By Darcy Macrae
Bert Templeton admits that he is much more at ease now than he was a year ago at this time.
The Sudbury Wolves head coach and general manager was faced with the unenviable task of rebuilding an OHL squad that only had four returning players in the training camp of 2001.
This yearÂ?s camp has been just the opposite for the veteran junior hockey coach. Instead of completely retooling his squad, he is simply looking to fit players into the proper roles and fill any gaps in his lineup.
Because they have so many quality veterans back this year, the Wolves are expected to ice a very strong team this season, one capable of battling for top spot in the central division.
Â?ItÂ?s been a lot easier. Last year we were coming out of training camp and I was looking for players,Â? said the legendary junior hockey coach.
Â?I had to make a number of trades just to get players that could play in the league. This year we know we have a number of players that are capable of playing in the league, our only question is where is the elite guy going to come from.
Â?We want to know if some of these guys will able to step up and be among the top producers in the league.Â?
The Wolves opened training camp at the Sudbury Community Arena last week, and have been hard at work ever since.
So far Templeton has trimmed the roster to 27 players, with more cuts expected in the following week.
He says he is happy with the way his team has performed up to this point, and feels it is now just a matter of getting players into the right frame of mind.
Â?Physically theyÂ?re just about ready now. ItÂ?s just the tempo we have to pick up,Â? said Templeton.
Â?We have to get the line combinations together, we have to work on special teams, forechecking, and defensive zone. ThereÂ?s a lot of work to do, itÂ?s the mental part we have to get now.Â?
Sudbury will play a pair of exhibition games at the Sudbury Arena this weekend. Tonight, in their exhibition season opener, the Wolves will host the Soo Greyhounds, while the Rouyn Noranda Huskies of the QMJHL will provide the competition Sunday evening.
Templeton says he will use these games to help determine who will remain with the team, and to figure out what players perform well together.
Â?You have to put your veterans in enough to see what line combinations are going to work,Â? said Templeton. Â?But the main function at this point is to get the roster cut down and figure out who are the 23 or 24 guys that are going to be on the team.Â?
The Wolves kick off the 2002-2003 season on Friday, Sept. 20 at home against the Ottawa 67's.
It will be a busy opening weekend for the Wolves as they travel the next night to Barrie for the first road game of the season before returning home Sunday, Sept. 22 to host the Owen Sound Platers.