MONTREAL - Summer school is, at times, a necessary evil that students look to avoid at any cost. That is unless you're a recent Canadiens draft pick now experiencing what can be best described as Habs 101 all week long at the Bell Centre.
With a toothbrush, their equipment, but no sleeping bag required, the camp marks another important step for 21 prospects on their path to the NHL. Spearheaded in part by Director of Player Personnel Trevor Timmins, the seven-day Canadiens Development Camp gives players and coaches alike the opportunity to get to know one another, both on and off the ice.
"The very first thing we make sure to tell these kids is that this is not an evaluation," warned Timmins. "This is our chance to provide our prospects with the tools our organization feels are necessary to be successful as players and as human beings."
No stone is left unturned at a camp that sees everything from hockey skill development, tips on nutrition, training and even yoga end up on the menu.
"We really try to arm our prospects with as broad of a base of knowledge as possible. Our franchise has such an incredible history and passing on that tradition is something we also look to do at this camp," said Timmins, before tipping his hand by revealing that among the off-ice activities will be a private screening of The Rocket, preceded by an afternoon history lesson on the NHL's most storied franchise.
Establishing the link to the team's rich heritage will be made easier by the involvement of not only the Canadiens' alumni-loaded coaching staff and management team, but also thanks to another pair of familiar faces.
Former teammates Ryan Walter and Gaston Gingras will also play key roles in helping groom the Canadiens of tomorrow. Walter, who has carved a new niche for himself since his retirement in 1993 by becoming a motivational speaker, is scheduled to pass on his wisdom on Wednesday night. Gingras, who won a Stanley Cup with the Canadiens along with Walter in 1986, has a more hockey-related mandate, as the ex-blue liner will head a series of power-skating sessions throughout the week.
"It means a lot to us to be able to put a Canadiens stamp on these players early on in their development," said Timmins. "It allows us to instill some of our values and techniques that will only help them down the road.
"And, getting the chance to learn from [Strength and Conditioning Coordinator] Scott Livingston will allow them to get themselves into the best shape possible heading into training camp in September."
According to Timmins, look no further than the Canadiens' current lineup for proof of the camp bringing results.
"It's great to see our young players like Mike Komisarek, Chris Higgins and Alexander Perezhogin with the team now after having worked their way through our system for themselves," said Timmins. "The group we have here this week are going to be teammates for a longtime, beginning in the AHL with Hamilton before eventually sitting across from one another in the Habs dressing room."
It won't exactly be all work and no play for these future Canadiens, who will pile on to their team bus before being whisked off to the Bon Jovi/Nickelback concert Thursday night at Parc Jean Drapeau.
"Some of these kids are only 18 years old, so you really can't blame them for being a little nervous. Heck, if I was in their shoes. I'd be nervous too," admitted Timmins. "But at this stage it's all about learning and if you're not having fun, chances are you're not going to learn as much."
Manny Almela is a writer for canadiens.com