It is a scene that has played out countless times before and figures to repeat itself over and over again as this town’s fascination with the Winnipeg Jets only continues to grow.
There was 2011 first-round draft pick Mark Scheifele leading the 38 players attending the team’s development onto the ice at MTS Iceplex Monday to a rousing cheer from the roughly 500 fans in attendance.
Yes, it would seem absence has indeed made the heart grow fonder for Jets’ faithful and their beloved team.
"It felt good to actually get on the ice and not be worried about the testing," said Scheifele afterward. "It’s been a long day, but it’s been a lot of fun."
The Jets first-ever development camp opened Monday with one afternoon session and will run all this week. It features some players from the St. John’s IceCaps, players who have been drafted in the past, the last two entire draft classes by the team and a few free agents looking to latch on with a club.
The point of the week isn’t so much as a tryout – players are always being evaluated when the club’s brass is watching – as it is a chance for the organization to indoctrinate them into what is involved in being a Jet. They will also meet with strength coaches and nutritionists to help them with their offseason training and diets.
"It was fun. The guys have had a good day," said Jimmy Roy, the Jets' coordinator of player development. "They got to be able to come in here (Sunday) night and have a good meal and meet everybody. It’s good to have everybody in the organization at the camp.
"There’s three components to it: for us to learn a little bit about them, for them to learn about us and an opportunity for us to teach them the things we think are important in the game and outside of the game. It’s also about getting them into camp, getting them into Winnipeg and getting them to feel comfortable about the Winnipeg Jets and what it’s going to feel like when you come into a main camp."
One of the Jets’ top prospects was not on the ice, due to injury. Russian winger Ivan Telegin is in town, but is said to be recovering and will speak to the media later in the week. Two late additions to the camp were Brandon Wheat Kings goaltender Corbin Boes and University of Manitoba forward Blair MacAulay.
The camp continues Tuesday with two on-ice sessions at 9:30 a.m. and 11 a.m., both at the MTS Iceplex. All sessions are open to the public and are free.