Sunday, July 1 marked the middle of the summer and the final day of free agent camp. The final camp of the summer for skaters to prove they have what it takes to be a member of the Florida Jr. Blades. Throughout the summer 140 players attended the three free agent camps.
The largest camp in Jr. Blades history featured skaters from across the US including St. Louis, Missouri and New York. The three day camp featured multiple on-ice sessions with players pitied against each other. The off-ice sessions included circuit training at elite performance training facility- Athletic Republic and outdoor exercises in the Florida summer heat.
The coaches and scouting staff evaluated players throughout the weekend, taking notes and making hard decisions. “There are a lot of talented players at this camp. The goal is to build the deepest team possible,” said head coach and general manager Tad O’Had. “The coaching and scouting staff has some difficult decisions to make and many of these guys aren’t making it any easier.”
As the players came off the ice and headed to the locker room the coaches headed to their office to make final decisions. It was in those offices that they let hopefuls down and welcomed new Jr. Blades to the organization.
“It’s a difficult day. On the one hand we’re excited to be signing talent and filling out a dominating roster. On the other we have to let a lot of players down,” said O’Had. “The level of talent is such that I have no doubt the Jr. Blades will have another record setting season.”
During the 2011-2012 season the Jr. Blades smashed league records. Finishing the season 38-1-0-1 the Jr. Blades had the best record of all 176 Tier I, II and III junior hockey teams. The team holds the Empire Junior Hockey League record for best regular season record, best home record (20-0), highest win percentage, most goals for (317)and fewest goals against (66).
“Our first two seasons we played in a national championship tournament. Each year we get stronger and this year is the best yet,” said O’Had. “The team is shaping up to be a great mix of returners and fresh talent.”
While the Jr. Blades feature talented imports such as Joshua Koerner, they also have a significant amount of home grown talent.
“I started playing for the Jr. Blades 2010 when I was 15. I’ve grown tremendously as a player and the past two season have been great,” said third year Jr. Blade Jon Davidson. When asked about next season, “We’ve had a lot of success and I’d like a national championship, but for right now it’ll just be nice to no longer be considered a rookie.”
The team will assemble on August 24th for an intensive training camp. Players will be on the ice every single day, training and learning systems. They will also have off-ice testing and training at Athletic Republic, media day and team building activities.
“We start the season strong with 11 games in the first month. I have no doubt we’ll be ready,” said O’Had.
The Jr. Blades open their regular season schedule on September 6 at the Woodchuck Classic in Burlington, VT. The first home game will take place on September 29 vs. the Space Coast Hurricanes.