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Reporting for duty

by Jen Sharpe / Edmonton Oilers

While Oilers prospects and try-outs have already completed a full week of Rookie Camp tests, practices, and competition, the club’s more established players started their season with Main Training Camp medicals and testing today at Rexall Place.

As last season’s linemates and roommates progressed through the testing stations, the rookies weren’t the only new faces in the room: off-season acquisitions Erik Cole and Lubomir Visnovsky also participated in the opening-day rituals, marking their first official day on the job as Oilers.

For Cole, Training Camp Day 1 concludes a summer of training, moving, and adjusting to a new city.

Erik Cole chats with Bob Stauffer on Day 1 of Oilers Training Camp. Photo by Andy Devlin/Edmonton Oilers Hockey Club.
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“It’s kind of good to get things rolling here today,” the 29-year-old says. “This off season just kind of drags on towards the last couple of weeks – you’re anxious to get going, so it’s been great coming here to the rink and trying to fit in and be a part of things.”

Unlike Cole, who has been in Edmonton for the past four weeks, Visnovsky is only six days into life as an Albertan.

“I’m looking for a house and it’s not easy here,” the friendly Slovakian says. “I’m looking at a couple of beautiful areas here like Valley View . . . It’s nice and different from L.A.”

Visnovsky’s most-recent visit to Edmonton was in January, and he says the recent warm weather has been a pleasant surprise.

“The winter is very nice,” he remembers. “The five, six days I was here (in January), it was so sunny and so cold here. [Now] it’s 24, 25 every day. It’s a big surprise for me.”

Though Cole has had more time to adjust to his new surroundings, he admits there’s one aspect of the city that he has yet to figure out: the commute to Rexall Place.

“I need to find a couple of alternate routes to the arena for when traffic gets a little heavy – I was running a little late this morning. But other than that, I’m just continuing to find my way around here and in the new environment, but so far everything’s been great.”

Weather and traffic may perplex the Oilers’ newest additions but the state of the hockey club is where their confidence lies.

“I think there’s reason for all the optimism,” Cole says. “There’s certainly no shortage of skilled players here. Just playing some shinny hockey with them, it’s pretty impressive to see the skill set that some of these guys bring to the table.”

 “With the way the team finished last year . . . it’s obvious that there’s a lot of great veteran leadership in the room from top to bottom. So hopefully everything’s going to transfer on to the ice well and things have been pretty seamless off the ice. So I’m excited.”

Lubomir Visnovsky completes the VO2 Max test as part of Training Camp medicals and testing. Photo by Andy Devlin/Edmonton Oilers Hockey Club
Visnovsky shares Cole’s sentiments.

“We’ve got a lot of young, good players and we’ve got good veterans I think. It will be a great team . . . I’m excited because for the last seven seasons I played for the L.A. Kings and only the first two years I played playoffs. I’m in the NHL and I want to win the Stanley Cup. I play for this.”

With Visnovsky leaving Los Angeles for the League’s most northerly team and Cole coming off six seasons in Carolina, both players are eager to transition from non-hockey markets to a Canadian city where hockey makes headlines year-round.

“It’s a traditional hockey market so the fan support here, it’s everywhere. It’s always the first order of business in the morning, so it’s nice,” Cole says. “You’re riding around in the car and listening to sports talk and it’s more hockey-based . . . I like the fact that you stay a little bit more focused maybe and you pay a little bit more attention to the details on a daily basis.”

In L.A., Visnovsky says, “[fans are] coming for the fights and looking for movie stars and they go home . . . [But] here, everything is different. Everybody loves the hockey players, everybody watches hockey. The Oilers are number one for the fans. And there’s maybe a little bit more pressure here for the players, but it’s okay.”

One of the men who will be applying pressure this season is Head Coach Craig MacTavish. But following the first day of Training Camp, he had nothing but good things to say about the two imports.

“Cole’s been here for three-plus weeks now. Seeing him at the rink now, it’s like he’s been here for five years already. And same with Lubomir. Just a very infectious personality and a happy guy and those guys have quickly made the transition and become Oilers in a very short period of time.”

“That’s why we’re all excited to see that everybody’s healthy,” MacTavish continues. “Young players have developed and we’ve got lots of depth in virtually every position. We’re all really curious to see what we’ve got and those decisions will be made further down the line. But being around the game as long as I have, I know enough to know that we’ve got a real good chance to do some great things this year.”

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