40 players. No phones. 1 team. Bruins bond at preseason camp
AUSTIN — No texting, no social media, no selfies.
It was an off-grid week, by design, for the roughly 40 players still trying to make the Austin Bruins’ final roster for the 2022-23 season.
Some of those players had seats locked ahead of this week’s orientation camp at Riverside Arena. Others were battling for a spot when practice opens for the season on Monday, August 29. A handful will return to their high school or AAA programs with a view to playing in the North American Hockey League in a year or two.
Regardless of their situation, however, Bruins defenseman and captain Jack Malinski said the week of forced ties has been good for all players on a team that has high hopes for the upcoming season.
“We were all at the Holiday Inn this week, we don’t have our phones or anything like that,” said Lakeville South graduate Malinski. “We are building a bond as a team this week. The chemistry gets there. So now how do the guys fit in?
That’s what the Bruins have figured out this week, on and off the ice. The orientation camp – which included just over three dozen players who stood out during the team’s main tryout in late June – was designed not only to help veterans and newcomers getting to know each other off the ice, but also for rookies and first-year Bruins to learn the on-ice systems and team style of play.
“The systems work on their own and we’ll see who can play the best hockey,” said Malinski, who is the only Bruins defenseman to have been with the team the entire 2021-22 season.
The five-day camp kicked off Sunday with practices, a video session and a team barbecue at the arena. It ended with an intrasquad scrimmage on Wednesday night, followed by one-on-one player meetings with the coaching staff on Thursday morning. The Bruins now have less than three weeks before heading to Austin for the start of a new season.
“We’re laying out how we do things here and also letting new players come and see how we do things,” Bruins head coach Steve Howard said. “…we want them to understand what it takes to play here. We’re doing (the camp) right now because there’s a couple guys every year who, they’re really good in the camp (from try), but when you apply a system and tell them that they have to go from point A to point B, and then go to C, they cannot understand it.
“The structure, the details…it’s telling for some guys. That’s what we’re trying to convey, how detailed it is to play at this level and at the collegiate level.
Bruins second-year forward Austin Salani says team veterans use this week to help new, younger players learn what’s expected of them on a day-to-day basis – although they’re allowed to have their mobile phone during the season.
“This week was for everyone, not just the newcomers coming in. It’s also for us (veterans),” he said. “We have an idea of the team and what we are going to feel and play.
“It’s teamwork, getting a good feel for each other so that when we come back for that first day of practice, we’re comfortable with each other. All the guys will know what we’re being asked to do and maybe we’ll get a little head start on the other teams.
The Bruins will play an exhibition game in Rochester
The Bruins will play four preseason games this fall that will be open to the public.
They will go to the Minnesota Wilderness (Cloquet) on September 2, then host the Wilderness at 7:05 p.m. on September 3 at Riverside Arena.
The following week, Austin will host the Corpus Christi, Texas Ice Rays on Friday, September 9 at 7:05 p.m. On Saturday, September 10, the Bruins travel to Rochester, where they will face the Anchorage Wolverines at 7 a.m. :05 p.m. at the Rochester Recreation Center.
Anchorage is coached by Rochester native and former Rochester Grizzlies assistant coach Mike Aikens.
Tickets for all preseason home games are available for $5 and can be purchased at AustinBruins.com/single-game-tickets.