As the new coach for the Battlefords Barons Bantam AA team, Brett Vestby wasn’t quite sure what to expect at this past weekend’s training camp at the Civic Centre.
Following three days of scrimmages, he can’t help but be excited about what lies ahead for the 2016-17 Saskatchewan Bantam AA Hockey League campaign.
“Coming into the weekend I was told that we would have a bit of a weaker team compared to last year with guys moving up and what not,” Vestby said. “After seeing the guys play, I think we have the possibility to have a successful season and really surprise a lot of people in the league.”
One of the biggest takeaways that Vestby had from the weekend, which concluded with an intra-squad scrimmage Sunday afternoon, is the overall speed that was on the ice.
“We have a really speed team and a number of strong skaters for a young team,” Vestby said.
“The number of first-year guys that we have is great as well, because we’ll have a chance to watch them grow and develop together. There’s so much upside here and all of the guys are hard-working players that can grind it out when they have to do so.”
Vestby, who by day is the recreation director in Spiritwood, moved from Nanaimo, B.C. four months ago where he had coached for the North Island Silvertips of the British Columbia Major Midget League.
The position of Barons head coach became open when former bench boss Lee Ulmer moved up to be an assistant coach for the Battlefords Midget Stars.
“When I moved here, one of the main focuses was to be involved as a coach with hockey as that’s something I’ve been doing for a number of years now,” Vestby said.
“I like to make sure that the guys are enjoying the game. When you look at the teams that win the Stanley Cup each year, it’s the ones that are having the most fun. I also like to have teams with a very strong work ethic. I wasn’t the most skilled player when I played, so I expect the same type of play out of my players.”
Vestby will get to see how his players perform in game action on Sunday afternoon at the Civic Centre when the Barons are slated to take on a team from Saskatoon in a 2:30 p.m. exhibition game.
“We have all the way until Sept. 22 to set our rosters so that will be a good chance to see the guys who are still battling it out for a spot,” Vestby said. “We have a good idea already of some of the lines and defensive pairings for when the season begins.”
The Barons finished in ninth place in the SBAAHL’s North Division standings last year and were knocked out the first round in a two-game sweep by the Saskatoon Frostbite.
The 2016-17 regular season will begin for the Barons on Oct. 1 when they will visit the Saskatoon Outlaws.
Their home opener will take place a day later when they host the West Central Wheat Kings.