For whatever reason, there’s always been some debate as to when the hockey season “officially” begins. I believe that the NHL tells us that the entry draft is the turning point, but I’ve always felt as though that’s too soon.
Instead, I’ll make the case that the first practice of training camp marks the start of the 2009-10 season. As I sit in the stands of the RBC Center at 10 a.m. on a Sunday morning, it can’t possibly feel more official than this. Although somewhat bittersweet (nights and weekends are no longer a given for us staffers), I’m nonetheless glad to be here. Judging by the number of Caniacs who were already in the stands before I arrived, I’m guessing you feel the same way.
Training camp should be a little more manageable this season, as the prospects tournament and the lack of veteran tryouts make this a much smaller group. We only have two practices each day to kick things off (instead of three), which makes a big difference.
The groups are also structured somewhat differently, with the team basically divided into likely Hurricanes (Group A) and likely River Rats (Group B). In previous years, the team was split evenly among the different groups, with Eric Staal
in Group A, Rod Brind’Amour in Group B, etc., etc.
Although all players will surely get their opportunity to prove they belong here, it’s worth noting that defensemen Brett Carson and Jay Harrison
are skating in Group A. With Joni Pitkanen
out for the next few weeks, it appears those two have the inside track on Group B’ers Jamie McBain
and Bryan Rodney for a possible opening day roster spot. Carson and Harrison are the only players in Group A who aren’t sure-fire Hurricanes. Zach Boychuk
, Brandon Sutter
and company are starting in Group B.
We also have our first mystery of the year, as Jussi Jokinen
is wearing a
gold “injured” jersey and isn’t participating fully. He’s shadowing Tuomo Ruutu
in each drill but isn’t handling pucks, although his skating looks fine. Given the way the Finns tend to stick together around here, it’s actually kind of funny to watch. At any rate it doesn’t appear to be serious, but we’ll have more on that later.
Stick around for that and more, as the blogs will be plentiful from now on.