By GREGG DRINNAN
Daily News Sports Editor
After a conversation with general manager Craig Bonner, veteran forward Mark Hall has decided not to attend the Kamloops Blazers’ training camp, which opens with rookie registration on Aug. 26.
“We had a good chat and I expressed where he was at,” Bonner said Tuesday. “I was honest with him and said he was going to be in tough. He was a man about it and decided he should pursue junior A . . . I respect his decision.”
Hall’s junior A rights are held by the AJHL’s Canmore Eagles, whose GM/head coach is former Blazers assistant coach Andrew Milne. However, Hall, who is from Kamloops, isn’t likely to play in the AJHL; it’s more likely that Milne will trade his rights to a BCHL team.
“I’m not going to rule it out totally, but it’s definitely not in my top three,” Hall said of Canmore. He added that his top three choices all are in the BCHL, with the Vernon Vipers at No. 1. Hall joined the Blazers midway through 2006-07 after opening the season with the Vipers.
Hall went on to play 164 regular-season games with the Blazers, totaling 25 points, including 11 goals, and 139 penalty minutes. He missed all of 2008-09 with a knee injury suffered just prior to the opening of training camp.
Last season, Hall scored five goals, with four of them coming in a late-season burst when he put together a four-game goal-scoring streak.
“That was fun,” he said of those four games. “But I think my highlight, for the most part, was all the different people that I met and the experience.”
Hall’s departure leaves forward Ryan Hanes, 18, as the only Kamloops native on the Blazers’ roster.
“It was awesome,” Hall said of playing for his hometown team. “I’ve nothing bad to say about anything here. It was awesome. The organization was the best. It was four of the best years of my life.”
The move also means the Blazers will have only one 20-year-old at camp — defenceman Corey Fienhage, who left the U of North Dakota Fighting Sioux in order to join the Blazers.
Fienhage, from Apple Valley, Minn., is one of six Blazers who will attend NHL training camps; he was a third-round selection of the Buffalo Sabres in the NHL’s 2009 draft.
Defenceman Austin Madaisky will be with the Columbus Blue Jackets, who took him in the fifth round of the 2010 draft, while forward Brendan Ranford will join the Philadelphia Flyers. They selected him in the seventh round of June’s draft.
Defenceman Josh Caron and forward J.T. Barnett will join the Minnesota Wild’s prospects team on free-agent tryout deals. They both attended a Wild camp earlier in the summer.
Forward Chase Schaber is going to camp with the Edmonton Oilers on a tryout basis. The Oilers also may take a look at forward Dalibor Bortnak. He was to have attended the Oilers’ camp last year but a preseason spleen injury derailed that plan.
As of yesterday, the Blazers were looking at opening main camp with only three goaltenders on hand who are eligible to play in the WHL this season.
Jon Groenheyde, 19, goes into training camp as the starter, having played here in a backup role for two seasons. Also on hand will be Troy Trombley, a 16-year-old from Sherwood Park, Alta., and Taran Kozun, 16, of Nipawin, Sask.
Trombley, who signed a WHL contract a year ago, was a third-round selection by the Blazers in the 2009 bantam draft, while Kozun was added to the Kamloops list last season. Both will take part in the rookie camp that precedes main camp.
Prospective players will register for training camp on Aug. 26, with on-ice sessions to start the next day. With Cirque de Soleil in the Interior Savings Centre from Sept. 1-5, the Blazers will set up shop at the McArthur Island Sport and Event Centre.
Bernhard Keil, the German forward selected by the Blazers in the 2010 CHL import draft, is scheduled to arrive in Kamloops on Friday.
“I’m very excited to come over!” he wrote in an email to The Daily News. “Now it’s the time to come. I can’t wait anymore!”
Keil recently returned home after playing for the German U-20 team in the four-team Summer Challenge in Arosa, Switzerland. He had a goal and an assist as Germany went 2-1-0-0, beating the Czech Republic 3-2 and Slovakia 5-2, and losing 3-2 to Switzerland.
“The games were good,” Keil wrote, adding that he had a goal and an assist in the three games. “It was a good tournament. Everything went well.”
The Blazers released a tentative rookie camp roster yesterday. It features 84 names, including all nine selections in the 2010 bantam draft and nine of 10 picks from the 2009 draft. F Matthew Needham of Penticton, who was the eighth overall selection in the 2010 draft, is on the roster.
Also included are seven players from Kamloops — F Jacob Coelho, F Diego Cuglietta, G Ty Hamer-Jackson, D Haden Hoover, F Bobby Kashuba, F Jake Latin and D Brett Watkinson.
The main camp roster stands at 29 players, but that includes only one goaltender and doesn’t include anyone who will move up from rookie camp.
It also includes F Kiefer McNaughton of North Vancouver. McNaughton, who turns 17 on Aug. 25, has a broken leg and won’t play until November.