The countdown is on for the 2002 Arctic Winter Games Tryout Camp as bantam players north of the 55th parallel prepare to converge on Falher for a shot at cracking the Team Alberta North lineup.
The event is scheduled to take place at the Falher Memorial Arena Jan. 18 to 20.
It will showcase the top bantam players between the ages of 14 and 15 as they put their skills to the test in an all-out effort to be among the chosen few selected to represent their province at the Arctic Winter Games, March 17 to 23 in Iqaluit, Nunavut and Nuuk, Greenland.
Shawn Bullock, program administrator for Hockey Alberta, says hockey fans of all ages can expect to see an estimated 160 bantam players on the ice over the course of the weekend a dressing room-sized improvement over initial projections of 140 players.
Right now were almost at maximum capacity with 158 out of 160 spots secured, he said, attributing the solid response to a successful direct mailout program in October of last year which saw invitations go out to all eligible players in the region.
He says hockey enthusiasts from throughout the greater Smoky River region can expect to feast their eyes on some exceptional talent during next weekends one-of-a-kind event.
This tryout camp represents the first real chance for many of these kids to be seen and recognized, he said, adding that some of the players in attendance will likely follow in the footsteps of former participants who moved on to play in the WHL (Western Hockey League) ranks and at the professional level.
Its a great opportunity for them to get the experience they need to get to the next level.
For now the next level is one thing and one thing only for the 160 players who are literally chomping at the bit for the chance to be a part of the adrenaline-filled emotional rollercoaster that coincides with competing nationally and bringing home the gold medal.
Weve (Team Alberta North) enjoyed a very successful past, he said referring to the gold medal championship-winning performance two years ago in Whitehorse. Were viewed by hockey people from across the country as one of the powerhouses. That says a lot about Hockey Albertas excellent coaching and developmental programs as well as the desire and passion of the kids towards the game.
The players, who share a diverse background with experience at the A, B, C and D bantam levels, are being split up into eight separate teams with each team being evaluated by Hockey Alberta personnel and Team Alberta North coaching staff.
They include nine Falher area players: Kohl Lloyd, Michael Leger, Kevin Levesque, Ryan Hachey, Marcel Gagnon, Patrice Blanchette, Dale Payou, Daniel Payou and Levi Brotnov.
Fridays agenda will include four skills sessions beginning at 5:45 p.m. with the Red Team and Blue Team.
That is being followed at 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. by the Black Team and White Team, 8:15 p.m. to 9:15 p.m. by the Green Team and Orange Team and 9:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. by the Gold Team and Purple Team.
Im anticipating it to be very exciting, Bullock said, giving a much-deserved pat on the back to the Smoky River Minor Hockey Associations organizing committee for doing all the legwork. Weve got a great host committee in place and I know were all looking forward to arriving later this week.
Saturdays schedule consists of a goaltender evaluation session from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. followed by four more skills sessions including: Blue Team and White Team from 9:15 a.m. to 10:15 a.m., Red Team and Black Team from 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., Orange Team and Purple Team from 11:45 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. and the Green Team and Gold Team, which take to the ice from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m.
It all leads up to the final phase of the evaluation process on Sunday as each team is given the opportunity to square off against another in a series of four, 90-minute scrimmages. Games include: the Red Team playing the Gold Team from 9 a.m. to 10:30, the Purple Team taking on the Black Team from 10:45 a.m. to 12:15 p.m., Team Orange going up against Team White from 12:30 to 2 p.m. and Team Blue taking on Team Green from 2:15 p.m. to 3:45 p.m.
From there, the coaching staff, which consists of head coach Doug Vreelink of Manning and assistant coach Randall Gillett of Fairview, will have the arduous task of trimming the field of candidates down to a roster of 15 players and two goalies.
the coaching staff is expected to begin the process of notifying players about the final selections a few days after the completion of the camp.