The Spokane Chiefs opened camp at the Arena on Thursday with a tiring practice before some intense scrimmaging among the more than 60 players who hope to make the Western Hockey League team.
But there was no way second-year coach Don Nachbaur and his staff could make it too hard for returning defenseman Davis Vandane.
That’s because the 19-year-old from Yorkton, Saskatchewan, has a new appreciation for hockey and everything associated with it.
Vandane was on his way to Spokane last week when he was involved in a near head-on collision on Highway 95 between Sandpoint and Coeur d’Alene.
“I got soreness all over from the accident, but other than that I’m pretty good,” Vandane said after the practice. “Three feet one way or 3 feet the other way and I could have been ‘donezo.’”
According to the Idaho State Police, Ardis C. Pettibon, 72, was driving north and crossed over the center line, colliding with Vandane.
She and passenger Robert B. Pettibon, 73, were taken to Kootenai Medical Center in Coeur d’Alene.
“I haven’t heard from her, but her vehicle was pretty bad,” Vandane said. “From what I’ve heard, she is doing OK. … I’m trying to stay away and let insurance handle it.”
His car was totaled.
“My parents were pretty worked up,” he said. “They were trying to make as many phone calls as they could to make sure I was OK.
“My billets came and picked me up and helped me out with all of that stuff.”
So a tough opening day on the ice wasn’t so bad.
“Right after it happened, I was pretty worried about what was going to happen to my body. I didn’t know if I was going to be able to play,” Vandane said. “You realize what you have in front of you and how much you enjoy doing what you do.”
Kramer enjoys ride
Darren Kramer wasn’t in camp with the Chiefs last year. It was four games into the season before they picked him up from Grand Prairie in the Alberta Junior Hockey League.
The personable forward quickly became a team leader and the team enforcer, leading the WHL in fights and penalty minutes by a wide margin.
Despite just scoring seven goals and 14 points in 68 games, the 6-foot-2, 190-pounder from Peace River, Alberta, was taken by Ottawa in the sixth round of the National Hockey League draft in June.
“At the beginning of the season I had zero percent chance of getting drafted, so when June came around it was an unbelievable feeling,” Kramer said. “There was a little bit of talk about it before the draft, but it was still a surprise when it happened. Then reality kicks in. It was a very exciting moment.”
Kramer reports to Ottawa on Sept. 7 and then goes to the Prospects Tournament, where he’ll face teammate Dominik Uher, who was taken in the fifth round by Pittsburgh.
“It’s definitely (off-season) motivation,” Kramer said. “The goal right now is to make the main camp. You have to skate against some bigger guys.”
Kramer’s skills go beyond the rink. He has a patent pending for a peanut butter jar that unscrews in the middle, so when it is half empty it can be unscrewed and the top half recycled while the lid goes back on.
“I was talking with my agent,” he said. “Nothing is happening with it yet, but we’re starting to get around to working with it again so hopefully something will start to fly here pretty soon.”
There are two more days of scrimmages among the three teams before the 64 players (including veteran forward Collin Valcourt, who is sidelined with a minor injury) are trimmed down to less than 50 for Sunday’s Red-White Scrimmage. The daily scrimmages are at 11 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 4 today and one-half hour earlier Saturday. The camp finale is at 1. All sessions are open to the public and free. … Uher and Marek Kalus, who are from the Czech Republic, won’t arrive until Monday because of a snafu with immigration. … Brenden Kitchton, the other player drafted (fifth round), goes to the Islanders’ camp on Sept. 8. … Chiefs coach Don Nachbaur, who is 21 wins shy of 500 for his WHL coaching career, was an assistant coach on Canada’s U19 team that won a gold medal earlier this month at the Memorial of Ivan Hinka tournament in the Czech Republic. … Nachbaur’s son Daniel, 16, is in rookie camp with the Tri-City Americans. Nachbaur coached in Tri-City for six seasons. … The Chiefs will play in the Everett Tournament over Labor Day weekend and the Tri-City Tournament the following weekend. … The lone home exhibition game is Sept. 15 at Eagles Ice-A-Rena. … The regular season opens Sept. 24 at Tri-City, with the home opener a week later when the Americans visit.