Tryouts began this past weekend with more on the way

By Jim den Hollander

for the Coulee Region Chill

More than 100 players, hoping to be among the first to wear the fighting penguin jersey were in attendance at the Brooklyn Park Community Arena in the suburbs of Minnesota\’s twin cities May 14-16, making up six scrimmage teams and a bus squad of 17 goaltenders.

For team owners and staff it was a chance to check out the skills of a talented group of skaters from across North America and even a couple from Europe .

For the players, it was a last chance to get noticed by the brass that will head to one more final pre-draft camp in Jacksonville Florida, May 21-23, then release its protected list in days leading up the May 26 NAHL draft.

For the Chill though, there may not be a lot of openings. Head coach Garrett Strot expects a solid group of returning players will be the nucleus of the 2010-11 Chill, formerly known as the North Iowa Outlaws.

\”Yeah, last year, we didn\’t have a core of players coming back from the year because we were a really old team a couple of years ago. So, this year we\’re going to have a core of players coming back and that makes a huge difference. Guys that have a year of experience with the league. They kind of show the younger guys how it\’s done, they know what my expectations are and how we want practices run and stuff like that.

\”Now, to have that leadership just of example reasons, is going to be huge.\”

The happiest player at the end of the weekend was likely James Hughes a 5\’7. 170 pound forward who last season played for the Centennial High School Cougars in Blaine , not far from the Brooklyn Park tryout site.

The team wrapped up the weekend signing Hughes to one of its two available tenders and general manager Rick Wesp said he will be among the 20-23 names on the Chill\’s protected list next week.

Hughes was second on his team in scoring this past season, triggering 19 goals and chipping in 14 assists for 33 points in 25 games played. He was a +32 for his team and picked up 37 minutes in penalties, helping the Cougars to a second place finish in the Northwest Suburban Conference and a 14-2-2 conference record.

Aside from that, coach Strot said some other names have been jotted down leading up to the team\’s pre-season training camp in August, which could also be held in the Brooklyn Park arena.

\”What we do, we have three other camps and you take 15-20 from each camp and invite them to our final camp. That\’s where we really make the decision. We\’re going to have all of the better players grouped together and then you get a really good feel of how the players can compete.\”

Coaches will head south to Jacksonville Florida for another tryout camp May 21-23, the final session before the league draft later that week.

Currently, the team will make its first selection of the draft with the final selection of the opening round, a pick originally owned by the NAHL champion Bismarck Bobcats. However, Wesp said he currently has several irons in the fire which could change the number and position of team draft picks.

Following the draft, the team will have another open camp in St. Paul June 24-26, then at the Petit Center in Milwaukee July 9-11 and a final training camp July 30 to Aug. 1 with the team\’s official training camp opening shortly after.

League meetings in early June will finalize the league\’s divisions and schedule for the 2010-11 season. 

While the schedule will not be set for a while, tickets are already on sale in 15-ticket Flex Packs. The $135 Flex Pack includes a savings of $15 for the 15 adult tickets and they can be use at 15 different home games or for a group of up to 15 at one or more games. For more information on tickets, contact Daniel Mannigel, Director of Marketing and Sales at 608-4985454 or Rik Franke in Marketing/Operations/Multimedia at 608-386-8794.