BROSSARD – The Bulldogs were back at work for the opening of training camp on Friday, ready to show off the results of their grueling offseason workout routines.
Forty-three players were on hand at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard to run through the team’s gamut of medicals and fitness tests, hoping to impress their new coaching staff. That staff, led by ‘Dogs head coach Sylvain Lefebvre also got a first look at the players they’ll be guiding this season.
“I’m excited to get going. I’ve spent the last few months since I was named coach thinking of new ideas and strategies and preparing for the season,” admitted Lefebvre, who landed his gig with Hamilton in June. “It’s fun to get things started today. When you’re a coach, all you want to do is lace up the skates and get out there with your team. Preparation is all well and good but there’s nowhere you want to be more than with your players.”
The team Lefebvre will have at his disposal in Steel City this year will be comprised of a good mix of wily veterans and eager rookies ready to make the jump to the pros. Many of those players may have been dreading the Vo2 max tests that come with the first day of camp, but there wasn’t a Bulldog hopeful in attendance who wasn’t looking forward to the big day.
“It’s great to finally get training camp started,” shared Nathan Beaulieu, who will suit up for his first pro season after being drafted by the Habs 17th overall in 2011. “It’s been a long summer; everything’s been delayed a little bit because of the lockout. It’s fun to finally get here and get things rolling and it’s exciting because you get to see a lot of familiar faces again.”
Like their big league affiliate, the Bulldogs struggled in 2011-12, finishing 14th of 15 teams in the AHL’s Western Conference. Making matters worse, when the injury bug hit the Habs hard last year, Hamilton was forced to make-do while the team’s leading scorers were busy shuttling back and forth from Montreal. With so many new players about to make the jump, the Bulldogs are confident their time in the conference basement is behind them.
“It’s a good feeling to be here, especially coming from Junior,” explained Morgan Ellis, who capped his QMJHL career by hoisting the Memorial Cup with the Shawinigan Cataractes in May. “I’m about to start my first year at the pro level. I’m really looking forward to working with a lot of great people here.
“It’s a first-class organization and I’m looking forward to getting things started,” he added. “Hopefully I’ll have a good start but I’m just going to work hard to earn my spot here.”
The Bulldogs will be packing up and moving to Sherbrooke on Friday night to get the on-ice portion of camp underway, where they’ll play two intra-squad games in addition to daily practices.
Hugo Fontaine is a writer for canadiens.com. Translated by Shauna Denis.
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