AT 22, University of Alaska-Anchorage forward Matt Bailey is emphatic he still wants to be a pro hockey player.
So the undrafted right-winger from Oakbank is attending an NHL development camp for the second straight summer --last year in Washington and this time with the hometown Winnipeg Jets.
"I think the biggest thing for me is just learning," Bailey said Tuesday at the MTS Iceplex. "I feel like I've still got some room to grow and every opportunity I get to continue my growth and learn as a player is great. At the same time, it's nice to see how you match with some of these guys, and also get to meet the GM and some of the coaches."
Bailey is doing a couple of summer courses towards his marketing degree but will return for his senior year in Anchorage.
"Graduating means a lot more to me now," Bailey said. "You don't appreciate that as much when you're a freshman or sophomore. Now that I'm close, it'll be good to have that degree in my back pocket."
The industrious winger, who had seven goals and 19 points last season, returns to a program that has a new coach, Matt Thomas, and hopes it is past some controversy.
Bailey is enthusiastic for the coming year, in part because he's become a big fan of Anchorage.
"Lots of new changes in Alaska and everyone's pretty excited about it," he said. "Anchorage is beautiful. It's probably not what most Canadians would think of when you think Alaska. It's a city of about 300,000, on the coast, the winters are mild -- you don't even have to plug in your car. I've had a great experience there."
Some chow, some chatter
ON-ICE evaluation is always taking place but at the summer development camp, the man running the practice part of the prospects' day reiterated Tuesday that the Jets are stressing support system this week and not just performance.
St. John's IceCaps coach Keith McCambridge said Tuesday the week is about: "An opportunity to skate around the ice and an opportunity to sit during dinner, just get to know the players."
He said several times during an interview Tuesday that it's important to keep in mind that July is different than December or February for players and coaches.
"I'm being very aware that it is the middle of summer and that Player A, he might have been on the ice for two weeks and Player B, maybe just a couple of days before," McCambridge said, noting that the players looked much fresher Tuesday, since Monday's on-ice session came after a morning of rigorous fitness testing.
Still, the once-a-day on-ice sessions are not simply a recreational skate, McCambridge said.
"To work on a skill set," he said, asked for the point of the practices. "To define exactly how we want defencemen to read whenever they have pressure on the blue-line."
The Jets also announced Tuesday that they have new AHL contracts with Yasin Cisse, 21, Will O'Neill, 25, Blair Riley, 27, and Ryan Schnell, 24, for the 2012-13 IceCaps.