Saturday, September 06, 2008


Unofficial Beginning of Camp

I was sick for a few days, so bear with me for being rather late with this. Tom Gulitti is back with actual substance at Fire & Ice. Apparently, the unofficial beginning of training camp, or "the informal pre-camp workout," began yesterday at the Prudential Center with 18 players arriving to train. 18! And 12 of them are Devils regulars! That's excellent! Three guys stick out from the list that Gulitti that he posted:

1. Tyler Eckford. This doesn't surprise me much, as Eckford wants to start getting to work right away. He didn't show up to the Devils' development camp in July because he was still taking courses at Alaska-Fairbanks, as Gulitti reported. Hopefully his classes went well, U of A-F can use that scholarship for another player, and Eckford starts making progress as he becomes a professional ice hockey player.

2. Fedor Fedorov. He's serious about wanting a position with the New Jersey. He showed up to developmental camp and he's been given a number in this workout (which may mean nothing, Pascal Rheaume got a low number in camp many times). I still think that he'd have to start on the fourth line were he to make the team and that's a shame for Fedorov. Bobby Holik was signed in the offseason and he may end up there; and even then it'd be a fight with Rod Pelley.

3. Rod Pelley. Now, he's not signed yet and he's working out with the team. Gulitti asked Lou about his contract status and he had this to say:

Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello said this afternoon that restricted free agent Rod Pelley remains unsigned, but "there's absolutely no question" he'll be under contract in time for the start of training camp (Physicals for veterans are on Friday, Sept. 19).

"I think it will get done quickly," Lamoriello said of signing Pelley. "We'll get him signed."

A day later, Gulitti raised the question to Pelley:

"Nothing is done yet and camp is approaching and everyone is wondering what is going on, but I feel I'm on track with Lou that things will be done," Pelley said. "I would like to go into camp with a contract. That would be good. But I've just got to see how things go here. It's gone this far, so I have to be a bit more patient and that's fine. too.

"In no circumstance am I holding out. That's not what I'm doing. It's more of both sides needing a bit of time. I would like to have something done before camp, but if both sides need more time, then that's how it's going to go."

Usually, players without contracts don't take part in team activities - especially ones that could result in unfortunate injury. It's great that he isn't holding out and it's clear he wants to be with New Jersey; but I'm absolutely baffled that he's not signed. What would both sides need more time for? For a player who, most likely, will make only (yeah, I know, only) six figures? Could it be that they are discussions over whether he'll be a one-way or two-way player - especially with others (Holik, Fedorov) that could center the fourth line? Could it be incentives? Could it be the shoes? I have no idea. With the official training camp beginning in a few weeks, I suppose we'll hear a resolution to this soon - and hopefully a reason as to why this took so long.

Anyway, Gulitti has also asked Lou about whether the training camp will be open to the public and Lou's answer says "probably not." Well, it's not a straight "no," but it may not be likely given his answer. As far as why the practice rink has seats and a sponsor (the AmeriHealth Pavillion Center!), well the center isn't just for the Devils' practice but it will host hockey clinics, tournaments, and maybe some youth hockey among Newark teams. In a feature about the youth hockey representation at the Rock, co-owner Mike Gilfillan talks in this video (1:44 in) about the Newark Americans and a mite Americans squad and how they'll move to the Pavillion eventually. That probably makes more sense as to why there are seats at least. (ASIDE: I love the fact that the Devils have all of these video clips on their official site, but a way to promote that you even have this or have new videos would be excellent.)

Would an open camp bring in more and new fans to the franchise? Honestly, I don't know. It would make the team more accessible in a way and allow the fans to see more of the prospects and their favorite players up close. On the other hand, the camp likely takes place during the day - which isn't really accessible for most people - and it's mostly going to be drills and practice between those you will see in Newark in October and those you will see in Lowell (or elsewhere). If you're really into the team, I can see this as something you'd like to check out; but maybe not if you just learned that the Devils are a hockey team. As an analogue, I went to a NY Giants training camp session last year with my brother. We both thought it was interesting, but it was mostly standing around watching the players do their thing in practice with other Giants fans. While it was cool to see them upclose and working out (e.g. Jeremy Shockey helped Kevin Boss how to lift a guy on a block), it wasn't particularly exciting and I didn't see it as something that would make somebody become a Giants fan. Also, there were just several hundred spectators for the training camp of a vastly popular NFL team. I don't know if the Devils' camp would gain nearly as much interest from the public. I could be wrong, though; but I just think that while opening training camp to the public would be nice, it may not bring a significant benefit.

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