|The ins and outs of NHL Training Camp|
|Written by Kevin Orris, Daily Vidette Sports Columnist|
|Wednesday, 21 September 2011 21:50|
Working in sports is a dream for a lot of college students. For me, I have been fortunate to turn that dream into reality.
As a second-year intern with the Peoria Rivermen, I spent the past four days attending St. Louis Blues Training Camp, learning the ins and outs of running an NHL communications department, interacting with players and developing web content.
Although NHL Training Camp may not sound like a big deal, it’s easily the toughest of the four major sports in the United States.
For example, 56 Blues players reported to St. Louis Sept. 16 for their first day of camp, which included taking headshots, talking to the media, filling out questionnaires and the annual “beep test” (a conditioning drill to test the players’ endurance and sprinting ability).
The other days of training camp, the players are split into two teams of 28, each practicing for nearly two and a half hours in front of hundreds of fans.
By Tuesday night, the players endured just a few days of practice, but have to be prepared to take on their first opponent in the Tampa Bay Lightning, the first of five games in five days.
Considering the Blues’ current organizational structure, there are only a couple of spots remaining on the NHL roster, which makes for tough competition.
Among those attempting to solidify a spot with the Blues are former NHL-leading goal scorer Jonathan Cheechoo (56 goals in 2005-06), young Russian forward Evgeny Grachev who played for Yaroslaval Lokomotiv just four years ago, a Russian team that was recently involved in a deadly airplane crash, killing 43 passengers including the entire team and coaching staff.
In addition, former Rivermen forwards Ryan Reaves and Chris Porter are involved in the battle to remain in St. Louis where both played for portions of last season.
Regardless of which players start in St. Louis, it’s likely that each of these players will spend time in Peoria during the season.
Outside of those four players, any other likely Rivermen player is considered a longshot to start the season in the NHL. That being said, it leaves around 25 players who are likely to head to Peoria for Rivermen Training Camp next week.
Working side-by-side with Rivermen Director of Communications and Broadcaster Brendan Burke, I spent six to seven hours each day at the practice facility, taking notes on the action and shooting footage for the team’s official website.
Camera in hand, I set out to obtain the best footage possible, weaving through fans and venturing to areas closed to the public. Each day, I spent at least an hour capturing video of practice, isolating on specific players that are expected to play in Peoria this season.
After each practice, I spent time in the locker room filming Burke’s interviews with potential Rivermen players including Phil McRae, elite-NHL goaltending prospect Jake Allen and Rivermen head coach Jared Bednar.
My trip concluded with the Blues’ first preseason game against the Lightning, a 3-1 victory for St. Louis. Grachev, one of the players fighting for a spot in the show, scored two of the Blues goals.
Perhaps the most intriguing part of camp was sitting with Blues coaches, front office employees and even NBC analyst and Blues color commentator Darren Pang while they discussed potential roster moves and their impressions of the first few days of camp.
Unfortunately, Burke and I were the first cuts from camp and assigned to Peoria late Tuesday night following the game, but there’s always next year.