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by Staff Writer / New York Islanders
For most of the members of the Islanders 2009 Training Camp, the five-hour plane ride from Long Island to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan was one to “foreign land.”  However, for several players, it is a return trip home. 

Group 1
Islanders’ assistant captain, Brendan Witt is a long-time veteran of the NHL but you can’t tell as he stepped onto the ice for the first time at camp this morning. 

“It’s great to be back in Saskatchewan.  I haven’t been back in a while but you can see that there has been a tremendous amount of growth here,” Witt said.  “My roots are only about an hour from here and it was nice to see some old child-hood friends in the stands who work here in the city of Saskatoon.” 

The Humboldt, SASK native was excited for the chance to come back to the area where he grew up and expects to have around a large number of fans attend the two exhibition games in Saskatoon.  That same comfort level that Witt is experiencing, playing so close to his hometown, is something that he is trying to rub off on the youth of the organization. 

“We’re really building towards an exciting season,” Witt said.  “A lot of young guys like Josh Bailey, Frans Nielsen and Kyle Okposo got great opportunities last season to step into major roles and I think that they are only going to get better from those experiences.  I remember being the rookie in those situations learning from Dale Hunter in Washington but now I enjoy going out there and acting like a teacher whenever they have questions.” 

Jeremy Reich, another Saskatchewan native from Craik, has been in the Boston Bruins organization the past few seasons but unlike most new signings, Reich doesn’t have as many questions about head coach Scott Gordon’s systems since he played for Gordon in Providence two years ago.  He is excited for the new start and feels even more comfortable skating about an hour and a half from his home. 

“It’s been an easy transition for me because I was able to recall the systems that Coach Gordon implements so it gives me a good head start,” Reich said.  “He knows what I can bring to the table so it is going to help me in this quick turn-around as I get ready to play in the upcoming exhibition games.”

Unlike the Islanders, the Bruins host their Training Camp at the team’s home facilities in Boston so Reich is happy to have the support of 15 to 20 friends and family members cheering him on.  Reich has also been the answer when his new teammates have questions about the area, telling them so of the better restaurants in the city. 

“I’ve told them that it’s really flat here in Saskatchewan,” Reich said.  “A lot of the guys haven’t been here before but it’s an easy area to get used to.  It’s a great city.  I used to come back and live here in the summer time so we’re all looking forward to an exciting week.” 

Other Saskatchewan Connections:

Blake Comeau – Born and raised in Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan, which is three hours away from the Islanders Training Camp facility in Saskatoon.  Comeau played his minor hockey in Saskatoon and is planning a surprise visit to his midget coach who still lives in the area. 

Scott Munroe – Born in Moose Jaw Saskatchewan, Munroe has played goalie in the Philadelphia Flyers organization the past four years after graduating from the University of Alabama-Huntsville.

Jyri Niemi – A member of the 2008 Islanders Entry Draft class, Niemi plays his junior hockey in Saskatoon for the Blades.  He was born in Hameenkyro, Finland but has played in North America for the past two seasons and has played in a preseason game for the Blades this year as well. 

Rise and Shine:  The players in the first group had an early morning as their on-ice session for Day 1 began at 7 a.m.  For most hockey players, to wake up at 6:15, be at the rink by 6:30 and on the ice by 7 would work fine, but not when you're in the NHL.  Group 1 was up bright and early and boarded a bus at 5:45 a.m. to the arena for stretching and on-ice preparation.  The second group's session did not begin until 9:45 a.m. 

Q&A with Morency: Over the past two seasons, Pascal Morency has skated for the Sound Tigers doing whatever it takes to help his team win. sat down with Morency to talk about the first NHL Training Camp of his career, things he learned from Islanders' head coach Scott Gordon and his exciting news that he and his wife are due to have a baby in February.  To hear more, CLICK HERE.


Group 1

Trevor Smith - Greg Moore - Jeremy Reich
Matt Moulson - Greg Mauldin - Jon Sim
Jeff Tambellini - Josh Bailey - Blake Comeau
Sean Bentivoglio - Nate Thompson - Tim Jackman

Andy Sutton - Freddy Meyer
Jack Hillen - Andrew MacDonald
Dustin Kohn - Mark Flood

Scott Munroe
Nathan Lawson

Group 2

Sean Bergenheim - Frans Nielsen - Kyle Okposo
Micheal Haley - Tomas Marcinko - Richard Park
Doug Weight - John Tavares - Trent Hunter

Mark Streit - Bruno Gervais
Brendan Witt - Radek Martinek
Calvin de Haan - Jan Piskacek

Dwayne Roloson
Martin Biron

Group 3

Justin DiBenedetto - Bobby Hughes - Robin Figren
Matt Martin - Casey Cizikas - Joel Rechlicz
Jesse Joensuu - Tony Romano - Pascal Morency
Tyler Haskins

Jyri Niemi - Mark Katic
Anton Klementyev - Brett Westgarth
Jan Piskacek - Calvin de Haan

Mikko Koskinen
Kevin Poulin
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