O’LEARY – As the first season for Prince Edward Island’s new Major Bantam hockey league draws near the O’Leary-based Western Warriors are holding identification camps this Tuesday and Thursday, Aug. 26 and 28, at the Plex in Slemon Park.
Coach Craig Veinotte is inviting all bantam age players from Summerside to Tignish minor hockey programs to attend.
While attendance at the identification camp is not mandatory, Veinotte explained, it is a good opportunity for players to get some ice time and the coaching staff to get an early look at team prospects before the actual try-out camp starts Sept. 10.
The identification camp sessions in Slemon Park are from 6:45 to 7:45 p.m. both evenings. The try-out camp will be in Evangeline Sept. 10, 13 and 14.
Veinotte has enlisted hockey veterans David Oliver and Darcy Harris to run both camps. A selection committee made up of representatives from Summerside and West Prince areas, will help with scouting and selection of players for the team roster.
“I have no affiliations to anybody,” Veinotte said, indicating he wants to build the best team possible out of the talent that presents itself in camp.
He’s played his minor hockey in Nova Scotia at the AAA level right up to junior.
He coached at the bantam level in O’Leary form 2009-2013. His O’Leary bantam As won the provincial title and he was named O’Leary Minor Hockey Association coach of the year in 2010. He coached the bantam AAAs the next three years and they won the league title in 2012.
The new team is effectively a merger of the old Summerside and Western teams from the former Bantam AAA Hockey League. Veinotte admits he is well aware of the controversy surrounding the formation of a major bantam level team but he wants to get past that and insure the Western Warriors organization focuses on developing Prince County’s best young players while making the transition as easy as possible for players and parents.
“I like this age group; I enjoy the kids,” he said in explaining his interest in coaching the new team. He said he hopes to keep coaching Bantam for as long as it’s fun for the players.
The shift from a seven-team Bantam AAA league to a four-team Major Bantam league will see the league schedule drop to 24 games from 30, but Veinotte said the Warriors plan to enter as many as four major weekend tournaments this year including the Spud, the Monctonian and East Coast Ice Jam.
Aware of the talent pool that was associated with the former Summerside and Western teams, Veinotte said he believes the Western Warriors have the potential to be able to compete with the top mainland teams in those tournaments.
While the team will be O’Leary-based, Veinotte said the Warriors will hold at least one regular season game in each of the rinks that has representation on the team. Some of the practice sessions will also be held further east, he said.
The rest of the coaching staff will be announced prior to the start of the try-out camp, but Veinotte confirmed the staff will consist of well-respected coaches from the Summerside and West Prince areas.