BOISE — The Utah Grizzlies opened their first training camp under the auspices of the NHL parent Phoenix Coyotes with 41 players Thursday at the Bank of America Centre in Boise, home of their ECHL affiliate, the Idaho Steelheads.
The Grizzlies, under new coach Pat Conacher and assistant Gord Dineen, will practice in Boise through Oct. 9, including preseason games with the new Edmonton Road Runners, affiliates of the NHL Oilers, on Oct. 8 and 9 in the Bank of America Centre.
They will then move to West Valley City and open the 2004-05 season Oct. 13 in the E Center against the Cincinnati Mighty Ducks at 7 p.m.
Twenty-seven of the players in camp are under contract with Phoenix, according to the Arizona Republic, and center Jeff Taffe, defenseman Matthew Spiller and winger Fredrik Sjostrom played 50 or more games each with the Coyotes last season. Rookie first-round 2002 draft choice Keith Ballard, a defenseman, and second-year goalie David LeNeveu should make the Grizzly roster, said the Republic.
The NHL is under lockout conditions, and many parent teams are stocking their minor-league clubs with youngsters who might ordinarily being playing in the big league.
The Glendale (Ariz.) Star reports that Phoenix has signed free agent forwards Landon Bathe and Olivier Latendresse to two- and three-year contracts, respectively, after they played well in a recent four-team rookie tournament coached by Conacher in Anaheim, Calif., so they could make the Utah roster as well.
The Utah/Idaho training camp roster consists of four goaltenders, 12 defenseman and 25 forwards and includes six former Grizzlies (Jon Sim, Justin Cox, Brett Draney, David Cornacchia, Warren Peters and Lance Galbraith).
Utah will likely keep about 22 or 23 players, and the rest will be available to the Steelheads.
Nine on the roster are Americans, 25 Canadians, five are from the Czech Republic, and one each is from Sweden and Russia. The average age is 23.2 years, and they total 366 NHL games of experience.