Hunt gets to know his new players

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Hunt gets to know his new players

By Greg Harder, Leader-PostAugust 25, 2009

The Regina Pats practised on a fog-covered ice surface at their camp in Lumsden on Monday.

The Regina Pats practised on a fog-covered ice surface at their camp in Lumsden on Monday.
Photograph by: Bryan Schlosser, Leader-Post, Leader-Post

Curtis Hunt is playing catchup.

Coming off a year in the Ottawa Senators' organization, Hunt is the first to admit he missed a lot in his brief time away from the WHL's Regina Pats. As a result, the veteran head coach has been busy renewing old acquaintances in training camp as well as making new ones.

"Everything is about relationships," offered Hunt. "They went through an experience (last season), as I did. For some of them it was a little bit of a breakout and some of them maybe not as favourable. It's nice to have that familiarity so you know names and faces and you have an idea. But when you lose a year in terms of seeing them develop, to continue the relationship, it makes things fresh on both sides."

There are just eight players on the roster who played under Hunt in 2007-08, mixed with a collection of newcomers and rookies. Hunt is somewhat familiar with last season's rookies -- including Jordan Weal -- since they were briefly in camp with him two years ago.

However, missing a year for players this age means you've missed a lot.

"You try as quickly as possible to get to know them, firstly just the names and after that what makes them tick as a player," added Hunt. "Some guys like a pat on the butt, some guys like a kick on the butt. It's important for (assistant coach) Shaun (Sutter) and myself to understand what they need for them to be their best. It's kinda the beginning stages (of the relationship)."

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The Pats are developing some southern comfort.

The WHL club invited an unprecedented five Americans to training camp this year. Goaltender Jesse Rogers, a native of San Ramon, Calif., was the only one to survive the weekend cutdown, but that won't stop the Pats from looking south again.

"There are 22 teams in our league and we have to expand our horizons in terms of where we're looking for players," said GM Brent Parker. "We were more active in the States last year than we've ever been. We probably had 25 or 30 kids on our (bantam) draft list. We got one (goalie Darrin Robinson of Colorado in the 10th round). We had two or three others we really liked that got plucked right in front of us."

The Pats' efforts are being complemented by a U.S.-based scout who was hired last season, covering the entire Western U.S. Due to his presence, Parker expects the number of Americans on the Pats' radar to grow.

"Let's be honest, there are more Americans playing hockey (than ever before) so we'd be foolish not to look," he added. "We'll be even more active down there this year."

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EXTRAS: Ex-Pats Jamie Heward and Garth Murray are expected to begin skating with the team this week in preparation for the upcoming NHL season. Heward, who may elect to retire and get into coaching, typically uses the time to improve his conditioning and lend a hand with the Pats. "Any time we can give Jamie a chance to talk to our defencemen, I think it's nothing but beneficial," said Hunt ... Watch for another Pats alumnus, Mike Sillinger, to do some work with the team this season in a yet-to-be-defined consultant/coaching role. Sillinger is expected to retire after 16 seasons in the NHL ... LW Jason Gardiner, acquired in the off-season from Tri-City, is slated to miss about 10 days with a hyperextended knee. He'll sit out tonight's Blue & White intrasquad game at Lumsden Arena.
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