It was an early morning start on Saturday as more than 60 members of the Sharks shuffled in to Sharks Ice at San Jose for the first day of training camp. There was a contagious energy of excitement throughout the building and on the rinks. The players were back out on the ice; skating, shooting and slamming each other into the boards, all with big grins on their faces while about 500 of the most die-hard Sharks fans watched from the stands.
Finally, hockey is back.
Out on the South Rink, there were the veterans: Joe Thornton
, Patrick Marleau
, Evgeni Nabokov and Jeremy Roenick, skating and scoring with smiles on their faces. They wore their usual numbers and looked relieved to be back on the ice. And then there were the new guys like Mike Morris, Tyson Sexsmith
, Mike Moore
and Samuel Groulx. They wore numbers that didn’t resonate with fans and a look of anxiety and excitement to be competing for a spot on an NHL team.
After completing an afternoon of physicals and testing the day before, Saturday was all about being out on the ice.
“I felt great out there, I won’t lie to you,” joked Thornton after his first skate. He was being jeered on by right wing Mike Grier sitting in the locker beside him. “It was tough because we just jumped right into it, but it’s nice and exciting to get back because we’ve missed this for a long time now.”
Thornton went on to talk about new head coach Todd McLellan and the conversations they’ve had leading up to training camp. McLellan had spoke with him about the power play and that he would be expected to drive the net more. But this wasn’t a surprise to Thornton who led the League in assists last year.
“We had a little talk before and he said you’re doing to drive a little bit more we’re going to have a little bit more puck control in our game,” added Thornton. “It’s going to be high tempo.”
One rookie playing alongside Thornton for Team A was defenseman Mike Moore
. The six-foot-one native of Calgary Alberta was the 2008 ECAC Hockey Defensive Defenseman of the year and led Princeton defenseman in goals (seven), assists (17) and points (7-17=24) in 148 games. He played three games for the Worcester Sharks (AHL) in 2008 and garnered 16 penalty minutes.
“You can’t help but have a smile on your face when you’re out there skating around” explained Moore. “You’re doing a conditioning skate out there and you look around and you see who you’re out there with and that’s pretty exciting. We had Patty Marleau, Joe Thornton
and Ryane Clowe
. It’s a lot of guys you can learn from and look up to.”
Another rookie playing alongside an NHL All-Star was goaltender Tyson Sexsmith
. He was paired on Team A with goaltender Evgeni Nabokov and the Sharks starting goaltender gave Sexsmith some veteran advice.
“At the end of practice he said, ‘all this hard work will pay off one day.’ He said he didn’t believe it at first really, but he kept on going through the paces and it finally paid off for him,” explained Sexsmith. The 19-year-old was drafted by the Sharks in the third round of the 2007 Entry Draft.
“I thought it was a good time out there,” said Sexsmith. “It was a good experience to be paired with a guy who has been in the NHL for a number of years. You can pick up things that he does and learn from him.”
One player who made the starting roster out of last year’s training camp was Sharks center Torrey Mitchell
. This time around, Mitchell was centering the starting line for Team C, won the opening faceoff and scored the first goal of Saturday's scrimmage. His advice to the young rookies was simple: if you play well in camp, you’ll get your spot on the team.
“Zalewski looks pretty good. Mike Morris looks good. Even Logan Couture
and Jamie McGinn have a chance,” said Mitchell.
Saturday’s camp included a scrimmage consisting of two thirty-minute halves. Team B dressed in white jerseys competed against Team C in black jerseys with Team B taking the game 4-3 (SO). Mitchell and Jeff Friesen scored in the first half, while Joe Pavelski
, Matthew Pistilli, Marcel Goc and Rick Cleaver scored in the second. Milan Michalek was the only player to convert in the shootout to earn the victory for Team B.
While the scrimmage consisted of numerous hits and open-ice collisions, the most noticeable altercation came between 18-year-old rookie Samuel Groulx and 38-year-old Roenick. The two collided at the blue line and Groulx’ elbow caught Roenick in the head. The veteran jumped in Groulx’ face and punched him a couple times. Groulx backed away, like he was trying to decide if he really wanted to punch Roenick. Both players received minor penalties.
Sharks Training Camp will continue Sunday at Sharks Ice at San Jose at 9:00 AM. Team C will scrimmage Team A on the South Rink at 11:15 AM.