By Peter Marx
OXFORD, Ohio - Miami University's hockey Pro Camp wrapped up Friday at the Goggin Ice Center as 20 former players were in town training for their respective upcoming professional seasons.
Attendance was up seven players from a year ago. The most notable attendees were 2012 Stanley Cup Champion Alec Martinez (Class of '09) of the Los Angeles Kings, New Jersey Devils defenseman Andy Greene ('06), Edmonton Oilers forward Ryan Jones ('08), San Jose Sharks forward Tommy Wingels ('11) and Andy Miele ('11) of the Phoenix Coyotes.
"It's just fun to see our guys," RedHawks head coach Enrico Blasi said. "A lot of them are a little bit older, but they still look the same and do some of the same things. Some of them are under NHL contracts and some of them are not, so it's just great to see them back and being a part of (the program again)."
Daily activities included two and a half hours of ice time, an hour of conditioning, along with weight room workouts.
Coach Blasi said he doesn't feel the need stay on top of his players like he used to now that they are professionals. The coaching staff takes a lighter tone with its former players and there was plenty of friendly banter to go around.
"It's definitely a lot different now that we're not on the team anymore," Miele said about the former players' interactions with the coaches. "They were great guys and great coaches when we were here, but now they are not trying to develop us as much, so they are not on our backs as much. It's great hanging out with them and seeing a different side of them."
Off the ice, the players enjoyed their down time, sharing stories over dinner at a few of their favorite Oxford establishments, which included a Thursday night gathering at Paesano's, a longtime pregame meal destination.
"We had a dinner last night (Thursday) and showed a little video of them back in the day, but nothing too formal," Blasi said about the players' off-ice activities. "They are grown men, so they had a good time here."
This year's camp was very business like. With the uncertainty surrounding the NHL and a possible lockout, players were taking their time at Miami seriously.
"This week has been pretty tame actually," Justin Vaive ('11) said, referring to the team's lack of pranks and shenanigans this week. "I expected a lot more after last year, but so far it has been pretty low key."
The players in general enjoyed their week of preparation and there's a consensus that most would return next year if given the opportunity.
"It's been a great time and it's something that (I hope) we can do for a long time," Miele said.
The coaching staff will evaluate this year's Pro Camp before making plans to host it again in 2013. But all signs point to it being a long-term annual event.
"We'll get the feedback from the guys and see how everything went," Blasi said. "If we can improve it or not, or leave it the same, we'll do that."