New Golden Eagle Coach Bob Francis and assistant Jamie Hislop greeted 20 players Sunday for the club's first practice of the season in Utah at the Cottonwood rink. The Eagles also practiced there Monday morning.
Everybody assigned to Salt Lake so far showed up on time and ready to go, Francis said.The Eagles now await results of today's NHL waiver draft, during which each team has the right to claim unprotected players from other teams' rosters for a waiver fee. The only players unprotected by Calgary are Eagles Randy Bucyk and Rick Hayward, and Francis doesn't expect to lose either.
Francis, in his first year as head coach, said the Eagles, who've been off the ice for several days to travel from Calgary training camp to Salt Lake, worked on "flow," did some scrimmaging and worked on neutral-zone faceoffs.
The Eagles are ahead of most years because the parent Calgary Flames spent most of the fall camp playing exhibition games in the Soviet Union. That left most of the Eagle team home in Calgary, and Francis was able to install his system (basic game plan for moving the puck, defending the goal, etc.) several weeks early. When the parent team's in camp, players come and go between two or three or four squads, but that didn't happen this season. "We're ahead of the game in that respect," Francis said.
Francis said left wing Stu Grimson is in camp but didn't practice Sunday, although he was to practice Monday. Calgary's lone player assignment for the weekend was rookie forward Stephane Matteau, who did practice Sunday.
The Eagles are still short one goaltender. They have Wayne Cowley for now. Francis expects another goalie to be assigned today or Tuesday.
Salt Lake opens its 21st season of play Friday at Peoria and Saturday at Milwaukee. Its first home game is Oct. 11 with Flint, which has taken over from Denver as the New York Rangers' farm team.
Francis spoke with Peoria Coach Wayne Thomas (who coached the Eagles when Francis was his player/assistant coach) three years ago, and Thomas has several exhibition games lined up with other IHL teams. The Eagles, being geographically far away from the core of the IHL, have no preseason games aside from the ones they played during the Calgary portion of camp against Milwaukee and Team Canada. The Eagles were 5-1 in those games but won't have played anybody for 11 days when they start the regular season.
Because the International Hockey League recently suspended for a year the Saginaw franchise, the Eagles' schedule has been revised. Here is the new schedule:
OCTOBER: 6 - at Peoria, 7 - at Milwaukee, 11 - Flint, 13 - Flint, 14 - Flint, 18 - Peoria, 20 - Peoria, 27 - at Indianapolis, 28 - at Kalamazoo, 30 - Phoenix, 31 - Fort Wayne.
NOVEMBER: 2 - Fort Wayne, 4 - at Peoria, 10 - at Indianapolis, 11 - at Flint, 12 - at Peoria, 15 - at Kalamazoo, 17 - at Indianapolis, 21 - Milwaukee, 23 - Milwaukee, 24 - Milwaukee, 25 - at Peoria, 29 - at Fort Wayne.
DECEMBER: 1 - at Indianapolis, 2 - at Indianapolis, 5 - Peoria, 6 - Peoria, 8 - Phoenix, 9 - at Phoenix, 12 - Muskegon, 14 - Muskegon, 16 - Phoenix, 19 - at Phoenix, 20 - Milwaukee, 22 - Milwaukee, 23 - Phoenix, 27 - Kalamazoo, 29 - Kalamazoo, 30 - at Muskegon, 31 - at Indianapolis.
JANUAY: 5 - at Muskegon, 7 - at Milwaukee, 9 - Peoria, 11 - Peoria, 13 - at Phoenix, 19 - at Phoenix, 22 - Flint, 24 - Flint, 26 - Phoenix, 30 - Phoenix.
FEBRUARY: 4 - at Phoenix, 6 - at Phoenix, 14 - Phoenix, 16 - Indianapolis, 17 - at Phoenix, 18 - Indianapolis, 20 - Phoenix, 21 - at Phoenix, 23 - at Peoria, 24 - at Milwaukee, 27 - Indianapolis, 28 - at Phoenix.
MARCH: 2 - Indianapolis, 3 - at Peoria, 4 - at Flint, 9 - at Fort Wayne, 10 - at Milwaukee, 11 - at Flint, 15 - at Phoenix, 16 - Phoenix, 17 - Phoenix, 20 - Fort Wayne, 22 - Kalamazoo, 24 - Phoenix, 25 - at Phoenix, 29 - Indainapolis, 30 - Indianapolis, 31 - at Phoenix.
APRIL: 4 - at Kalamazoo, 6 - at Flint, 7 - at Fort Wayne, 8 - at Milwaukee.