The Halifax Mooseheads are hoping a new-look training camp leads to a season of old-time hockey.
The Mooseheads, who are trying to establish an identity as a physical, hard-working team, have cancelled practices in favour of more intra-squad games, lifted a ban on fighting, and, for the first time in years, invited more than 60 players.
The “anything goes” approach is all part of the plan for fourth-year head coach Cam Russell, who opens his first camp as general manager tomorrow at Cole Harbour Place.
“It’s time to scrimmage and see what they can do,” said Russell, who took over as general manager last January when Marcel Patenaude was fired after nine seasons.
The Mooseheads finished last in the QMJHL in 2008-09 with their second-worst point total in the franchise’s 15-year history. With a young team returning, there could be as many as a dozen roster spots legitimately up for grabs.
The three-day camp will feature five-on-five hockey with regular-season rules, giving the Herd’s brass a chance to see each player in as many as four full games by week’s end.
“It’s very easy to be fooled by a practice player,” Russell said. “We’re putting them in game situations, so we’ll get to see where we’re at very quickly with these guys.”
Russell told his top roster hopefuls at the start of the summer he wanted them to report to camp in “mid-season form,” and brought most of them together for fitness testing in July. In order to play Russell’s desired style, fitness is a key.
“They’ve had ample time to get into top shape,” he said. “For guys who aren’t, it’s going to be a very difficult camp.”
The rebuilding Mooseheads enter camp without much firepower, a thin defence corps and unproven goaltending. It will be a challenge to put up a lot of wins, but Russell hopes his team can win over Metro Centre fans either way.
“As long as they get an honest-day’s effort from the players, they’re happy,” Russell said. “We’re going to be young, so we want to be a hungry, tenacious hockey team.”