Kelowna Rockets veterans and coaches, along plenty of young prospects, hit the ice at Prospera Place on Tuesday, kicking off the first day of on-ice activity at the Rockets 2013 training camp.
Split into three teams, more than 50 players began the camp with each team hitting the ice twice
as two games and two practices were held under the guidance of Rockets coaches.
"Today it was nice to be back on the ice with the players," said head coach Ryan Huska, entering his seventh season as Rockets head coach. "I thought our practice sessions were good and our scrimmages were good as well. It's nice to see the players put the effort in over the summer. There are a lot of guys that are excited and wanting more and are prepared to do what they have to do to get further than we did last season."
After watching Rockets rookie camp from the sidelines, Huska and the rest of the Rockets coaching staff (assistants Dan Lambert, Kim Dillabaugh and Kim Gellert) have begun working directly with the remaining players in camp as the team heads towards its WHL exhibition opener against Kamloops, Friday in Kelowna.
In camp are the returning Rockets from last year's team that went 52-16-3-1 along with several newcomers hoping to crack the roster. Draft picks from this summer's WHL bantam draft who on Sunday completed the Rockets rookie camp, also began the main camp but will head home to their respective minor hockey associations this week.
Many players are back from last year's record-setting Rockets club, a team that won a Kelowna-reocrd 23 straight home games and a franchise best 52 games to win the WHL BC Division title.
And Huska says it's the success the team had last year, and ultimately the playoff loss to Kamloops in the second round, that is the base that this year's team will be built on.
"I think what we started last year is important to continue," said Huska, "but we are a different team. It's going to be a different group. We have to start from square one. If we can start a little ahead from last year and continue to build and really work on developing as a group and getting ready for the playoffs, then I think that this group has the opportunity to be successful."
Nine Rockets will head to NHL camps after the Rockets main camp: 2012 draft picks Colton Sissons (Nashville), Damon Severson (New Jersey) and Ryan Olsen (Winnipeg), along with 2013 picks Madison Bowey (Washington), Tyrell Goulbourne (Philadelphia), Mitchell Wheaton (Detroit) and Myles Bell (New Jersey).
Sissons, the Rockets captain, isn't expected to return to the Rockets this season but is skating with the team prior to heading to Nashville's NHL camp.
The Rockets break main camp on Thursday before hosting Kamloops on Friday night in one of two home exhibition games. Kelowna will host Vancouver on Sept. 7 before opening the WHL season Sept. 20 on the road in Kamloops.
The Rockets home opener is Saturday Sept. 21, also against the Blazers.
Tickets are on sale now for the Rockets two home exhibition games at www.selectyourtickets.com. Season tickets are on sale at the Rockets office at 250-862-7825.