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Growlers Training Camp Blog | We’re Back, Baby

Wednesday, October 2nd
Growlers Training Camp Blog | We’re Back, Baby

Normally, when my morning alarm chimes to wake me up, I’m not the quickest to want to get out of bed.

This morning was a completely different story.

Today was Day One of Newfoundland Growlers Training Camp and in a lot of ways, it felt like the first day of school. You weren’t yet dreading the grind that is surely to come. You were excited to get in and see your buddies and talk about your summers and prepare to buckle down for the road ahead.

Spirits were high at the Paramount Fine Foods Centre in Mississauga, Ontario as the Growlers split into two groups and worked through a rotation of on-ice sessions, team meetings, video sessions and workouts.

I hovered near the entrance to Rink #4 at the sprawling Paramount Fine Foods Centre, charging my phone and frantically deleting old photos and videos to make room for the avalanche of new content to come.

I spotted the first group sauntering the halls, craning their necks and looking for the entrance. Growlers captain James Melindy was one of the first to find his way over and with a big grin on his face, he leaned toward my running camera and shouted:

“We’re back, baby!”

And it was on. This will come across as a cliché but even though there were “only” ten returning players, it felt like this team had been together through the summer. Things felt the same. There was no tension. Guys were up to their same old shenanigans. Players and coaches were all too willing to fire pucks at the glass as we were filming. We really were back.

The on-ice practice sessions came and went like a flash. It’s not my place to comment on the performance of individual players but one player stood out above all others… because he stands at six feet six inches tall.

I couldn’t help but be drawn to Justin Brazeau, the hulking 21-year-old rookie signed to an AHL contract with the Toronto Marlies. With 61 goals and 113 points (!!) in his final year of junior in North Bay, I was looking forward to watching him in person.

He didn’t disappoint. He’s a great skater and not just for a big guy. He showed all of those little intangibles that comprise a natural goal scorer. Plus he wore a sweet, jealousy-inducing Raptors hat to the rink in the morning. I’m excited for you all to get the chance to see him in action at Mile One Centre on Opening Night on October 11.

Once the practice was over, it was time to brave the shockingly hot October sun (30 degrees on October 1? Yes please!) and navigate our way across the parking lot to the fitness building.

And what a building.

Serving as the practice home of the Toronto Raptors primary affiliate, the Raptors 905, this building had everything. Pristine basketball courts, a huge glass-walled atrium, indoor soccer fields, weight rooms, dance studios, the whole nine yards.

The players followed Neill Davidson, the Growlers’ athletic therapist to the weight room for a quick circuit. Not quite at home in the gym, I waited outside for the group to finish and begin to conclude the afternoon’s session.

Before returning to the dressing room to change, a few of the players peered in on a Raptors 905 practice while others swiped a soccer ball and headed for the turf.

After a short delay to retrieve a ball that had been kicked into the rafters, the guys began booting the ball around with one another, some showcasing a surprising amount of skill with a soccer ball. Growlers returnee Brady Ferguson drew some chuckles as he was yelling play calls to his teammates and even though he insisted he was ‘a terrible soccer player’, he did manage to sneak a few kicks by goaltender Matt Bradley.

Soon enough, it was time to hit the showers and pack it in for Day One.

Tomorrow is already looking like it’s going to be another great day, as Day Two will feature the first split-squad scrimmage of training camp. Keep your eyes and ears peeled to the Growlers social media channels, @NLGrowlers, for all the updates!

Until tomorrow!

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