Originally Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2012, 5:56 pm
Last Updated: Oct. 10, 2012, 7:44 pm
Mallards training camp delayed
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By Steve Tappa, email@example.com
A pair of preseason games already have been cancelled this weekend.
Now, eight days from starting the season on the road, the only Central Hockey League squad yet to open training camp is delayed another day from beginning workouts.
"Thursday's just not going to happen,'' new coach Terry Ruskowski confirmed on the eve of the Quad City Mallards' planned camp beginning.
The Double-A circuit's other nine teams opened their training camps Monday.
In a press release, the CHL called QC's delay "due to the need to first complete final player-related operational requirements.''
"What the heck does that mean?'' Ruskowski scoffed. "I guess that's bureaucrat for `pulling things together.'
"We've got the American guys driving in now for physicals on Friday. We're working on immigration (clearance) for the Canadians. Hopefully they start trickling in Saturday for practice.
"But then, I don't know yet if we have ice time available because of concerts and things like that (at the Mallards' home arena, Moline's i wireless Center). Until (Wednesday), I didn't know we had another venue (Davenport's The River's Edge) where we could practice. So it's those kinds of things (delaying the Mallards).''
Despite Ruskowski's status as one of the winningest coaches in the CHL and minor-league hockey, the learning curve locally has proven steep, with the former Chicago Blackhawks captain on the job for only two months.
Ruskowski's late start was dictated by a turbulent offseason for the Mallards.
Star players such as reigning CHL MVP Brandon Marino left via free-agency, with then-coach David Bell unable to match better contract offers.
Ruskowski also was hired in August to replace Bell, whose hasty exit was precipitated by an unpaid portion of his salary and housing.
The team's owners, Club 9 Sports, also were sued last month by a merchandising vendor, and financial questions continue to swirl.
Ruskowski remains at home in Texas signing players, with plans now for him to arrive with the initial group of players Friday.
"I wanted to be there by the first of September and meet everybody, but nothing happened on that end,'' Ruskowski. "It's been a crazy, crazy situation. Unfortunately, we're still dotting all of the i's and crossing all of the t's.
"I certainly don't want us to be a half-assed team. We're professional. I'm a professional, and so it's frustrating. I apologize to the fans and to my players because they certainly deserve better. But there are just some things out of our control.''
Ironically, the difficult situation is more of the same for Ruskowski, who had CHL franchise's fold underneath him each of the last two seasons in the Texas markets of Laredo and Rio Grande Valley.
"I'm not a greedy guy,'' Ruskowski said. "Just one normal summer. That's all I ask. Where I can put together a championship team and just coach and not have to worry about moving or any of this other stuff. It's been hectic with all of the question marks and not knowing for sure what's happening. It's been a real nightmare. But I know better days are coming.''
Ruskowski said 25-26 players are expected in camp this weekend, with the cutdown to a season-starting 18 or 19, depending on the league's salary cap, with veteran players earning more.
To help catch up, Ruskowski is planning on two-a-day workouts, with 90 minutes devoted each morning to conditioning, and 90 minutes each afternoon to systems work, "power plays, penalty kills, traps, that sort of thing,'' he added.
Even though Friday's (there) and Saturday's (here) games with nearby rival Bloomington are off the board, Ruskowski still hopes to get an exhibition game together, otherwise his team will scrimmage a couple of times before final camp cuts next week, and opening next Friday, Oct. 19 at Wichita.
Just six of the league's 10 teams have preseason games scheduled.
"I don't know how many times I've seen it. A guy can be a great practice player and then disappear during games,'' Ruskowski said. "I have a good idea of what I've got, but I need to see it, especially from the young guys.
"I think we will be a competitive team. It is coming together. The Quad Cities is a lot easier to recruit to than Rio or Laredo. There people are worried about violence on the border. Here, there's name recognition as one of the best teams and community for minor-league hockey. There are fans here that support you and you're close to major American teams, so that's attractive too.''