Alberni Valley Bulldogs’ head coach Matt Hughes waits for the action to start again after a whistle during a BC Hockey League game against Vernon Vipers in February 2018. The Bulldogs will hold a spring identification camp to look for new players in April. SUSAN QUINN PHOTO

BCHL: More than 100 prospects sign up for Alberni Valley Bulldogs’ spring camp

The Alberni Valley Bulldogs will host one of their largest spring identification camps for hockey prospects this weekend at the AV Multiplex.

“We have over 100 people coming here for the spring identification camp,” Bulldogs’ director of business operations Tali Campbell said. Nearly 90 players are from out of town, and more are from off Vancouver Island.

“This is one of our biggest camps in the last few years.”

Players come to the spring camps vying for an invitation from head coach Matt Hughes and assistant coach Jeff Dubois for the team’s main training camp in late August. “Our spring identification camps have a proven track record for identifying future Bulldogs players,” Hughes said.

“We put a great deal of time and effort into running professional, competitive camps that expose players to the level of play in the BCHL. These camps also give us an opportunity to showcase our educational advancement programs under Tom McEvay, who we know to be one of the best academic advisors in Canada.”

The Bulldogs will also hold spring identification camps in Osoyoos from May 4–6 and, for the first time, Cranbrook from April 27–29. The team hopes this third camp will draw additional talent from Western Canada and the northwest United States. Already more than 50 prospective players are signed up for the Cranbrook camp, and Campbell anticipates it will fill up like the other two camps have.

Campbell said there were a number of players on the Bulldogs’ 2017-18 squad that were identified at former spring camps, proof that the system works. Fifteen were invited to main camp, including Jackson Doucet, who stuck with the team this year.

Spring camp “is a great way for (players) to get exposed to the coaching staff and gain a rapport,” Campbell said. Many of the players who come to the spring ID camps are 14 or 15 years old. They each receive an exit interview with the coaches, who give them some pointers on skill sets that may need work.

Spring camp is also a boon for the Alberni Valley economy, says Campbell, adding that many people mistakenly think the hockey team only provides entertainment value.

“Players who come in with their families are all on their own. The only thing we provide is to our coaching staff and volunteers,” he said.

“The thing about hockey families is it’s not just dad coming with his son. They make it a (family) adventure. My job during spring camp is to sell the business part of the Bulldogs…but also to sell Port Alberni.”

The team provides welcome packages courtesy of the Alberni Valley Chamber of Commerce, showcasing things to do in the Valley and places to eat. The families book into local hotels, buy gas for their vehicles and eat at local restaurants for the duration of camp, Campbell said.

“This camp is the busiest that it’s been in quite some time. This is one of the many things the Bulldogs do to bring people here, to boost the local economy.”

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