one of the things I love abt the summer is vacation, esp the beach. strangely enough, another thing I look forward to during these ridiculously hot and arid times (at least in ATL) is hockey. about a month out from the Stanley Cup playoffs and just as the FREE AGENT FRENZY (emphasis added, w/ reverb) starts dying out, prospect camp comes around and diminishes those horrible hockey withdrawals for a little while... until September.
every July, some of the Atlanta Thrashers' youngest prospects come to Duluth's Ice Forum for about a week and take part in a camp, the Thrashers' Prospect Development Camp... like a sleep-away camp... only yr parents aren't trying to get rid of you for the summer and there are no pillow fights (yet to be confirmed) and there's no sneaking over to the girls' cabin and there's no horrible camp food, etc. these young'uns are out to prove their worth to the pros that are invested in them. you see, players like recently-drafted Evander Kane have yet to even taste what professional hockey has to offer. while this isn't exactly a crash-course of the NHL life, it provides these kids w/ a glimpse of what it could be like to run w/ the big leagues for a while.
for the past two, maybe three, years, I've made the trip to, a. reduce the noted hockey withdrawals, and, b. see the possible future of my beloved hockey team. every year, there's something/one special. for example, you get sneak-peeks @ players like Toby Enstrom or Zach Bogosian and before they get to skate w/ players like Ilya Kovalchuk or Slava Kozlov on a full-time basis, or, you get to witness some early hazing - as I once witnessed a fellow-camper taking the stick of then-recently-drafted Boris Valabik and put it into the protective net above the boards that are behind the goals, only to have Boris take advantage of his ridiculous height and grab it down, which caused a significant amt of laughs from players/coaches and fan-attendees alike.
it's always a treat to smell a hockey rink during the hazy days of July, hear the sounds of skate-on-ice action instead of the splashing of pool water (not that that's a bad thing), feel the cold sticking to yr bones as opposed to the sweat that lines yr forehead, and see the sport that you love so much when the only sport that gets the attn this time of year is baseball.
up for tomorrow is the first of three scrimmages that are due to take place over the week. the kids have practiced together for two days now and it will be interesting to see who will step it up early and make an impression and who clearly needs more work. there are always surprises @ camp b/c when you usually assume that the "bigger" names (i.e. Kane) have the best game there, some unknown kid to everyone will come and steal the thunder and leave an impression. I cannot wait!