By GREGG DRINNAN
Daily News Sports Editor
So far, so good.
But now the real work begins.
Guy Charron, the head coach of the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers, liked what he saw Thursday as players gathered at TRU and Hillside Stadium for fitness testing.
“My first observation from (Thursday) is that there is a lot of enthusiasm and excitement with the players. It’s nice to see,” said Charron, who is into his first training camp as the team’s head coach.
Enthusiasm and excitement are not strangers to Charron, who admitted he’s “excited” and “looking forward” to the on-ice sessions that begin today at McArthur Island Sport and Event Centre.
Charron took over as the Blazers’ head coach on Nov. 23. He has since signed a two-year extension through 2011-12. And he’s eager to put his own stamp on this team.
“This is,” he said, “a better time to establish something in terms of preparation than coming in halfway through a season and trying to get things the way you would like it to be. Now we have time to prepare.”
And, while some training camps have become dominated by scrimmages, Charron said he is more interested in the practice sessions.
“For me, as a coach, the practices are more important than the games,” he stated. “But for our scouts, they would rather see the games. As long as we were able to combine practices with the scrimmages . . .”
Today, for example, there will be four practices for rookie participants and two for those taking part in the main camp, followed by two rookie scrimmages.
Charron plans on being on the ice as much as he can for the practice sessions.
“I’m hands-on, especially this particular camp,” Charron said.
Still, he isn’t Superman, so he won’t be on the ice for every session. Instead, he and assistants Scott Ferguson and Geoff Smith, along with goaltending coach Dan De Palma, will mix it up “so we all stay energized.”
On the ice or off, Charron will be paying particularly close attention to the practices.
“For me, it’s practice and this is where I get most of my knowledge about the players,” he explained. “I’m focused on how the drills have to be executed and those kinds of things. I will create situations that are competitive in practice . . . I look for execution.
“I’m a big believer in practices . . . this is where you get better and you play like you practise.”
Two of the players attending the Blazers’ main camp might come in for closer scrutiny, at least in the early going, than some others.
Forward Bernhard Keil, an 18-year-old from Germany, was selected by the Blazers in the CHL’s 2010 import draft. Defenceman Corey Fienhage, 20, joined the Blazers after spending two seasons with the U of North Dakota Fighting Sioux.
“He’s a big kid,” Charron said of Keil, who was shown as 6-foot-2 and 205 pounds when the Blazers drafted him. “He’s thick. He shoots the puck a ton. He’ll be able to fit in.”
Based on what Charron has seen in informal workouts, he said Keil’s skating “may not be at the level of other players but he has other dimensions that can be used in a very favourable way.”
Charron was especially impressed with Keil’s shot.
“His size and his ability to shoot the puck the way he does . . . that was one of the things at practice I noticed,” Charron said. “A couple of times he let that shot go and I thought, ‘Wow! That’s a big-time shot right there.’ ”
As for the 6-foot-3, 215-pound Fienhage, Charron has recognized that the American defenceman knows how to play the game the right way.
“He comes from a good program,” Charron said, “so he has the knowledge of how to play the game. He’s definitely a good addition.
“He’s outgoing, very fit, very big.”
And, like Keil, Fienhage can shoot the puck.
“You see this guy take a slapshot and he’s liable to break the glass,” Charron said, before adding, with a chuckle: “All we have to do is get him to hit the net.”
“He hits it a ton. He’ll scare people,” Charron continued. “I don’t know who will want to go to the front of the net when he shoots the puck.”
While watching Fienhage shoot the puck, Charron remembered his time as a player with the NHL’s Montreal Canadiens.
“Claude Ruel in Montreal was adamant about (hitting the net),” Charron said, referring to the Habs’ former head coach. “I think I picked up some of those things. I like the sound of the glass but I like it more when I don’t hear anything.”