By Travis Britton
Friday was every young gun’s favorite day at Rogers Arena: prospects fitness testing.
The gym was filled with optimistic, fresh-faced Canucks prospects hoping to put their best foot forward. For several of these prospects it was only their first or second time doing tests such as the Wingate, VO2 and the bench press. Judging by the amount of water and Gatorade these athletes were burning through, these off-ice tests are about as hard as it gets. Most notably, the VO2 and the Wingate were hands down the prospects’ least favorite of the tests.
With the fitness tests behind them, the prospects loaded onto the bus for a relaxing drive to Peach city, or Penticton to anyone who hasn’t enjoyed a summer vacation there. Penticton plays host to several popular events annually, including Penticton peach festival (Peachfest), Ironman triathlon and the Okanagen Wine Festival, just to name a few. But what really draws a crowd in this summer getaway of 40,000 residents is when the Vancouver Canucks come to town.
In September 2006, residents of Penticton voted 80.3 per cent in favour of the construction of the South Okanagen Events Centre. The $73 million arena, sports complex and convention centre serves as an early fall training facility for the Canucks as well as the home of BCHL’s Penticton Vees, so named in honour of the senior hockey team that won the 1955 Ice Hockey Championships against Russia.
Vancouver’s new farm team proves to be in good hands as former NHL player and coach Craig MacTavish has been handed the reigns. Today was the first day that MacTavish got a good look at some of the new players he will be in charge of for this upcoming season with the American Hockey League’s Chicago Wolves.
MacTavish seemed very optimistic about the upcoming season and being located in such a good sports market.
“Chicago has some pretty significant advantages compared to other American Hockey League teams and hopefully we can exploit some of those advantages and win some games,” said MacTavish. “There is a real good solid ownership there, they signed some veteran players to augment Vancouver prospects which is a real significant advantage, geographically the travel isn’t as intense as a lot of the other areas in the AHL and veteran players want to play there.”
Nicklas Jensen, Vancouver’s 2011 first round pick, is among the group of players going through a Young Stars Tournament for the first time. The learning curve shouldn’t be as tough on Jensen, a native of Herning, Denmark, because he is following in his dad’s footsteps and opting to play his major junior hockey in North America, rather than going the much traveled route of European player, playing in the Swedish leagues.
Having said that, the Canucks first round pick is still feeling the pressure.
“Of course it’s a lot of pressure, it’s always hard to be the main guy, everybody’s looking at you,” said Jensen. “I’m just going to do the best I can every time I’m on the ice, always show them my best and try to stay here as long as I can.
“It’s all hard and there are no easy tests here, I’m pretty gassed right now. It’s not the most fun part of camp, but It is a thing you have to go through. During the test, you just have to give it your all and do your best, and hopefully that’s good enough.”
Speaking of Jensen, have you read his first blog entry? No? Get on it!