Saturday, July 14, 2007

Punches and Munchkins

- Derek Boogaard is giving back to his community in what some might think is an unusual way. Some people have hockey camp, Derek and his brother Aaron hold fighting camp.

Hearing the name, I'm sure most people's initial reaction is to roll their eyes, whether it is at the player or the activitiy itself. It's easy to criticize something like this as unnecessary and merely a way to glamorize what a lot of people see as one of hockey's weaknesses. Believe me, I was all set to hurl a bunch of insults at professional jackass Boogaard when I read the headline - that is until I read this:

Their intent, Derek said, is not to create teenage bruisers. "A lot of times when people don't understand something, they don't like it," he said. "We're not teaching kids how to fight and how to hurt people. We're teaching kids how to protect themselves so they don't get hurt on the ice."
We have camps to teach kids how to skate safely, how to check someone so they don't get hurt, how to wear the appropriate padding. Kids go through years of training to learn to play a game that can at any point be extremely dangerous. So as long as fighting remains a part of NHL hockey and regardless of one's personal feelings about that, maybe there's something to say for more "hands-on" training like this.

Hell, at $40 a pop maybe I'll sign up - could come in handy the next time Penguins fans come to town...

- Caps development camp has officially come to an end. For anyone who made it out to Kettler this week the sentiment seems to be unanimous - hockey in July just can't be beat. It provided us with relief from the heat, the humidity, the tourists, the mind-numbing months that separate one season from the next. Kudos to the organization for continuing to make strides in bringing the game and the team closer to their fans; having the development camp in the DC area for the first time was a remarkable experience and turnout was amazing.

I'm not good at saying who did what well and who stood out, per se. Just as I am admittedly not a draft geek, I am also not a prospect geek.

I can say with a fair amount of certainty, though, that our last two top draft picks are well on their way to being very skilled, very valuable franchise players. Thursday's scrimmage saw Backstrom putting on a puck-handling clinic, weaving in and out of the opposing team as though they were pylons or Philly defensemen. Alzner was equally impressive, showing great presence of mind in controlling the puck and making the timely passes to his teammates, promising skills for a young defenseman.

→ At one point I found myself sitting one row over from Assistant Coach Jay Leach and what I can only assume was the scouting staff, which was interesting. They seemed to be getting a kick out of the volume of scoring from what they termed their "no-name line", centered by local product Luke Lynes.

→ Joe Finley is huge. I mean absolutely massive. Hard not to notice him on the ice, and if he can get his skating skills up to par with his incredible reach he is going to be a tough defenseman to get by.

→ I've heard of changing on the fly, but Thursday's scrimmage featured a new trick I had never seen: changing goalies on the fly. Not only was it entertaining but it also provided me with my first look at suddenly controversial goaltender Varlamov, who held his own amongst the bodies crashing the net.

→ There were some good hits all over the place, more so on Thursday then during the brief snippet I caught on Wednesday, with Osala and Leffler throwing the body around pretty consistently. It's nice to see some intensity even in what amounts to meaningless scrimmages and some of these guys have the potential to really throw it around at the NHL level in the next few years.

→ Others I thought stood out: Mathieu Perreault, Kyle Wilson, Stephen Werner, Oskar Osala, and Francois Bouchard, whose recent success is profiled in tomorrow's Post. I have to say it's refreshing to see the WaPo giving any coverage to the development camp in the first place, let alone two straight profiles.

Bouchard also wins my award for the best hockey hair (with the runner-up prize going to Backstrom...)

All in all I was very impressed with everything - the skill level, the dynamic within the two teams, and of course just the hockey in general. I can't really add much more to the thoughts of others who took in one or more days of the camp other than to say I'm glad I wasn't the only who found it to be just a fantastic event. In the blazing Virginia sun its nice to get a little respite from the mundane day to day July and take in the coolest game on earth - hope everyone made the trip out to see the future Caps!


Elly said...

I read that article in the Hockey News last issue (I think it was last issue), and I had the same reaction (followed closely by, 'And we're signing the Wee Boogyman?'), but he's got a point...why not learn the proper way to defend yourself, take the fear out of it? Nice pictures from the Caps' training camp!

Ahh, I did so miss the jabs you insert in every post about the Penguins (but really, watch out for the Flyers' fans).

CapsChick said...

Well, Flyers' fans are usually scary but they got pretty mellow this past season, you know, with their team sucking and all...

Glad you liked the pics! It's actually the rookie camp - when training camp rolls around I predict I'll take about 32000 pictures compared with the 20 I took this time around. Because I'm insane.


Elly said...

Haha, yes, they were a bit more mellow (although they seemed to turn most of their ire towards their own team...ouch), although I am sad to say that I think they'll have more to cheer about this season compared to last. Well, heck, the only place they can go is up, right?

Hey, not a bad thing to take pictures! Your finger might get tired after 32000 of them, though...