July 4, 2003
For most teenagers, the first week of July is time to spend with friends and family. For a handful of Toronto Maple Leaf prospects it was spent in Toronto at the Maple Leafs annual prospects camp.
| Wendel Clark gives instructions to prospects. |
The week-long camp is held for Maple Leaf management to observe some of the team's recent draft picks in person and educate them on what lies ahead as they strive toward their goal of becoming a Toronto Maple Leaf.
The camp is run by development coach Paul Dennis, former Leaf great Wendel Clark, scout Garth Malarchuk and video coach Reid Mitchell.
The week-long affair covers many areas including media training, drug and alcohol awareness, strength and conditioning awareness, food preparation, meeting a sports psychologist and on-ice workouts.
The overall goal, however is to prepare the players for what may lie ahead in playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
"We want to expose them to what it's like to be a Toronto Maple Leaf," Dennis said. "We're trying to prepare them for what life in the pros will be like. Once they understand these things they will be a better pro."
| Mitchell is attending his first orientation camp. |
Attending his first prospect camp was 2003 fifth round pick, John Mitchell who is from nearby Waterloo, Ontario. Mitchell grew up loving the Leafs and couldn't believe his fortune in being drafted by Toronto.
"It was awesome. I was so excited just to be drafted, but it was a real thrill to be picked by Toronto," Mitchell said.
The orientation camp has become a big part in developing future Maple Leafs. Players who have attended the camp in the past few years have included Carlo Colaiacovo and Matt Stajan. Both appeared in their first NHL games last year. Although Colaiacovo isn't attending this summer's camp, Stajan is at his second.
"The biggest thing I learned last year is how to take care of your body," Stajan said. "Your body is like a car. You have to keep it refueled so you can get the most out of yourself," Stajan said.
For first year attendee Mitchell, it was an eye-opening experience to see what it takes to be a pro.
"We've learned many different things like food preparation and weight training. After junior, you're on your own and you need to know all these things to be a better pro," Mitchell said. "For weight training, it's not how much weight, it's more the technique. That's what will save you from injury."
| Colaiacovo was happy to get a chance. |
After a period of not having many young players in the system, the Leafs are beginning to develop a talented youth base that's key to a franchise's success. The players in the system now are developing well and Dennis sees quite a few pros emerging from this group.
"Eight of the players here are under contract so they are really close. For the others they're still to young and this is why we have the camp. We will watch them and see how they develop," Dennis said.
Though Carlo Colaiacovo wasn't at the camp his twin brother Paulo was. A goalie in junior, Paulo is not signed by an NHL team yet and was happy the Leafs gave him a chance to play at the orientation camp
"It was a great opportunity and I want to take the most out of it," Colaiacovo said.
The next step for many of the players who attended the orientation camp will be the Maple Leafs rookie training camp in September and, with that, they'll be one step closer to their goal of making the Leafs. " news