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Powell River Kings are thinking hockey

Coach grinds players on mental side of the game
NEW APPROACH: Powell River Kings’ new head coach and general manager Tyler Kuntz is drilling his team to play with purpose. David Brindle photo

Real hockey starts for Powell River Kings’ 2018/19 BC Hockey league season on Saturday, September 8, when the team opens its 30th season at home against Victoria Grizzlies.

One last exhibition game remains in Comox against Nanaimo Clippers on Sunday, September 2.

“That's our last exhibition game. I don't think that will be the team,” said head coach and general manager Tyler Kuntz. “We're bringing in some kids still that we want to be part of the program in the future, so they'll probably play that game. Everyone has had at least one or two games so I think we'll be fine.”

Kuntz expects to have his roster ready on Tuesday, September 4.

Since training camp started on August 20, Kuntz has not gone easy on his players. Camp has been hard under Kuntz.

“There's a lot of mental stuff,” he said. “We have lots of video meetings, lots of structure. It's a grind mentally. Physically, we're on the ice twice a day. You see lots of enthusiasm. The kids have worked hard. They've asked questions, they've taken notes in the meetings, they're engaged and they're kids so we've got to make it fun.”

Kuntz is not rushing or building expectations, particularly on defence, where he focused most of his recruiting efforts in the off season.

“That's going to take a long time,” said Kuntz, who was a defender in his playing career. “Look at all the kids back there. They're really good kids. They work really hard. They're super engaged and enthused as to what we're doing. They want to get better and they think the game pretty good. If you're intelligent, the sky's the limit for kids that can think the game.

Kuntz concentrates at lot on the thinking part of the game, processing information and translating it into play.

But there’s also the fundamentals and this year’s team looks to have speed.

“I think every team wants to play fast,” said Kuntz. “We've tried to structure our system around that. You look at the personnel, I think they complement that well with the fact that they can all skate. I don't think any team can play without it now. We're trying to build speed and develop their skating and then hopefully by the end of the year you'll see some good results.”

Despite playing down expectations for his team, there’s no denying a new energy surrounding the Kings and their new coach.

When the puck drops at 7 pm on Saturday, September 8, in the season opener and home opener of the Kings’ 30th season at Hap Parker Arena, it’s hockey time again in Powell River.