GLENDALE — Jobing.com Arena was hopping on Friday as players, coaches, staff and media members assembled for the first official day of the Coyotes 2011-12 Training Camp.
Sixty-two players have been invited to this camp, including newcomers Mike Smith, Daymond Langkow, Raffi Torres and Boyd Gordon.
Friday was a long day for the players. It started with a meeting with General Manager Don Maloney and Head Coach Dave Tippett at 8 a.m.
“We know it’s going to be a dogfight to get to the playoffs in the Western Conference,” Tippett said. “It’s going to be a challenge. This morning we talked about it as a group that we’re going to have to continue to play well as a team. Consistency is always a big factor in that.”
After the morning meeting, the players were scrambled to various administrative, medical, fitness and media stations.
Some of the fitness tests were grueling.
Asked to describe the day, forward Paul Bissonnette half-joked: “You mean Hell? This is the worst day probably (of the year). Fitness testing – everybody dreads it, especially after a blood test. I know I’m getting a little light-headed after the push-up test I just did. But we’ll just get it over with and then back to normal tomorrow on a regular schedule and it will be good.”
Bissonnette is just one of many players looking to impress the coaches in this camp.
Others include roster hopeful Andy Miele, who was the best player at Rookie Camp and arguably the best player on the ice in Tuesday’s rookie game vs. Los Angeles. The big question now is can Miele compete with the veterans and earn a roster spot.
Defenseman Brandon Gormley also will be trying to win a roster spot at camp. Like Miele, Gormley stood out at Rookie Camp until being hit in the face with a puck during Tuesday’s rookie game vs. LA. On Friday, Gormley’s face still was quite swollen but he’s expected to take the ice on Saturday when on-ice sessions begin.
Tippett is confident that the competition for jobs will be stiff at this camp.
“Players will have a chance to show what they have and try to get noticed,” Tippett said. “Ultimately the decisions for our team will be made a lot through the exhibition games, and of the three years that I’ve been here, this season we have more decisions to make and tougher decisions to make than in year’s past and that’s a good thing. That just shows that our depth is continuing to improve and will make us a better hockey team.”
Langkow, who is penciled in to center the team’s top line with wingers Shane Doan and Ray Whitney, returned to Jobing.com Arena on Friday for the first time since his days with the Coyotes in the 2003-04 season before a trade sent him to Calgary.
“I’m really excited to be back here,” Langkow said. “It’s a fresh start for me and I think we’ve got a good squad here, and I think we have a real good chance to have a winning season here.”
• Center Kyle Turris, a restricted free agent who has yet to sign a new contract, did not report to camp. Maloney said Friday that the two sides are far apart in their negotiations.
• Bissonnette was asked for his thoughts on the NHL’s new social media policy. He said he has no problem with it. Bissonnette, of course, has more than 133,000 followers on Twitter as @BizNasty2point0.
“A lot of people were kind of upset about it via Twitter,” Bissonnette said. “I don’t tweet on game days regardless if I am playing or not. I think everyone is just kind of in panic mode about it whereas they’re more worried about after-game reactions. We’re still allowed to tweet after games… I think people have blown it out of proportion… To figure out the rule of the social media policy probably took them (the NHL) half a day. It wasn’t rocket science.”
• The Coyotes will take the ice for the first time on Saturday in three groups starting at 9 a.m.
• Three players who attended the Rookie Camp as amateur tryouts were late additions to the training camp roster on Wednesday night: They are Dylan King, Donnie Maloney and Brendan Shinnimin.