This time last year, the Bandits were getting ready for their inaugural season in the American Hockey League, but you could hardly tell it by the activity surrounding the team: There was none.
Not only had there been no formal practices 10 days before the start of the regular season, there weren't enough players in town to scrimmage, and the parent club, Anaheim, was taking its time paring its roster for the National Hockey League campaign.
What a huge difference this time around, with new Bandits coach Moe Mantha set to greet no fewer than two dozen hopefuls today when the team kicks off 10 days of intensive training, including two exhibition games, at Piney Orchard Arena in Crofton.
Mantha spent more than a week checking out the training camp of the Mighty Ducks in California, where, he said, "I was like a sponge absorbing everything I could about the players in the organization likely to play here."
The former NHL defenseman (Penguins and Flyers) sought the counsel of former Bandits coach Walt Kyle, now the top assistant coach with the Ducks, "but I'm keeping an open mind about all the players. A guy can get quite a bit done over the summer if he's willing to work, and one of the first thing's Kyle noticed is that some players had bulked up their upper bodies."
Already, 10 players who played anywhere from five to 72 games here last season have a couple of weeks of camp under their belts and, come a practice game Friday against the Philadelphia Phantoms at Piney Orchard, should give a good account of themselves.
Last year, the Bandits journeyed up to Hershey for a game and it appeared the team had been thrown together in the parking lot 15 minutes before the puck was dropped.
"Our first couple of practices will be spent with all of us getting familiar and comfortable with a new team and a new coach. Then we'll get into the various systems in the game and what we're going to be doing here," said Mantha.
The Bandits go to Hillsborough, N.C., next Monday for their second exhibition, then return for three morning practices at the Baltimore Arena before opening their season a week from Friday at home against the Hershey Bears, now affiliated with Stanley Cup-champion Colorado.
Goalies: Tom Askey-a, Dave Brumby, Scott Taylor. Defensemen: Byron Briske-a, Brian Corcoran, Alain Deeks, Bobby Marshall, Dan Trebil-a, Keith Aldridge, Brian Goudie (both Bandits signees), Pavel Trnka, Dallas Ferguson. Centers: Mike Hall, Chris Pittman, Sean Pronger. Wings: Jeremy Stevenson, Craig Reichert, Louie Dumont, Maurice Hall, Ed Lowe, Eric Royal, Jamie Spencer, Lorne Toews.
Pub Date: 9/24/96