News Gazette staff
As summer comes to a close, a colder, harder-hitting season is set to hit the ice.
After another promising regular season ending in bitter playoff disappointment, Victoria Grizzlies’ director of operations Jim Swanson said 50 players are gearing up for training camp with a chip on their shoulders heading into the 2015-2016 hockey season.
“(In 2015) we were the hottest team in the B.C. going into the playoffs winning nine in a row … We were primed but one thing no one would know is how many injuries we had going into that point,” he said. “Injures took their hold in the playoffs more than we had hoped.”
Despite the sting of a 3-1 first round loss to the Powell River Kings, Swanson said a camp including welcome returnees Kevin Massey and Cole Pickup would form the backbone of a squad expected to win.
“We focused on skill and character, (coach and general manager) Craig Didmon has done a tremendous job at putting together one of the top team in the league on paper,” he said. “We have high expectations, we want to set the bar high.”
Despite wanting to compete in a winning environment, Swanson added creativity for players would not be stifled on the ice and entertainment value for fans of the new-look team with a new arena deal and new ownership would continue to grow.
“People want to watch entertaining hockey, not guys who just chip off glass, guys who handle the puck,” he said.
“Craig’s style and his format and what he does gives players an opportunity to be creative and score goals,” he said. “On defence you want to be a crushing team, you want to make it tough to cross your blueline and we think we have those players this year.”
With their first away game Sept. 11, their first home game Oct. 1 and training camp around the corner, Swanson welcomed the public to their practice facility at the Juan de Fuca arena to see the testing and precise programs designed to get all the players and coaches first hand.
“This is Christmas Eve for us, giving us a chance to get a real sweat on the ice is always fun… We look back and we know that last season had some turmoil with a coaching change and a new local ownership group.” he said.
“(However) there is a lot of creative ideas with how we will try to connect with community in the West Shore… This is a West Shore team based in the West Shore and does a lot of business in the West Shore. We want to make sure people out here take some pride in the team.”
For practice times and scrimmages schedule, visit victoria grizzlies.com.