By Nick Barnowski –
EAST LANSING – Familiar faces along with a few unexpected visitors hit the ice today at Munn Ice Arena for Michigan State University’s annual pro camp.
Justin Abdelkader and Drew Miller, both former Spartans and current Detroit Red Wings, headlined the list of players participating in the week long camp. While not alums of MSU, Wings defenseman Jakub Kindl and former Red Wings Dan Cleary and Valtteri Filppula also are skating in the camp run by Spartans assistant coach Tom Newton.
Participating players include a plethora of former Spartans including Torey Krug (Boston Bruins), Mike Weaver (Florida Panthers), Jeff Petry (Edmonton Oilers), and Jim Slater (Winnipeg Jets).
“It’s always good to get the guys together here,” Abdelkader, whose 2007 MSU team won the national championship, said. “It’s always good to come back here to Munn, it brings back from great memories.”
The camp has been around for about 15 years, started when former Spartan Jason Muzzatti approached Newton regarding the high number of alums still living in the area over the summer. They were looking for someone to run drills and get on-ice training in before their pro camps started in September. Newtown coordinated it all, and ever since, Spartans who now play professionally know to come back to town during the third week of August.
“Coming back here is one of the times in the summer you look forward to,” Miller said. “It’s fun to come back here and see all the guys and reminisce the times in college.”
The camp isn’t just an excuse for the players to hit the ice with their fellow Spartans. Newton’s practices are rigorous and include scrimmages and heavy skating towards the end of the sessions.
“Preparation-wise it’s a big part of my summer,” Miller said, “and a lot of the guys here use it to jump start their training before training camp starts.
“Coach Newton puts on a good camp for us and we appreciate coming back.”
Even Filppula, who signed with the Tampa Bay Lightning in July, was happy to come out to MSU’s campus. The former Red Wings forward was recruited by Miller to skate this week.
“It’s a great facility, the first time I’ve been here. It’s awesome, a really good place,” he said. “I’m glad I was able to come. It’s nice to get the chance to skate before the season starts.”
For the players, it’s a perfect opportunity to put some work in before the NHL season starts while also getting a chance to reunite with friends and former classmates.
“It’s good to have some of the guys come up here and some of the guys that played at Michigan State,” Miller said.