Urbandale (IA) This week, Buccaneer Arena's parking lot, concourse and locker room space will be filled with a never-ending stream of hockey players, each toting a sizeable equipment bag from the team that they currently play for. The bags cover the full spectrum of colors, logo designs and cleanliness and each is filled with a story of hope, excitement and nerves that drives the player who is carrying their load.
It's an image that might not tickle the fancy of an art affionado, but there is something beautiful about seeing a pile of unfamiliar bags streaming into Buccaneer Arena. Some have been through the doors of this arena before, but many are making their first visit. For the players lugging them over their shoulder their hope is that by weekend's end they'll be walking out with a new one emblazoned with the Des Moines Buccaneers' logo.
These players with their bags are here for the annual Des Moines Buccaneers tryout camp being conducted in Urbandale this week. With the goal for the organization being to select a crop of players who will take the team back to the playoffs for the first time since 2007. A straight-forward objective with plenty of subjectivity about it.
"We are looking for players who fit out team concept. Players that can skate, think, make plays and compete at the level this organization and league demands" says head coach and general manager Regg Simon. "We're also looking for guys who really want to be 'players,' meaning they are self motivated individuals that are willing to make sacrifices and give everything in order to improve and help our team.
The week begins on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday with a separate goaltender's camp which is being run by former Buccaneer and current goaltender consultant to the team A.J. Bucchino. Of the approximately 50 netminders who begin the camp, a few will be selected to continue onto the full-tryout camp of nearly 100 players which takes place Thursday night until Sunday morning.
The prospective Buccaneer players are each placed onto a different "team" roster and will compete in games on Thursday, Friday and Saturday morning under the watchful eye of Simon and assistant coach Marty Quarters.
After play on Saturday morning the coaching staff will select two "All-Star" teams who will then compete against each other on Saturday night and Sunday morning. Following the All-Star games, the coaches then decide who to invite to the team's training camp which will begin in early September.
"It's always a difficult process for any coaching staff to select a team and make cuts. Inevitably, you're going to let guys go who are USHL-caliber players " adds Simon. "It isn't an exact science, but with our coaching and scouting staff evaluating everything on and off the ice, you try to get the best reads on player's talents and character and make the best judgment from there."
The make-up of the prospective players varies greatly as it includes a number of team veterans, those players selected in April's Future's Draft and the May Entry Draft, and also coaches' invites. The Buccaneers likely won't select their final roster this week as that will come during training camp in September but the composition of the team is built this week.
Scouts Sniffing Around
The USHL is known as a league heavily scouted by NCAA programs and is gaining increasing interest from the National Hockey League as evident by the growing number of alumni. It shouldn't come as any surprise that this scouting actually begins at various member clubs tryout camps as these sessions are monitored by a number of collegiate programs and professional teams looking to get a "sneak-peek" at either players they've heard about, or in some cases learn about a player for the first time.
A player won't get a NHL signing bonus or a scholarship offer on what they do in the tryout camp setting on its own, but it's an opportunity to not only impress the Bucs' coaches but to get on the radar of those at the higher levels as well.
"Having a good camp gets you noticed and its usually based on how good your camp is that schools will be at the Fall Classic in September to really focus in on the guys they saw over the summer" says Simon
Tryout Week Schedule
Monday: Goaltender Camp 5:00pm-10pm
Tuesday: Goaltender Camp 8am-12pm & 5pm-9pm
Wednesday: Goaltender Camp 8am-12pm & 3pm-7pm
Thursday: 6pm Red vs. White
8pm Blue vs. Green
9:45pm Grey open ice
Friday: 9am Green vs. Red
11am White vs. Grey
1pm Red vs. Blue
6pm Grey vs. Green
8pm Blue vs. White
Saturday: 8:30am Blue vs. Grey
10:30am Green vs. White
12:30pm Black vs. Red
7pm All-Star Game #1
Sunday: 10am All-Star Game #2
Fans are welcome to attend any and all sessions at no charge with refreshments available during evening sessions (Thursday and Friday) and All-Star Games.
The Des Moines Buccaneers will be playing their 32nd consecutive season in the United States Hockey League beginning in the Fall of 2011. Since 1980, the Buccaneers have produced hundreds of NCAA Division I players and dozens of professional alumni. Season Ticket Packages and Corporate Partnership information for the 2011-2012 season is available by calling (515) 278-2827.
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