A rink full of potential Columbia Valley Rockies players skated their hardest at the Rockies’ camp last weekend. Both the veteran players and new recruits skated as if their very dreams depended on it, and that’s because they do. With 35 skaters in the arena and more to arrive later competing for 25 coveted slots on the team, every shot counts.
“Nobody’s really safe,” said head coach Wade Dubielewicz. “Everyone has to earn their spots.”
Even after two years on the team, Cooper Krauss – a 20-year-old assistant captain who came to Invermere from Okotoks – has to prove he deserves to continue wearing the jersey.
He’s feeling pretty confident but said he kept skating through the summer “to keep my legs under me and make sure I’m not one of those guys who is getting sent home right away.”
The first time he arrived at the Eddie Mountain Memorial Arena for tryouts, he said the experience was nerve wracking until he stepped onto the ice. Then everything faded away besides the glide of his skates and the slap of his stick. He expects the same thing to happen again this year.
“I’m excited, excited to get things going,” he said.
Exhibition games will follow the camp, with players getting cut along the way. The regular season games will begin on Friday, September 7th against the Summerland Steam in the Summerland Arena.
Coach Dubielewicz intends to build on the momentum from the Rockies’ exhilarating playoff run that capped off their season last year.
“Our returning players got a taste of what playoff success is like and with some of the roster changes we’ve made and our leadership team coming back, our expectations are through the roof,” he said. “I feel like we finally have the right group of returning players to lead our highly talented younger guys in the right direction. You put those things together and I don’t think there’s anything but success coming our way.”
Coach Dubielewicz raved about the five veteran 20-year-old players – including Mr. Krauss – who are returning this year. He praised the “good hockey players and good leaders” for the positive example they set by making smart choices on and off the ice.
“I’ve never been this positive about a returning group since I’ve been coaching,” he said. “Culture combined with talent: It’s going to make for a special year.”
Coach Dubielewicz said the Rockies’ fans are in for a treat this season.
“They’re going to see a high tempo, physical, fun group to watch,” he said.
The Rockies will be playing an exhibition game against Kimberley in Invermere on Saturday, September 1st. Their first regular season home game will take place on Friday, September 21st against Golden.