Sudbury Wolves' veteran defenceman Conor Cummins knows nothing is guaranteed in hockey. Each time he steps on the ice, he knows it is another opportunity to show what he can do.
Cummins is going to be going all-out starting Aug. 28 as the Wolves' training camp opens at Sudbury Arena with fitness testing and on-ice practices.
He may be a veteran, but Cummins knows he has to do everything possible to earn his spot on the team and keep playing in the OHL — something every player coming in has to do, regardless of status.
“Training camp is a chance to prove yourself,” Cummins said. “Whether you’re a vet or a rookie, you have to prove yourself. I’m coming in to show off the work I have done this summer to improve as a player.
“There are no given spots. Each year, there is someone looking to push you out of a spot. I have to go as hard as I can every shift in training camp.”
The Wolves training camp runs from Thursday to Saturday. The public is welcome to watch at no cost. There is a cost for Sunday's exhibition game, however.
The players hit the ice for practices on Thursday from 3-6 p.m. On Friday, the players play a three blue-versus-white scrimmages at 9 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m.
On Saturday, the public's welcome at the annual blue-versus-white game, starting at 9:30 a.m. There is a final practice from 4-6 p.m.
The Wolves then start their exhibition season with a match against the North Bay Battalion at Sudbury Arena at 2 p.m., followed by a visit to North Bay on Sept. 1.
There is only one word head coach Paul Fixter is looking for at this year’s training camp when it comes to the players.
“Intense,” said Fixter. “That is the word we are all looking for. I expect an intense training camp. I expect players to fight and work hard for those spots. I want to see players compete.
“I want a team that is difficult to play against each game (and) it all starts at training camp.”
Fixter and the coaching staff are going to have players under a microscope for the next few days. Every player coming into camp has to perform.
“From the veterans, I want to see leadership from them,” Fixter said. “The vets have to help deliver the message from the coaches to the younger players and take them under their wings and mentor them.
For the new blood, it's all about making an impression, he said.
“They can’t come in and try and be something they are not,” Fixter said. “They need to come in and do what they did that got them this far. There are no freebies on this team. Players have to earn the jersey.”
The Wolves unveiled some new faces to the coaching staff and roster during a press conference earlier in the week. Former head and associate coach Bryan Verreault is back as an assistant coach. The Pack got the transfer cards approved for European import picks Pavel Jenys and Ivan Kashtanov, who are expected to make an impact right away in the league.
“Pavel is a skilled power forward with good puck skills and Ivan is gritty … with a nose for the net. They’re both good players. They’re something to watch,” Wolves head scout Andrew Shaw said.
Verreault brings a wealth of knowledge and 31 years of coaching experience to the team. He's looking forward to being behind an OHL bench again, having served as a scout and director of player development for the Wolves' last few seasons.
“It’s important to me to coach again. I love coaching,” Verreault said. “I am coming in to do whatever the team asks me to do to help improve the players and team success.”
The Wolves begin the 2014-15 season on Sept. 26 at home against Niagara. Game time is 7:30 p.m. Sudbury president and GM Blaine Smith has high hopes for the new season.
“We have hit the reset button,” he said. “We have two-thirds of our team coming back and that is a positive. We feel we have a good mix of veteran players and new players that will make for an exciting season of hockey.”