40 players. No phones. 1 team. Bruins build bonds at preseason camp
The Austin Bruins spent most of this week at Riverside Arena or at a hotel in Austin, as they held their annual Orientation Camp, where players were "off the grid" in order to bond as a group and learn what will be expected of them in the 2022-23 season.
AUSTIN — No texting, no social media, no selfies.
It’s been an off-the-grid week, by design, for the approximately 40 players still attempting to make the Austin Bruins final roster for the 2022-23 season.
Some of those players had spots locked up prior to this week’s orientation camp at Riverside Arena. Others were battling to have a spot when practice opens for the season on Monday, Aug. 29. A handful will scatter back to their high school or AAA programs with an eye on playing in the North American Hockey League in a year or two.
Regardless of their situation, though, Bruins defenseman and captain Jack Malinski said the week of forced bonding has been good for all of the players on a team that has high hopes for the upcoming season.
“We were all staying at the Holiday Inn this week, we don’t have our phones or anything like that,” Malinski, a Lakeville South graduate, said. “We’re building a bond as a team this week. The chemistry is getting there. So now it’s, how do the guys fit in?”
That’s what the Bruins have figured out this week, on and off the ice. The orientation camp — which included just more than three dozen players who stood out at the team’s main tryout camp in late June — was designed to not only help the veterans and newcomers get to know one another off the ice, but also for the rookies and first-year Bruins to learn the team’s on-ice systems and style of play.
“The systems are working themselves in and we’ll see who can play the best hockey,” said Malinski, who is the only Bruins’ defenseman who was with the team for the entire 2021-22 season.
The five-day camp opened on Sunday with practices, a video session and a team cook-out at the arena. It closed with an intrasquad scrimmage on Wednesday night, followed by individual player meetings with the coaching staff on Thursday morning. The Bruins now have less than three weeks before reporting back to Austin for the start of a new season.
“We’re establishing how we do things here and also letting the new guys come in and see how we do things,” Bruins head coach Steve Howard said. “... we want them to understand what it takes to play here. We do (the camp) right now because there are a few guys every year who, they’re really good in (tryout) camp, but when you apply a system and tell them they have to go from Point A to Point B, and then go over to C, they can’t figure it out.
“The structure, the details … it’s eye-opening for some guys. That’s what we’re trying to get across, how detailed it is to play at this level and on to the college level.”
Second-year Bruins forward Austin Salani said the team’s veterans use this week to help the newer, younger guys learn what will be expected of them on a daily basis — though they’re allowed to have their cell phones during the season.
“This week was for everyone, not just for the new guys coming in. It’s for us (veterans), too,” he said. “We’re getting a feel for the team and what we’re going to feel like and play like.
“It’s team bonding, getting a good feel for each other so that when we come back for that first day of practice, we’re comfortable with each other. All the guys will know what’s asked of us and maybe we get a little head start on other teams.”
Bruins to play preseason game in Rochester
The Bruins will play four preseason games this fall that are open to the public.
They’ll go to the Minnesota Wilderness (Cloquet) on Sept. 2, then host the Wilderness at 7:05 p.m. on Sept. 3 at Riverside Arena.
The following week, Austin will host Corpus Christi (Texas) Ice Rays on Friday, Sept. 9, at 7:05 p.m. On Saturday, Sept. 10, the Bruins will travel to Rochester, where they’ll face the Anchorage Wolverines at 7:05 p.m. at the Rochester Recreation Center.
Anchorage is coached by Rochester native, and former Rochester Grizzlies assistant coach, Mike Aikens.
Tickets for all preseason home games are available for $5 and can be purchased at AustinBruins.com/single-game-tickets .