ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Professional hockey is officially back in Rochester.
The Amerks wrapped up day one of training camp on Friday, after not playing in Blue Cross Arena since March. The team looks a little different, with a new coaching staff, as well as new players on the roster.
Many of Rochester’s stars from last season are up with the Sabres on their taxi squad, a group of four-to-six additional players the team can retain in case of COVID-19 issues. Right now, there are only 16 players on the training camp roster, which will help make it easier for all of the new faces to click on the ice.
“We talked about it from our first meeting. We want to be a connected group,” said head coach Seth Appert. “We want to be connected on the ice in how we play together and play for each other, but also be connected as much as we can off the ice.”
The off-ice chemistry will be a little different this year. Due to COVID-19, the regular team bonding experiences around Rochester will not be happening.
“I think we’ll have it in a sense where we’re still in the locker room,” said second year forward Brett Murray. “Obviously, we’re not supposed to be close to each other outside of the locker room but the coaching staff and everyone is trying to do their best to get to know the new players and returning faces.”
Seven of the 16 men on the roster are returners: Murray, Andrew Oglevie, Dalton Smith, Jean-Sebastien Dea, Jacob Bryson, C.J. Smith, and Casey Fitzgerald.
“I think we have a really good leadership corps with the guys who are coming back,” said Appert. “We’ve also added some really good veterans like Dustin Tokarski and Steven Fogarty, who are real winners of hockey players. Those are guys we’re going to talk to a lot about building that chemistry.”
Friday’s training camp opener was also Seth Appert’s first time on the ice at Blue Cross Arena as a coach. He spent a portion of NHL training camp up in Buffalo, meeting with general manager Kevyn Adams and head coach Ralph Krueger, leading some sessions, and observing his prospects at Sabres camp.
“To have that experience gave me a lot of confidence and more clarity in the mission of what they want me to carry out down here,” said Appert. “It was a great first day. I’m excited to be here and I’m excited to be part of such a proud franchise.”
Training camp will run through the end of January and the Amerks 65th season begins on Friday, February 5.