If nothing else, helping out at a hockey camp in Michigan proved to be a good networking tool for the Vernon Vipers coaching staff.
Head coach/general manager Mark Ferner and assistants Kevin Kraus and Kevin Pedersen helped out with a camp in Canton, 13 kilometres west of Detroit.
“It’s an area we’ve never tapped into for players,” said Ferner, “We met a lot of people so it was good for networking.”
The camp, run by Total Sports, was on at the exact time as a camp for the Shreveport Mudbugs, an expansion team in the North American Hockey League, the only USA Hockey-sanctioned Tier II Junior league boasting 24 teams in 12 states from across North America.
“They worked pretty hard to get a competitive camp,” said Ferner of the Total Sports experience. “There’s some players we looked at that are undecided where they want to go, whether they want to come to the BCHL or try the NAHL.”
Ferner has been to camps in Boston and Canton, then returned to help out with the annual Greater Vernon Minor Hockey Summer Hockey School as he prepares for the start of his team’s training camp Monday.
“Our camp will be full,” said Ferner. “We will have four teams and the camp will be very competitive.”
As many as 12 returnees from last year’s squad which finished fourth in the Interior Division are expected back.
Ferner said the veterans shouldn’t expect any “free lunches.”
“The kids will have to come in with the goal of re-making the hockey team, that’s the way it should be,” he said. “If they feel it’s their right to have a spot on the team, they’re mistaken.”
First on-ice scrimmages for the camp go Monday at Kal Tire Place.
The Vipers will play their first pre-season game Thursday, Aug. 25, at 7 p.m. at Kal Tire Place against the Penticton Vees.
Vernon will host the Merritt Centennials Friday night at 7 at Kal Tire Place.
The Vipers open their regular season with a home-and-home series Sept. 9 and 10 with the Silverbacks, starting in Salmon Arm.
Vernon has a strong group of returning forwards, led by captain Colton McCarthy, Riley Brandt and Christian Cakebread.