Jets Host Auditions During Weekend Tryout Camp
Coach will evaluate 80 aspiring players
Friday, July 17, 2009
JANESVILLE Dane Litke will host his own version of Survivor this weekend as over 80 aspiring hockey players from 15 different states and Canada descend upon the Janesville Ice Rink.
It will be up to Litke, the head coach of the first-year Janesville Jets, to evaluate the talent and invite the best back for a final tryout camp July 30-Aug. 2. The NAHL Junior A team will eventually trim its roster to 25 players.
A lot of kids get sent home unhappy, Litke said. Thats the part of my job I dont like. The kids try their hearts out and its tough to tell them theyre not good enough to make your team. Either theyre not quite there physically or in terms of talent.
This weekends camp, which will draw players from 15 different states and Canada, is the second held by the Jets. They held one June 26-28 in Duluth, Minn., which attracted 45 players and warranted 25 invitations to the final camp. The team already has 26 other players it either drafted or signed to tenders and this weekend will provide 26 more, hiking the grand total for the final camp to 77.
The numbers in Duluth were about 15 less than Litke had hoped for, but this weekends turnout should more than make up the difference.
The quality of the camp in Duluth was pretty good, the coach said. We saw some good forwards and defensemen. We were a little disappointed with the goaltending, but hopefully it will be better in this camp.
Many of the players were invited to the camp.
A lot of them weve seen at one point in time, but a lot of them we havent seen and this gives them the opportunity to showcase their talents, Litke said. I had a kid in Bismark a couple of years ago who ended up being the third-leading scorer in the league. He was passed on by his hometown team. We were fortunate enough to get him and he ended up being the league Rookie of the Year and getting a scholarship to Michigan Tech.
In addition to physical ability, the Jets will also evaluate the mental makeup of prospective players.
If guys are getting in trouble off the ice theyre not going to help our cause, Litke said. Any legal problems are grounds for expulsion from the team. We know theyre 18 and 19 year old guys and theyre going to have their fun, but we want good players on the ice and good guys on the community off it.
In a community this size, people are going to know who they are. If something goes wrong, were going to know about it.
For many of the young players, this is their first time away from home.
You always have to deal with some players experiencing home-sickness, Litke said. Once the season starts and they start playing and getting to know their teammates, it isnt an issue anymore. They all have cell phones. They can all call home and talk to their mom and dad. Theyre here for a reason. Theyre here to play hockey, to get better and to move to the next level.
Jets General Manager John McCally grew up playing hockey in Michigan, but before the advent of Junior hockey.
Back when I graduated from high school, Junior A hockey was really in its infancy, he said. If you played college hockey and you didnt get a Division 1 scholarship, you played Division III. Nowadays with the Junior A developmental leagues, college teams are looking for players to play a year or two in the NAHL or USHL to get bigger, stronger and better.
The public is welcome to watch the camp, which begins at 5:15 p.m. on Friday with practice sessions until 10 p.m. Scrimmage games will be held from 10 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. and then 5 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. on Saturday. There will be more games on Sunday from 10 a.m. until 1:15 p.m.
Obviously, skating ability is a big part of it, Litke said. But there are guys who arent the best skaters and theyre good goal scorers. Sometimes it takes them a little longer to get to where they need to be as skaters, but once they get there, they can put the puck in the net. There are other guys who can skate, but they can never score.
Litke said the tryout will begin with agility and skating drills without pucks to see who has good feet and hands. Then there will be 1-on-1 and 2-on-2 drills followed by game situations.
As a brand new team, the Jets are liable to take their lumps at first, Litke said.
We play six games in nine days to start the year off, he said. For guys who havent played junior hockey at this level before, its a pretty big adjustment for them. If we can get them to buy into the team concept and work hard every night its going to make everything a lot easier.
The Jets will play a home exhibition game Sept. 5. The regular season begins Sept. 12 with a home game against the Travers City North Stars.
NOTES: Litke, 39, coached the Bismark Bobcats from 2005-2007. He grew up in Manitoba. ...The Jets announced tickets to home games will go on sale today. There are a variety of ticket options that can be purchased through a ticket form online at http://www.janesvillejets.com or by calling the Jets office at 608-756-2382. ...Season ticket packages will include discounted ticket prices for all 27 regular season home games along with the exhibition game. Group sales consist of a minimum purchase of 10 tickets to any single home game. Special Jet Packs consist of a single ticket to any 10 home games. For further information, visit the teams Web site.