of course, Scotland is hardly the first destination that comes to mind when it comes to hockey overseas. Bulldogs General Manager Julien BriseBois is of the opinion that the Gardiner Cup tournament will be a highly competitive one.
"The tournament will feature several players who have experience playing in North America and the caliber of play will be very good. We should not forget that we are there to prepare ourselves for the upcoming season. We will be playing some games, going over videos and training."
The idea to leave Hamilton behind and hold camp elsewhere is hardly a new step. Last season, the Bulldogs traveled to St. John, Newfoundland to ready themselves for the season.
"Often, when players first arrive in Hamilton, their first concerns involve where to find apartments, what are the local restaurants and other personal life details that need to be arranged", explained BriseBois. "They want to get settled in. By removing these distractions, they are able to concentrate strictly on hockey for the time being. They are getting to know their teammates and coaching staff."
The same rings true from a player's perspective. For David Desharnais
, who excelled at the Canadiens’ camp, the trip to the Old Continent can only help in further bonding teammates.
"It will be a very pleasant experience. For the majority of the guys, this will be our second season together. I'm especially excited to discover new places", says the player making his second European swing, and his first in the land where the rain is the ruler.Vincent Cauchy is a writer for canadiens.com. Translated by Robert Lefebvre. Read alsoTwo players assigned to the Hamilton Bulldogs Seventeen players assigned to Hamilton A new adventureJust like old times