There was no easy into training camp for the Nanaimo Clippers.
Coaches and training staff spent Tuesday morning putting the 40 registered players through a high-intensity fitness test and then capped the day in the afternoon with a 6.5-kilometre run around Westwood Lake.
While the fitness test will not make or break an athlete's success with the club - unless they truly bombed the test - it goes a lot to showing evaluators how committed they are to the 2013-14 B.C. Hockey League season.
Finishing at the top of the board this year as the most-fit Clipper was veteran defenceman Colton Dahlen.
"It was good to see, especially with the season Colton had last year too, he was banged up quite a bit, so it's a good positive way to get off to a good start," said head coach and general manager Mike Vandekamp, who was pleased with the fitness of the group.
Dahlen, 20, finished last year with 16 points (three goals, 13 assists) in 37 games.
He is one of four returning defencemen hoping to hold on to a spot.
Veterans are few and far between on this year's roster, meaning there are plenty of opportunities to grab bigger roles with the club.
One of those players hoping to jump up the depth chart is Nanaimo native Brendan Taylor, 18, who is entering his third season with the team.
With last year's veteran-heavy team, he saw mostly time on the third and fourth lines with minimal power-play opportunities. He finished the season with 18 points (8-10-18) in 51 games, 12th on the team.
But the top eight forwards in scoring from last year have all moved on, through graduation or trade, opening the door for players like Taylor.
"It's a huge opportunity, we've just got to take advantage of it," he said.
"I'm expecting to play a bigger role than my last two years, hopefully get more ice and play in some special team roles."
He spent the summer working out with a personal trainer, trying to get bigger and stronger, in all he added about five pounds.
Garrett Dunlop is in a similar position with his hometown team.
At 18, however, he is trying to crack the Clippers lineup for the first time. Last season, he lead the expansion Nanaimo Buccaneers in scoring (22-40-62) and finished sixth in the Vancouver Island Junior B Hockey League in points and was named rookie of the year.
He signed with the Clippers at the end of the regular season and was with the team for the Western Canada Cup where he got into two games.
It was an experience he was able to use to build off of for this season.
"It was awesome, I got a chance to just be around that kind of scene and get a couple of games in against those top-end teams," said Dunlop. "It was really good for my experience and should really help me out this coming year."
One big thing he learned was he needed to get bigger. He measured in last year at five-foot-10 and 150 pounds, but during the summer through an extensive training regimen with Clayton Smith, he added 10 pounds to his frame. He says he already has noticed a difference while skating as he is able to drive wider with more power and take more of a beating in front of the net.
He has been to most of the Island BCHL camps over the last couple of years, but he says this camp is by far the most intense.
"The Clippers one is way more into it than the other ones I've been too," he said.
The Clippers also have a number out of province players in camp, including left winger Korey Morgan from Windsor, Ont. He signed with the club looking for an opportunity to put his offensive skills on display, and he certainly should get that chance.
"You've just got to work hard and hopefully they'll notice you and give you a spot and give you a chance to show them what you've got," said the five-footnine, 175-pound forward. He was the lead all rookies in the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League's Western Conference in scoring while playing for the La Salle Vipers with 60 points (30-30-60) last season.
Morgan's biggest challenge on Tuesday was surviving the wall sit.
"You're legs are shaking, you really want to quit, but you've got to keep going," he said.
Chances are, it will be one of the last times they really get to sit around over the next couple of weeks.
With so many new faces, Vandekamp says they will be given a long look before they cut their lineup down to 22 players.
"We aren't working on any fixed schedules for player movement. We've got to get down to a working roster for the start of the season, and I'm sure, for us, that would mean at the end of exhibition."
The Clippers continue their training camp today and Wednesday with practices at 9 and 10:30 a.m. and a scrimmage at 6 p.m. On Friday, they have morning skates at 10:15 and 10:45 a.m. and the annual Rhodesie Cup Intrasquad game at 7 p.m.
© Copyright 2013