Here's 511 words — most of which are spelled right — about the first day of training camp. That doesn't make me as prolific as Peter King, but I think it's sufficient to satisfy Thunder fans who are thirsting for news, notes and thoughts. And since I get paid a buck a word, we're all happy and "everybody goes home in a limousine," as Fast Eddie put it. Here we go.
My interview with coach Brent Bilodeau following the afternoon practice on Monday was interrupted briefly when his phone buzzed. Another message. During the approximate one-hour workout, Bildoeau received three phone messages and a couple e-mails – all from players (or agents) from the East Coast Hockey League looking for homes. So it's clear the current training camp roster could grow. "If someone can make us better, I'll bring him in," Bilodeau said. "There are just a ton of guys out there. Competition in camp for jobs is gonna be high."Chris McAllister is big. We knew this already, since he checks in at 6 feet 7 inches, without skates. But I must have heard some sort of variation of the "McAllister is huge" comment five or six times today. "McAllister is huge." "Dude is really big." I get it, though. McAllister, because he is tough and played 300 games in the NHL, is a bit of a curiosity and already a fan favorite. I talked to him, and he seems to be a nice guy, too, with a self deprecating sense of humor that you don't expect from a guy who has played at the highest level.It's just training camp, of course, but this group appears more ready to compete in the CHL than last year's team. For example, Bilodeau introduced a neutral zone passing-and-shooting drill on Monday, and the team picked it up right away. Last year, same drill, it took the team 20 minutes to get it. "The overall skill set and hockey sense is better this year," Bilodeau said.This is my seventh year of covering the Thunder, and I'm pretty sure there was more media at today's opening practice than ever before. I'm not sure why – there wasn't even any free food, which always brings out the reporters. The good turnout probably had something to do with the Wingnuts news conference across the street a little bit earlier. McAllister’s presence might have added a little interest, too.Bilodeau said he isn't sure if he will make cuts this week before the exhibition games on Friday and Saturday.Chris McAllister is, like, gigantic.Good news on Tim Boron, who is coming back after having two hip surgeries in the off-season. After the second session of practice, Boron said he felt "great." Bilodeau also liked what he saw from Boron. Boron will play in at least one exhibition game.I asked Bilodeau if anything in particular surprised him or stood out from the first day. I thought some of his points were interesting. The entire quote on the topic follows: "McAllister has a harder shot than I thought. (Brett) Beauchamp's got a pretty hard shot. I liked (Brent) Ottmann today, and (Chris) Trafford played well. (Chris) Tarkir came in in great shape. You know, you can really see the smarts of Glenn (Detulleo) and (Damian) Surma. Obviously, they've been around. (Marc) Belanger, I thought, is in better shape this year. He looked good."The lines on Monday: Trafford-Duda-Surma; Belanger-Detulleo-Heffernan; Batovanja-Thompson-Tarkir; Hanson-Ofukany-Roberts; Ottmann-Kaleniecki-Kneeland. Read into those lines what you will – Bilodeau said they will all be switched up tomorrow.
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