After a shortened, 24-game schedule last year, the Lethbridge Hurricanes began their first training camp in two seasons on Thursday and veteran forward Logan Barlage is enjoying the familiar routine.
“It’s nice to have a preseason, get everyone in game shape and getting ready to go,” he said. “Just coming back, being able to hang out with the guys and see your billets, it brings more energy to the table.
“I’m definitely excited and we’re ready to go.”
“It’s always an exciting time,” forward Justin Hall said.
“Getting ready for the season, seeing the younger guys come in, teaching them how to be a Hurricane (and) a bit about the league. It’s a fun time.”
Having some familiar faces in the stands will also be a boost this season.
“It’s going to be crazy, that first game with fans,” Hall said.
“There’s going to be some jitters, going to be nervous, but I think we’re all excited. I can’t wait for that.”
Camp also allows the front office to get a look at the future.
COVID-19 kept head scout Robert MacLachlan and general manager Peter Anholt from watching the team’s prospects last season, something they were finally able to do on Day 1 of camp.
“I don’t think overall the year of skill development and skating hurt anybody,” MacLachlan said after watching the first practices of the day. “It’ll take them a little while to get in the groove of playing games, but I’m really happy.”
“We’ve got some players that we drafted a couple years ago that haven’t even been to Lethbridge yet. That is really strange in a normal situation,” Anholt said.
One of those draft picks, defenceman Noah Chadwick, spent most of last season practising with his Saskatoon Contacts U18 team and is excited to finally get a taste of the Western Hockey League.
“All the coaches have been super helpful and they’re awesome to me,” Chadwick said.
“I practised with some of the guys a couple days ago and they introduced themselves right away and made things easier for the transition.”
“I’ve been waiting for this for a long time,” forward Logan Wormald said after his WHL camp debut.
“A year and a half — I’ve been ready to go the whole time.”
Wormald used the time to gain strength.
“It was tough for sure not playing games for 18 months,” he said. “Just practices over and over, working on my game… trying to get bigger and faster.”
MacLachlan has been impressed by the younger players at camp.
“We didn’t know where some of the young guys would be at, because all they did was practise all year,” MacLachlan said.
“They look good. They’re meeting our expectations of where they’re at.”
While the start of the season looks familiar, there is also a familiar goal in mind.
On a team that is bringing back its top three scorers from last season, including Barlage and Hall, the Hurricanes are gunning for a championship.
“Everyone’s talking about (the) Edmonton (Oil Kings) being this great team with all the talent they have, but I know we can beat them,” Hall said.
“I know we’re just as good as them.”
“We all want to push for a championship,” Barlage said.
The WHL will play a full 68-game season this year. The Hurricanes begin the preseason by welcoming the Medicine Hat Tigers to the Enmax Centre on Friday, Sept. 17.
Their first regular season game is against the Calgary Hitmen at home on Oct. 1.