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Behind the Bench presented by Double N Hardwood Floors – 2020 Virtual Draft Camp

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As told by Royals’ Director of Player Personnel Ed Fowler

The WHL Bantam Draft is an exciting time for our management staff and scouts. Under normal circumstance we would all gather in Red Deer for a couple of days to discuss, analyze and organize our draft list. The afternoon before the draft we enjoy the WHL awards lunch, watch as our peers and players receive their awards, then meet to finalize our list prior to draft day.

For the players and their families, the draft can be an anxious time. To be drafted by a WHL team is a significant milestone, it also validates all the sacrifices, devotion and hard work it takes to arrive at this day.

For the hockey staff it is exciting, and a privilege to be able to call and speak to each player and his family after we select him.

For our entire organization, the work begins two years earlier as our scouts and management staff spend countless hours in cold rinks evaluating these young men. We watch every play, track the players skating, passing and body language looking for clues that might separate a player from his peers. We spend time talking with parents, agents and the kids themselves to gain some insight into their personality and character, will he be a good Royal?

Normally the morning of the first Thursday in May is the culmination of all this hard work as teams meet for the WHL Bantam Draft. We would all congregate in a huge ballroom huddled around team tables, laptops open but partially hidden. General Managers would be moving around the room in quiet discussion with each other, tossing around trade ideas that they feel might improve their draft chances and eventually their roster.

However, like many things this year, the draft for the 2005 birth year players was done virtually, using an online platform.

After all the picks were completed, we had the honour of contacting the drafted players and welcomed them to the Royals’ family. As always, it was fantastic to make these calls and hear the excitement in each player’s voice.

The next major step for the drafted players is training camp. When the players and their families come to the Island, we are always excited to be able to show off our city, our building and our people. It provides us with a chance to introduce the players and their families to our culture of commitment, trust, determination, teamwork and development.

Throughout the summer months we organize our Draft Camp for the drafted players and their families, inviting them to join us in Victoria, prior to training camp. We prepare the room to create an atmosphere as close to game day as we can, organize off ice workouts and on ice practices for the players. We set up tours of the city, special dinner plans, group outings, in the hope that players and families get to know each other as well as our staff and scouts. We want the first taste of our program to be special and memorable.

With all of the restrictions on travel this year, unfortunately, we were not able to invite players to Victoria, so we came up with the idea of a “Virtual Draft Camp.”

We invited the players and their families to join us online. Our staff ranging from managers, to coaches, education advisors, senior scouts, area scouts and other support staff all joined in on the call. We even broke out into smaller groups to discuss our program and covered topics like education, security and social media mindfulness. Between those information segments we regrouped and showed some videos of our city and our program.

For us, it was a special opportunity and a memorable experience to be able to meet and interact with everyone.

We hope you enjoy this video which gives you a behind the scenes look at our Virtual Draft Camp.

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