The Buffalo Sabres hosted nearly 10,000 fans at First Niagara Center this past week as the team held its annual summer development camp. The week consisted of three public on-ice practice sessions Monday through Wednesday and culminated Thursday night with a ‘Blue and Gold’ scrimmage, which was attended by over 5,000 fans. It marked the first time the team has held its development camp at First Niagara Center.
“I think we’ve got as heavy a load of talent as we’ve ever had here,” said head coach Lindy Ruff after Thursday’s scrimmage. “Some good skill and good size. I think up front we saw some of that talent in the scrimmage.”
"It was great to see all our fans come out to watch our camp, especially last night," said forward Marcus Foligno after camp wrapped up Friday. "To have that many fans head to the arena in the middle of summer shows how dedicated and awesome our Sabres fans truly are.”
Thirty-nine Sabres prospects took to the ice to complete the week of on-ice drills and practice sessions, as well as taking part in off-ice strength and conditioning training. The goals of the camp were to show prospective players the fundamental ideas of the Sabres’ system and expose them to the conditioning programs of an NHL player. Camp participants also studied and examined NHL rules and the successful techniques a player must possess to become a professional athlete.
Among other exercises, the prospects trained each day with Acumen Performance Group, comprised of retired Navy SEALs, at a local beach.
“We were trying to improve their (the prospects’) mental ability, stronger from the neck up,” said Bill Hart, the CEO of Acumen. “At the end of the day, if we give them the tools to succeed and they apply those tools, they come out of it much stronger.”
"It was a tough camp for the boys but seeing all our Sabres faithful out there each day was great motivation,” said forward Luke Adam. “Our fans are incredible.”
Another result of the week’s development camp was the signing of first-round draft pick Zemgus Girgensons on Friday afternoon to a three-year, entry-level contract.
“It was a long week of training with the Navy SEALs and everything,” Girgensons said Friday. “But it turned around pretty quick and I’m very excited to be here.”
Many of the Sabres prospects will return to the ice at First Niagara Center later this year as training camp opens this fall in preparation for the 2012-13 NHL season.