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MAIN CAMP: Kelowna cohesiveness

For newcomers like Josh Archibald, the Oilers team retreat was a great opportunity to get to know his teammates

by Paul Gazzola /

KELOWNA, BC - Out on the Okanagan water they were, just enjoying the Kelowna weather.

No skates, no sticks, no distractions. Just Oilers Main Camp attendants on a boat. 

Just boys being dudes, getting to know one another under the British Columbia sun before the last batch of National Hockey League pre-season games get underway and then after that, the real ones.

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Consider the Oilers Kelowna team retreat a success for newcomers like Josh Archibald, who enjoyed the weekend excursion while learning more about his new teammates away from the rink.

"We were out on the boat one day and Smitty (Mike Smith) was pointing out that he bought a house up here this summer actually," Archibald, recapping some highlights from the week, said. 

"I thought that was kind of cool, just being able to see where guys spend their summers and get a little different perspective on things."

The winger, who signed with the Oilers on July 16, experienced similar team trips in the past with other clubs and mentioned how impactful they can be for a fresh face joining the room.

"When I first came in here, I was a new guy," Archibald said. "There are times when you want to speak up but you don't know if you should."

For Archibald, who's been skating on a line with Jujhar Khaira and Riley Sheahan at Camp, those bonding jaunts not only make players feel more at ease around one another but can also translate on the ice.

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"You just get more comfortable," he said. "When you get into a week like this and spend a weekend together, you feel that comfort and you can talk to guys and say things. They'll understand and you'll understand."

Connor McDavid, the Oilers Captain who sets the tone for the room, doubled down on the value team retreats can have.

"The relationships in the dressing room are really important for the on-ice part of it," McDavid said. "It was a good opportunity set up by the coaches and management for us to get to know each other pretty well."

Before entering the dressing room or taking the ice in Orange & Blue, Archibald wondered about the leadership and team dynamic in Edmonton. After three weeks with McDavid and Co., he has his answer.

"I've never had a captain that's been younger than I have," the 26-year-old said.

"He's one of the best leaders I've had." 

McDavid was the first person to reach out to Archibald when his paperwork was signed. It was an example of the captain's dedication to welcoming new members to the club. And while many perceive the 22-year-old captain as a quiet individual, Archibald was quick to dismiss that.

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"People may not think he's vocal but he is the leader and he is very vocal behind the scenes in the locker room when it's just us guys," Archibald said. 

"It's really cool to see that. Someone to come up that young, be that mature and lead a team like this."

Over an 82-game NHL schedule, a team becomes a family. It may be pre-season still but guys like Archibald are already starting to feel at home.

"Being able to come here as a new guy and feel as welcomed as I am and feel like part of the team and the family as you would at the end of the year is a really good feeling," Archibald said.

Photos courtesy of Marissa Baecker and Shoot the Breeze Photography.

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