TRAVERSE CITY — One thing this year’s Detroit Red Wings Development Camp doesn’t have that last year’s did is the threat of labor strife between owners and players.
So that alone should make for a better vibe to the upcoming camp, which begins today and goes until Monday afternoon at Centre ICE.
Last year’s Development Camp ended up being the only one the Red Wings brought to Traverse City, as the NHL lockout ultimately led to the Prospects Tournament and the main training camp being shelved for the year. None of those issues remain as the buzz begins for the first of three Red Wings camps in the area over the next two months.
“We are very excited,” said Ann Reeves, camp director. “Our bloggers and our social media folks have alerted me that we’re getting massive amounts of hits on anything we post. Last year the scrimmage was highly attended and some of the practice sessions weren’t necessarily that busy, but I do expect a little bigger turnout this year based on the sheer number of media and social media that are paying attention to us.”
With a camp roster that sits at 38 players, fans will be able to see some potential stars of the future, including first-round draft pick Anthony Mantha, taken 20th overall in the NHL draft two weeks ago. Also expected to be on hand is veteran skater Darren Helm, who is trying to get back on the ice after missing virtually the entire 2012-13 season because of injury.
“Because the (Grand Rapids) Griffins went so long I think a lot of the folks in the state of Michigan were entertained by hockey,” said Reeves. “But we haven’t seen any for two-and-a-half weeks now so people are getting hungry and they want to see some hockey.”
They will get the chance with the first practice coming today at noon. Admission is free for today’s action, with the daily cost for the rest of camp at $5. That includes Friday’s intra-squad scrimmage.
“The thing I like that’s fun for me is to see the kids come in so excited, so motivated and watch them develop over the years until they do become Red Wings,” said Traverse City’s Diane Jurica, who has volunteered at Red Wings camps for the past 11 years.
Mike Anton of Traverse City describes himself as a moderate Red Wings fan. He attended some of the sessions last year and sees the Development Camp as a preview of what people might see at the Prospects Camp on Sept. 5-9.
“To me it’s a little bit of the practice for the Prospects,” he said. “When I’m down there I watch them because I’ve coached for so long. Watching what kind of drills they run, things like that. If you coach hockey, and you’re involved in coaching, what kind of drills do you run for a guy who’s borderline professional? For conditioning, for skill improvement. What kind of stuff do they do for them?”
Krissy Dorrier of Ann Arbor will be at the camp sessions Sunday and Monday. She sees the Development Camp as a early glimpse into the team’s future.
“It’s very cool that we get to have such young talent up in Traverse City before anyone else gets to see them,” she said. “We’re getting all the new draft picks coming up, so that’s going to be interesting. Also, seeing Darren Helm there will be a really cool addition to Development Camp.”