Monday, August 17, 2009

Regina Pats retreat before moving forward with 2009-10 WHL season

LeaderPost article by Ian Hamilton

Regina Pats retreat before moving forward with 2009-10 WHL season

By Ian Hamilton, Leader-Post August 17, 2009

REGINA — Before they move forward with preparations for the 2009-10 WHL season, the Regina Pats decided to retreat.

Pats players and coaches boarded a bus outside the Brandt Centre on Monday and were whisked off to an undisclosed location for a three-day retreat. The Pats' rookie and main camps are to begin Thursday in Lumsden.

"We want to do some trust exercises, we want to do some communication exercises, we've got some problem-solving," head coach Curtis Hunt said. "Not a whole lot of it will have much to do with the game of hockey, but more just on the attitude and the feeling of what you have for the guy beside you."

So will sing-songs and toasting marshmallows be on the schedule?

"We won't be singing 'Kumbaya,' but I'm sure we'll maybe fire up a wiener or two," Hunt said with a chuckle.

Part of the deal for the retreat: No cell phones.

"Already on the way here, I was like, 'Oh God, I don't have a cell phone,' " said veteran right-winger Garrett Mitchell. "But everyone kind of bought into that. That's part of the 'team' thing. Guys have to make sacrifices."

"They understand this is about team and team is about sacrifice and sacrifice is about selflessness," added Pats general manager Brent Parker.

"There's a lot of things we're going to test them on. The accommodations aren't five-star where we're going and it's going to be interesting to see who complains and who doesn't and who listened to the directions (Monday) morning in terms of what they needed to bring. All of those things, it doesn't go unnoticed."

Right-winger Michal Poletin likely will notice a lot. The 18-year-old product of Prague, Czech Republic, has never been to Canada before and he doesn't know any of the Pats.

"It's good having the guys in a group, doing some stuff, playing some games," Poletin said through a translator — Pats right-winger Tomas Hricina. "It's good for me . . . I'm looking forward to knowing some older guys and being part of the team."

Trouble is, he doesn't speak English.

"It'll be hard for him," Hricina said of the Pats' selection in the 2009 CHL import draft. "He can't play any games because he can't understand. He and I are on different teams (during camp), so I can't translate for him."

The important thing is that the "team first" message gets through.

"One of the slogans we have is, 'Teamwork makes the dream work,' and that's where it starts," Hunt said. "This is about coming together."

"If you look at some of the teams that have done well, like the world juniors, it definitely helps a lot," noted veteran centre Jordan Eberle, who went to a similar retreat with the 2009 Canadian world junior team. "You come into camp and you don't know a lot of these guys, so to do things like this is definitely an advantage over other teams."

The Pats hope the retreat gives them an advantage over the '08-09 team, which struggled down the stretch and ultimately missed the playoffs.

"Our guys got along well last year, but we didn't have a tight team, and there's a difference . . .," Parker said. "Certainly, when we went through the process of trying to evaluate where things went sour, that was one of the things that kept coming back.

"It came right to the forefront that we needed to do more as a team. We've got a few other things planned already through the course of the year when we can find the time but I think this is going to be an important three days."

ihamilton@leaderpost.canwest.com
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