Smoke Eaters Training Camp Customized for COVID-19

smoke eaters room

Be ready to compete.

That's the message from Coach and GM Tim Fragle to the 30 players hitting the ice Tuesday for the start of Trail Smoke Eaters training camp.

“That is what we’ve expressed to all the in-coming players, that this is an opportunity that most years you would never get, so we’re hoping to see some good competitive competition at every position,” said Fragle who added although they expect the level of play to elevate quickly with a small group, they are going to start slowly.

“We’re going to split the groups into two and do two groups of 15 to start.  Our focus the first week back is going to be more skill development focussed.”   

Fragle hopes to get the entire group together and then begin scrimmages as early as COVID-19 regulations will allow as the arena limit of 50 people will also mean fans will not be allowed in to watch.

The new bench boss in Trail was impressed with I-D camp graduates Nicholas Roussel and Jackson Krill and expects both forwards to make contributions this season.

The 18-year-old Roussel already has Jr-A experience in Ontario while the 16-year-old Krill is coming off an impressive season with the Burnaby Winter Club elite-15’s.

However, Fragle feels their biggest challenge is filling the spots left vacant by five graduating defensemen.

“When you graduate five good defensemen, that is a huge hole to fill, we have made a few trades and a few acquisitions and we’ve got some kids coming into camp, we’re hopeful we’ve got some guys who can step in and play right away,” said Fragle who added three of their American recruits will report  during the first week of camp.

Connor Sweeney, Coalson Wolford and Braden Costello will have to complete 14-day quarantine periods before hitting the ice.

Fragle said Goaltender Dominic Wasik and fellow Americans David Sacco and Liam Connors have decided not to come to Trail because of travel concerns surrounding COVID-19.

The coaching staff plans to keep all 30 players in camp through September and October, and Director of Hockey and Business Operations Craig Clare indicated there is a tentative plan to start exhibition games against Cranbrook and Merritt next month.

“The plan to that is obviously trying to limit the travel, there would be no fans attending the games, but all games would be televised on Hockey TV,” said Clare who added the release of the regular season schedule will depend on consultations with other teams in accordance to the evolving BC Health Ministry regulations.