By Alyssa Girardi –
EAST LANSING — As temperatures neared 80 degrees and students piled back onto Michigan State University’s campus for a new semester, the winter months were the last thing on anybody’s minds.
But inside Munn Ice Arena, the talk was all about hockey season.
Monday kicked off the start of MSU hockey’s annual pro camp, a weeklong event that brings back former Spartans to prepare for their upcoming professional team camps. The camp, which is open to the public, showcases about 20 alums, including 11 who played in the NHL last season.
The event is run by MSU assistant coach Tom Newton, who said the camp has taken place for almost 15 years.
“It’s twofold,” Newton said. “First part of it is for conditioning for the players. More than the conditioning, these guys are in great shape right now. It’s more about timing and just getting the feel for the game back into their way of doing things. The other part of it is a little bit of fun, alumni relations.”
He said the daily two-hour sessions are broken down into two segments. The players start the day with drills and then end with scrimmaging after the ice is cleaned.
“It’s definitely the first time that you’re going to have some real structure to a practice and it feels like a real practice,” said Edmonton Oiler defenseman Jeff Petry (Ann Arbor). “It’s nice to come back to.”
Players attending the camp return to East Lansing from multiple leagues including the NHL, AHL and ECHL, but each one came in with the intent to work out the kinks.
Among the skaters are Justin Abdelkader (Detroit Red Wings/Muskegon), David Booth (Toronto Maple Leafs/Detroit) and Drew Miller (Detroit Red Wings/Lansing). Jim Slater (Winnipeg Jets/Lapeer) is skating privately before the main camp, while Torey Krug (Boston Bruins/Livonia) and others are expected to arrive later in the week.
For recent alumnus and 2012-13 and 2013-14 MSU captain Greg Wolfe, the camp doubled as an opportunity to him to get some ice time with NHLers. After four years in the green and white, Wolfe, a forward, will join the Fort Wayne Komets of the ECHL this upcoming season.
“With as much talent out here as we have, it’s a no-brainer to me that this is where I need to be skating and this is the way I’m going to get better,” Wolfe (Canton) said. “The guys do a good job pushing each other.”
Since captaining Team USA at the IIHF Men’s World Championship in May, Abdelkader said he’ll use MSU’s camp to get him back into the swing of things before heading to the Red Wings’ training camp from Sept. 19-23 in Traverse City.
“It’s good to be back here in East Lansing,” he said. “Pro camp every year, I always look forward to this time. It’s fun but at the same time we’re kind of getting ready for our respective teams and the season that’s coming up.”