An update from the Tomahawks Hockey Operations Offices…
Hawks Tryout Camps
By Suzanne Grove
Head Coach Jason Spence and Assistant Coach Mike Letizia are hard at work in their offices deep inside the War Memorial Arena in Johnstown. One huge priority during the off-season for both former professional hockey players is analyzing the talent present at each of the Tomahawks three summer tryout camps. Only one camp remains in the team’s quest for new players: During the weekend of June 21-23, staff won’t be traveling too far from home as they hold tryouts near Pittsburgh in Warrendale, PA.
Just last weekend, the second camp took place in Prior Lake, MN. Coach Spence has been increasingly excited and happy with the style of play, work ethic, and skills belonging to the players who are vying for a spot on the team’s 2013-2014 roster. He’s also been impressed with how the Tomahawks reputation has made Johnstown one of the most desirable places to play in the NAHL.
“A trend is really starting to develop,” said Spence. “Everyone wants to play here. The buzz in the league is that this is the spot to play. We’re all very proud of that.”
Word certainly has traveled. At the past two camps, the coaches have seen players from every part of the United States and Canada, including the Czech Republic and Russia.
But, despite the fact that tryouts are packed and the team has some of the best players putting every effort into earning a Tomahawks jersey, the coaches continually heighten their standards. Spence says he’s looking in detail at the players’ strengths and weaknesses, grading them in a variety of areas. Luckily, both him and Letizia have some help in the form of the team’s scouts, who perform rigorous evaluations as they watch.
“We’ve had very successful camps,” said Spence. “We have good players who will be coming back to Johnstown for the main camp.”
In Lake Prior, a few Tomahawk veterans joined some of the team’s tenders and young men who had to sign up to attend camp. Brandon Reinholz, Mitch Hall, and Andrew McDonald skated and proved they have leadership skills throughout the weekend. A few of the young men even dropped the gloves, fighting to stick up for teammates.
One veteran player had an important connection at the camp: Hall’s younger brother, Tommy, proved hockey skills run in the family when he not only impressed coaches, but earned an invitation to the main camp, held July 25-28 back in Johnstown. According to Spence, Tommy’s speed and ability to score made an impact.
But, as Spence has made clear from the start when returning franchise players from Alaska attended tryouts last summer, every man will have to earn a roster spot.
“Everyone has to fight for a spot,” he said. “They have to prove themselves, even returning players. They have to fight to not let anyone else take away their job.”